Each year, a handful of drivers seem to come out of nowhere and break into the short track racing spotlight. We like to call those drivers “sleepers.” Although it’s sometimes difficult to predict who the next sleeper may be, we’ve come up with a list of drivers who we believe could be breakout stars in 2019.
Brandon Pierce – Look out world, a CARS Tour Late Model Stock Car title run could be coming out of the Lee Pulliam corner with driver Brandon Pierce. Not many of us would have predicted that Bobby McCarty would have win the championship in 2018, so give this guy a look in 2019. He has the right equipment and right guidance to make some noise this season.
Cole Moore – The 2018 SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series Rookie of the Year will be a driver to keep an eye on in 2019. Moore turned in consistent effort after consistent effort last season and ended the year with a pair of top-five finishes. Throw in a second-place finish earlier in the year at The Bullring at Las Vegas and you have a driver ready to break out and score his first SRL victory.
Craig Lutz – Lutz continues to improve each season on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Teamed up with Goodie Motorsports, Lutz drove to three top-five finishes in 2018. With more experience under his belt, don’t be surprised if you see him celebrating his first NWMT victory at some point in 2019.
Devin Moran – Moran, the son of Dirt Late Model Hall of Famer Donnie Moran, will get behind the wheel of the Dunn Benson Motorsports No. 1 for a run at the 2019 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series championship. Although he’s already an accomplished racer in the Dirt Late Model world, we expect him to take his career to another level in 2019.
Dillon Moltz – Although he’s a former touring series champion with the Granite State Pro Stock Series, Moltz flew under the radar in 2018 while only competing in select Super Late Model races in the Northeast. In four PASS North starts last season, Moltz recorded his career-best finish (third) after starting 27th at White Mountain Motorsports Park in September. If the RB Performance team elects to compete in more races in 2019, don’t be surprised if you see Moltz celebrate his first PASS victory.
Drew Dollar – The former U.S. Legend Cars standout from Atlanta, Georgia has joined forces with DRG-Crosley for a run at the CARS Tour Late Model Stock Cars championship in 2019. Paired with one of the best teams in the business, we expect Dollar to be one of those drivers that jumps on people’s radars early on in the season.
Jesse Dutilly – For years, Dutilly has been a bullring king in Sunshine State of Florida, but until this season the driver of No. 30 might not have been taken seriously my some in the Southeast region. That changed after his ventures to Five Flags Speedway (FL) turned some heads in 2018. In addition to winning the pole for the final Blizzard Series race of the season, Dutilly recorded a pair of fourth-place finishes and finished no worse than 13th in four races. We don’t know what his plans are for 2019, but we would predict that Dutilly will win a race if he runs full time with the Southern Super Series. Even if he doesn’t, he’s prime to score a breakout win against tough competition at the home of the Snowball Derby.
Jesse Love – This 13-year-old racer from California will be a driver to keep an eye on for a long time. Love has already signed on as a Toyota Racing Development driver, and plenty of opportunities will come along with that. He will be behind the wheel of a Super Late Model during SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series events and competing in a Midget for powerhouse team Keith Kunz Motorsports in 2019.
John DeAngelis – After an up-and-down season competing with the ARCA Midwest Tour, DeAngelis shocked the short track world with an impressive performance during the 51st Annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway. The Wisconsin driver qualified ninth against the toughest competition in Super Late Model racing, and he followed that up with a 13th-place finish after 300 laps. If he can carry that momentum into 2019, we expect him to do some damage in the Midwest region.
Tanner Gray – The 2019 NHRA Pro Stock champion knows how to go fast in a straight line, and now he’ll attempt to carry over his success to oval tracks. Gray has signed with DGR-Crosley to run full-time in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East next season. This isn’t Gray’s first foray into oval racing; however, it will be his best opportunity to find success.
Ty Gibbs – It’s hard to believe a driver with the last name as recognized as Gibbs could be considered a sleeper, but as a rookie on the ARCA Racing Series he could certainly fly under the radar in 2019. Not to mention, the youngster has teamed up with Nelson Motorsports to chase big Late Model Stock Car victories.
Tyler Erb – The 21-year-old scored his first Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series win in 2018 and will have even higher expectations for the 2019 season. Erb will fill the seat of the Best Performance Motorsports ride previously piloted by Josh Richards. Just one year removed from winning the championship with Richards, Best Performance Motorsports and Erb are likely to shake things up and make some noise in the Dirt Late Model world.
Sammy Smith – After recording 31 career victories in Legend Cars, the 14-year-old will make the jump to Late Models in 2018. Smith, a native of Iowa, will drive for Anthony Campi Racing in major Late Model events throughout the country in 2019. With a strong team behind him, we expect Smith to be a contender for wins throughout the 2019 season.
-Story by Brandon Paul & Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com
-Photo credit: Speed51.com