Each year, short track racers throughout North America grab the attention of fans, media and those watching from the higher levels of motorsports. With the 2019 short track racing season now upon us, we give you a list of drivers to keep an eye on next season.
Keep in mind, this isn’t a list of the drivers we necessarily think will be the best next season. But for one reason or another, our staff believes these are the top drivers to watch in 2019.
Adam Lemke – Lemke, a California native, will be heading to the east coast in 2019 to compete for the most popular man in motorsports. Following a USAC Western Midget Series championship in 2018, Lemke will move to Late Model Stock Cars and drive for JR Motorsports this upcoming season. It’s not a bold prediction to say that he’ll likely grab some headlines while driving for Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s team.
Austin Kunert – After scoring his first career ARCA/CRA Super Series win in 2018, Kunert is in a good position to improve on his performance in 2019. The Illinois driver finished the season on a strong note, finishing no worse than 11th in any of the final five ARCA/CRA Super Series races. If he can improve on that consistency and turn it into more victories, he’ll certainly be a prime candidate to have a breakout season.
Brandon Overton – After winning more than 15 races each of the last three seasons it’s hard to imagine that “Big Sexy” is on the list of possible breakout candidate, but here we are. Overton has joined forces with Joey Coulter Motorsports and recently said that he’ll be looking to make 2019 “the biggest year of his career.” With a new Rocket chassis underneath him, Overton will be a threat to win some big money races and possibly even make a run towards a Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series championship if the team elects to go in that direction.
Carson Kvapil – Carson, the son of former NASCAR Truck Series champion Travis Kavpil, is ready to make some noise in the Super Late Model ranks in 2019. After experiencing success competing in Outlaw Karts, primarily at Millbridge Speedway (NC), Kvapil nailed down his first SLM victory with the ARCA Midwest Tour last season. Under the guidance of Toby Nuttleman, Kvapil will likely grab the attention of the short track world in 2019.
Connor Okrzesik – Let’s make a bold prediction: Okrzesik will win his first Southern Super Series race and contend for a championship in 2019. After a strong fourth-place run at the Snowball Derby, Okrzesik goes from the sleeper list to the breakout list, as we feel the momentum building for the Alabama Late Model racer.
Corey Heim – The 16-year-old driver logged a lot of laps and made some headlines last season, but the simple fact is that Corey Heim proved to us that he can get the job done. He won the season finale CARS Tour Super Late Model race at South Boston and finished second in his Martinsville 300 debut, a race that some believe he should have won following a controversial finish. Heim proved he can run up front in 2018, and he’ll likely prove he can win in 2019. In addition to the Late Model races on his schedule, Heim will also be behind the wheel of a Chad Bryant Racing car for 13 ARCA Racing Series races this season.
Derek Griffith – After securing the PASS National championship and making the Snowball Derby in 2018, the New Hampshire driver has us thinking we are about to see even bigger things out of him in 2019. Griffith has become a star in the New England region, but this could be the year we see him find even more success on a national stage. Florida Speedweeks will be the telling signs if he’s ready for that big breakout year.
Giovanni Bromante – “Gio” broke onto the scene in 2018 while driving for Anthony Campi Racing during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway. He followed that up by winning his first Pro Late Model race against stout competition at Montgomery Motor Speedway (AL). This year, his focus will shift to the faster Super Late Models as he makes a run at the Southern Super Series championship with Campi.
Hudson O’Neal – “The New Deal” was sidelined in August due to a scheduled shoulder surgery, which forced him to miss the remainder of the 2018 season. O’Neal, the son of Dirt Late Model legend Don O’Neal, broke through for his first Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series win in June and followed that up with another victory just before calling it a season in August. The monkey is off his back, his shoulder is ready to go and a new star is ready for a breakout season in the Dirt Late Model ranks.
Jonathan Brown – Brown was the most consistent driver during the stretch run at Bowman Gray Stadium in 2018. Brown could be inline for a Modified title or the most wins in 2019. He will admit that he learned a lot in 2018, and with that he has to be considered the favorite or one of the favorites depending upon what fanbase you ask.
Sam Mayer – Mayer made his name known for the first time in February during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway. The Wisconsin native recorded six top-five finishes in seven Super Late Model races before finishing second in the Speedweeks standings. He followed that up by winning his first CARS Tour Late Model Stock Car race with JR Motorsports and finishing top 10 in his first two ARCA Racing Series starts. He’ll look to build on that success as he makes the move to GMS Racing for ARCA and NASCAR K&N Pro Series events in 2019.
Zeb Wise – After becoming the youngest driver to ever win a USAC National Midget Series race in 2018, Wise is full steam ahead with Clauson-Marshall Racing for the 2019 season. The 16-year-old from Indiana is in a good position to become a star within the Midget ranks, and he has the resources behind him to make it happen. Don’t be surprised if his rise to fame continues with a strong run at the upcoming Chili Bowl Nationals.
-Story by Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com