One of the greatest features of the Speed51.com Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes is that it features drivers from many disciplines of racing. It’s not limited to Late Model racers. It’s not limited to pavement racers. The Short Track Draft truly features the top Short Track Racing prospects regardless of what or where they race.
As we continue our analysis of the 2016 Short Track Draft, we’re going to take a look at the best drivers from each discipline. So far we’ve taken a look at the top drivers hailing from the Modified, Late Model and dirt ranks. Today, we’re going to analyze the top drivers that compete in Stock Cars.
Drivers in the Stock Car category qualified by racing in the following series: ARCA Racing Series, NASCAR K&N Pro Series East/West, Super Cup Stock Car Series.
Keep in mind that not all Stock Car racers are eligible for the Short Track Draft. Drivers must be under the age of 25 as of May 1, 2016. Additionally, if they lose their rookie status in any of NASCAR’s top-three series by the end of the 2016 season, or if they run more than 10 races in one of NASCAR’s top three series, they are no longer eligible.
#1 – Todd Gilliland (2nd pick) – NASCAR K&N Pro Series
Gilliland came up just short of being the overall number-one pick, but his performance over the past 12 months earned him the top spot among Stock Car racers. The 16-year-old racer turned heads by winning in both his ARCA Racing Series, NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West debuts. He’s now made five career K&N West starts and has won three of them. He’s also batting .500 in his two K&N East and ARCA starts. Early on in his career, Gilliland has proven that he knows how to handle the heavier Stock Cars and that gives him a very promising future in the sport.
#2 – Harrison Burton (4th pick) – NASCAR K&N Pro Series East
Much of Burton’s success has come competing in the Late Model ranks. He now falls into the Stock Car category with his plans to run full-time for HScott Motorsports in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. Thus far Burton hasn’t had a whole lot of luck competing in the heavier Stock Cars with his best finish being a seventh at Mobile (AL), but there’s many reasons to be optimistic. The 15-year-old racer has shown his ability to improve in every type of race car he’s driven. He’s also humble, mature for his age and very personable. These are all qualities that will help him as he climbs the racing ladder.
#3 – Kyle Benjamin (7th pick) – NASCAR K&N Pro Series East
Benjamin, a former overall number-one pick, has seen his stock both rise and fall in recent years. His K&N East win on the big stage at Bristol and a good start to the 2016 season improved his stock this time around. His only finish outside of the top six this season came at Dominion Raceway (VA) when he crashed while leading as a result of contact with another racer. More trips to victory lane and more consistent finishes will keep Benjamin on everyone’s radar moving forward.
#4 – Spencer Davis (8th pick) – NASCAR K&N Pro Series East
After two years of Tour-Type Modified racing, Spencer Davis decided to go down another path near the midpoint of the 2015 season. That decision paid off immediately. The Dawsonville, Georgia driver added four K&N East races to his schedule and turned heads in each of them. Davis didn’t finish worse than sixth in his first seven career K&N East starts and most recently picked up his first career win at Dominion Raceway (VA). He’s hooked up with a good team in Ranier Racing with MDM and has a bright future moving forward.
#5 – Tyler Dippel (9th pick) – NASCAR K&N Pro Series East
The dirt racer turned NASCAR Next driver put himself on the map by winning in just his second career NASCAR K&N Pro Series start earlier this year at Mobile (AL). One of the most impressive attributes that Dippel has shown is his ability to adapt to different styles of race cars and race tracks. He’s experienced success on both dirt and pavement, as well as in Late Models, Dirt Modifieds and Stock Cars. Moving forward he’ll need to win more to grab the attention of those within the racing industry. If he does that his stock could rise even more heading into next year’s draft.
#6 – Justin Haley (11th pick) – NASCAR K&N Pro Series East
Say goodbye to J.J. Haley and hello to Justin Haley. With a new first name and a new racing season, the personable 17-year-old racer has turned heads thus far in 2016. As the only returning driver for HScott Motorsports, Haley currently leads the K&N East standings with five top-five finishes in six races. He also shook the monkey off of his back earlier this year at Greenville Pickens Speedway by winning his first race. The best way to get noticed is by winning and running up front, and Justin Haley is doing that so far in 2016.
#7 – Gracin Raz (16th pick) – NASCAR K&N Pro Series West
Raz leads the charge for the West Coast contingent after finishing fourth in K&N West points one year ago. The 19-year-old Oregon racer put himself on the map in 2015 with consistent finishes and his first series win at All-American Speedway (CA). Driving for Jefferson-Pitts Racing full-time on the K&N West circuit, Raz is viewed as a threat to win anytime they show up to the race track. In addition to his Stock Car success, Raz has also turned in strong runs competing in some of the toughest Super Late Model races on the West Coast.
#8 – Noah Gragson (23rd pick) – NASCAR K&N Pro Series West
Gragson, another short track star from the West Coast, comes in one spot below one of his good friends. Gragson finished runner-up in the K&N West standings in 2015 after recording a pair of wins. The Las Vegas native has also mixed in a few starts on the East Coast but has experienced limited success with just one top-five finish in eight K&N East starts. He’ll need to continue winning on the West Coast and improve his performance on the East Coast in order to see his stock rise leading into next year’s draft.
#9 – Kaz Grala (32nd pick) – NASCAR K&N Pro Series East
If a race team was looking for a consistent driver, they’d have to look no further than Kaz Grala. The Massachusetts native recorded eight top-10 finishes in 14 starts on his way to finishing seventh in K&N East points one year ago. The one knock on Grala is that he’s yet to visit victory lane. If he’s able to do that in 2016 it will do a lot for his Short Track Draft stock moving forward.
#10 – Austin Theriault (34th pick) – NASCAR K&N Pro Series East
After making a handful of starts with Brad Keselowski Racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2015, Theriault finds himself running the full K&N East schedule with Shigeaki Hattori Racing. He’s recorded three top-five finishes so far this season and currently sits eighth in points. He’s always been a consistent driver, but needs to win more in order to increase his stock. Over the past year he’s fallen off some people’s radar, and the best way to fix that is by winning races.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/Rick Ibsen