As we countdown the days until the live 2020 Short Track Draft selection show on Speed51, we continue to analyze some of the top short track racing prospects in North America. Today, we focus in on the Northeastern part of the United States to analyze the top prospects hailing from the following states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Throughout the history of motorsports, the Northeast region has been a hotbed for some of the best short track racing in the country; however, the number of drivers to make it out of the region and into the big leagues of NASCAR has been minimal. Joey Logano (Connecticut), Martin Truex Jr. (New Jersey), and most recently Ryan Preece (Connecticut) are all Northeast-based drivers currently competing in the NASCAR Cup Series, joining former drivers such as Jimmy Spencer (Pennsylvania), Ricky Craven (Maine), Randy LaJoie (Connecticut) and Kevin Lepage (Vermont).
Who will be the next driver from the Northeast to join this list and get a chance at the big time? Let’s take a look at the top 10 short track racing prospects in the Northeast.
Keep in mind that not all racers are eligible for the Short Track Draft. Drivers must be under the age of 25 as of April 1, 2020. Additionally, if they lose their rookie status in any of NASCAR’s top-three series by the end of the 2020 season, or if a driver plans to compete in more than seven races in any of NASCAR’s top-three touring series during the 2020 season, they are also ineligible for the Short Track Draft.
(Editor’s Note: The Speed51 Short Track Draft ranks the top prospects in short track rankings in the eyes of more than 100 industry experts who take part in the voting process. The following Top 10 ranking includes the opinions of Speed51’s Brandon Paul and in no way reflects potential voting results or the ultimate outcome in the 2020 Short Track Draft.)
1) Derek Griffith
The 23-year-old from Hudson, New Hampshire saw his stock rise in February with an impressive performance during his ARCA Menards Series East debut at New Smyrna Speedway (FL). After leading the most laps and finishing second in that race, the rest of the country saw a glimpse of the talent Griffith has displayed in the Northeast during recent seasons. Since last year’s Short Track Draft when he was selected as the 13th pick, Griffith has added six Pro All Stars Series (PASS) victories, a second-place finish in the prestigious Oxford 250 and a World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing championship to his resume.
2) Giovanni Bromante
Although Bromante doesn’t compete in the Northeast, he is from Locust Valley, New York and has been tabbed by Speed51’s Bob Dillner as “The Long Island Kid.” Bromante enjoyed a successful Super Late Model season in 2020 while driving for Anthony Campi Racing, scoring a big win in the Rattler 250, as well as a Southern Super Series victory at Five Flags Speedway. Additionally, Bromante was crowned the champion of the super-competitive Blizzard Series at Five Flags Speedway, a four-race series leading into the prestigious Snowball Derby. He’ll now set his sight on the 2020 ARCA Menards Series East championship while driving for Visconti Motorsports.
3) Chase Dowling
Dowling is recognized by many in the Northeast Modified world as one of the hottest young stars currently driving “ground pounders.” The 22-year-old from Roxbury, Connecticut has visited victory lane with a variety of touring series including the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, Tri-Track Open Modified Series, Valenti Modified Racing Series, and the now defunct Modified Tour Series. He’s also found success in one of the strongest weekly divisions in the country: the SK Modifieds at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT). Dowling is a multi-time winner in the division and the winner of the SK 5K in 2017. The one thing holding him back in recent years has been the number of races he’s been able to compete in. More opportunities to race will likely result in more victories, which will result in more eyes being focused on this talented Modified racer.
4) Ronnie Williams
Remember when we said that Chase Dowling is recognized as one of the hottest young stars in Modified racing? Insert his strongest competition: Ronnie Williams.
Williams had a year to remember in 2019, boosting his stock tremendously heading into the 2020 Short Track Draft. The 23-year-old from Tolland, Connecticut shook the monkey off his back by recording his first Tour-type Modified win with the Valenti Modified Racing Series in June, and he didn’t slow down from there. He completed his season with three VMRS victories, his first Tri-Track Open Modified Series victory and the 2019 Tri-Track championship. In addition, he continued his success in the SK Modified ranks at Stafford with his second consecutive championship and four victories, while also adding Sunoco Modified victories at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.
5) Ryan Kuhn
While he’s made a name for himself in recent months for his performances in major iRacing events, Ryan Kuhn is also a pretty good shoe behind the wheel of a real race car. The 19-year-old from East Bridgewater, Massachusetts claimed Rookie of the Year honors on the American-Canadian Tour in 2019 and finished third in the overall championship standings, with three top fives and seven top 10s in 10 races. In August, Kuhn claimed the pole for the prestigious Oxford 250 in just his second PASS Super Late Model start, and then followed that up with a second-place finish in his third PASS start at Seekonk Speedway (MA) in October. With plans to compete in more PASS races when the 2020 season begins in the Northeast, Kuhn will be a driver to watch moving forward.
6) Matt Swanson
Driving the legendary “Ole Blue” No. 3 Modified, Swanson was so close to scoring his breakthrough Tour-type Modified victory in 2019. But unfortunately, that win never came for the 20-year-old from North Acton, Massachusetts. Still, Swanson is considered one of the top up-and-coming Modified drivers in the Northeast. In 2019, he finished fifth in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship standings, with four top-five finishes including a third-place finish in the Icebreaker at Thompson. Away from the tour, Swanson recorded a pair of third-place finishes with the Tri-Track Open Modified Series at Seekonk Speedway (MA) and Star Speedway (NH), as well as a top-five finish in the Turkey Derby at Wall Stadium (NJ). Like Ronnie Williams, we expect Swanson to catch fire once he’s able to shake the monkey off his back.
7) Devin O’Connell
Devin O’Connell is one of those drivers who seems like he’s been around forever, yet he’s still only 22 years old. The Madison, Connecticut took a small step back in 2019 after his championship season with the Granite State Pro Stock Series in 2018. O’Connell finished second to Joey Dorion in the battle for the 2020 GSPSS championship but he was as consistent as they come throughout the season, with eight top five and 10 top 10 finishes in 12 races. He’ll look to get back on top of the series in 2020, while also having hopes of competing in a few of the major Super Late Model races throughout the country.
8) Craig Lutz
Over the past year, Craig Lutz has proven himself as a legit contender on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. At 24 years old, Lutz is the oldest driver on our list of top 10 Northeast prospects but that certainly doesn’t mean he can’t get the job done behind the wheel. The Miller Place, New York native broke through in 2019 with his first career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory during the Fall Final at Stafford. He carried that momentum over to 2020 when he scored his first World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing win at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) in February. We’ve seen continued improvement from Lutz over the last four seasons, and we expect to see even more moving forward as he attempts to become a championship contender.
9) Gabe Brown
With zero experience behind the wheel of a Late Model prior to 2017, Gabe Brown arrived on the scene and wowed the crowd with a second-place finish in his Granite State Pro Stock Series debut on Oxford 250 weekend. Since then, the 17-year-old from Center Conway, New Hampshire has developed under the wings of Dale and DJ Shaw. While he has yet to win a race, he used a season of consistency in 2018 to secure the Super Late Model championship at Oxford Plains Speedway. In 2019, Brown went full-time with the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) North and recorded four top-five finishes in 17 starts. Those around him often joke with him by asking when he’s going to win a race. At this point, that is the question Brown needs to answer to grab the attention of more experts and move up in the Short Track Draft.
10) Tommy Catalano
After claiming NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Rookie of the Year honors in 2018, Tommy Catalano took another step in his racing career during the 2019 season. The 22-year-old from Ontario, New York shined under the bright lights of Jukasa Motor Speedway in Ontario and scored his first Tour-type Modified victory with the Race of Champions (RoC) Asphalt Modified Series. While chasing the full NWMT schedule, he recorded his first pole award at South Boston Speedway (VA) and added four top-10 finishes in 16 starts. Throughout his career, Catalano has won in Street Stocks, Late Models, Modifieds and nearly everything in between. It’s only a matter of time until he’s able to break through with a win on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
Will any of these drivers be selected as a top 10 overall draft pick during the 2020 Short Track Draft selection show? Tune in at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday, April 30 to find out.
The remainder of the top 100 picks will be announced between May 1 and May 6 on Speed51. To view the full Short Track Draft schedule, click here.