ASA Midwest Tour
Last year’s Speed51.com Short Track All-Star team’s anchor was its first baseman Steve Carlson. He was voted to that spot last year because he was the veteran who was still getting it done. But, as often happens in sports, the young crop is taking over and becoming the fan favorites. As dominant as Carlson was in ASA Midwest over recent seasons, the torch appears to be passing to this year’s starting first baseman Ross Kenseth. Kenseth’s three wins on the super-competitive Super Late Model tour has him the talk of the town during All-Star Week here at 51. While his success at “home” in the ASA Midwest Tour has him elected onto this team, he’s hitting just as well in other ballparks like the CRA Super Series, where he has a win already this season as well. He fits the build of a first baseman, too, as he’s tall and a big target for the rest of the field.
Super Late Models
Second base is almost always reserved for the “little guy.” Athleticisim and hustle in a small package are the keys to a good second-baseman and nothing opitimizes a hustling little guy more than Chris Eggleston. While he’s scrappy like a Dustin Pedroia-type, he has the flare for the dramatic and hitting the big bombs, just like fellow second baseman Robinson Cano did in the MLB Home Run Derby Monday night. Cano’s winning performance was all over the media, just like when Chris Eggleston won the richest Super Late Model race in the country back in April, PASS South’s “THE RACE” at North Wilkesboro (NC). Eggleston was certainly hoping that the big $75,000 payday would start leading to some big contract offers from the “Big Leagues,” but they haven’t come yet, although the performance on the “field” certainly warrants them.
One of this year’s voted-in MLB All-Star shortstops, Derek Jeter of the Yankees, just hit a milestone with his 3,000th career hit, but has decided to skip the All-Star Game less than a week after hitting that milestone. We know our starting SS wouldn’t shy away from such an honor because there’s nothing that Ryan Blaney wouldn’t try to tackle. The only repeat winner on the PASS South Super Late Model tour this season, Blaney has been on a tear this season. After shaking some “injuries” early in the season in the form of mechanical issues and a change of crew chiefs, Blaney has run up front and emerged as a favorite for the PASS South title. But his success isn’t just limited to the PASS South ballpark, however, as he was super competitive in his debuts in both the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and the ARCA Racing Series. His ARCA debut at Winchester last month was perhaps the biggest homer of his career, as he earned the pole and dominated the event before a flat tire cost him a shot at the win, but he still rallied back for a sixth-place finish.
NASCAR K&N Pro Series West
What a baseball manager hopes out of his third baseman is solid defense and a big stick at the plate. When it comes to both of those this season, nobody has been defending his home turf and dominating the way Greg Pursley has in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West this season. He’s hit nothing but homers with six wins in eight starts, having not finished any lower than fourth in the other two. Certainly Pursley knows how to hit the big ones and his consistency this season is unparalleled. He reminds us of a Mike Schmidt of the Phillies back in the 1980’s. Big, a bit up there in age, but still just as dominant as ever to make his team win. His teammate Dylan Kwasniewski has been taken under Pursley’s wing this season and it’s paid dividends for the entire Gene Price Motorsports organization.
NASCAR Whelen All-American Series
You want a guy tough-as-nails in your outfield and that’s what Keith Rocco gives us on our All-Star Team this year around. Tough doesn’t even begin to explain the defending NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champion, however, as he has a NASCAR-high 13 wins already at the All-Star Break – having won several of those events after dislocating his shoulder in an on-track crash. Rather than going on the Disabled List, Rocco toughed it out and continues to dominate at the three NWAAS tracks in Connecticut, Stafford, Thompson and Waterford. Agility is another cornerstone of a quality outfielder, and Rocco certainly has that, as he has to come from deep in the field to win at those tracks with their handicapping system. He doesn’t just get thrown lazy fastballs right in the strike zone – he has taken the toughest pitches he can be thrown and knocked them out of the park.
Terry Fisher, Jr.
CRA Super Series
This year Terry Fisher Jr. has proven he is an everyday player. While many people have hit it out of the ballpark many more times than he has, Fisher has consistently been a threat in the CRA Super Series and he is beginning to get “hot” just as the pennant race draws near. He is currently second in points in the series, just 37 behind perinneal champ Scott Hantz. The only difference between the two is one race, at Columbus Motorsports Park, where Fisher finished out of the top-10. Fisher hit the homerun at Angola Motor Speedway two weeks ago and put in a great “at-bat” at M-40 Speedway on Sunday for a third place finish.
Derek Thorn is one of our starting outfielders, but this guy has shown the ability to adapt to playing just about anywhere. He has gotten the job done in the SRL Southwest Tour and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West this season. He’s from the West Coast, so we wonder if he's got a Los Angeles Dodgers ballcap, just like this year’s National League All-Star outfielder Matt Kemp. While other drivers were still in Spring Training mode back in January, Thorn was already turning heads. He earned the pole for the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown and the success has held through even as the weather has heated up on the West Coast.
Super Late Models
There’s a guy on every MLB roster who everyone in the dugout can point to if a scuffle ever arises as the first guy out to defend his turf or his teammates. Remember years ago when George Brett stormed out of his dugout in the famous “Pine Tar” incident? That mean look is what Wayne Anderson has used to strike fear in the Super Late Model scene of Florida and beyond over the years. But, Wayne’s not a bad guy by any means, he just looks it. A gentile giant, if you will, like another catcher, Jason Varitek of the Red Sox. There’s that famous picture of Varitek pushing Yankee star Alex Rodriguez in the face a few years ago, something we know Wayne wouldn’t mind doing if anyone ever gave him a hard time.
Super/Pro Late Models
Bubba Pollard has hit more homeruns than anyone else in Super Late Model racing in 2011. He has 9 wins and 17 top-5 finishes in 24 starts this season… if you don’t think those are All-Star Stats, we don’t know what is. He has hit all of his “dingers” in three ballparks this year. He has ventured out of his own ballpark twice this year, with a second place finish in “The Race” at North Wilkesboro Speedway and a subpar outing in Michigan, at Berlin Raceway, during the Rowdy 251. Pollard reminds us a lot of “Big Papi” of the Boston Red Sox. He’s a threat to his the long ball whenever he steps up to bat.
Super Late Models
Just when he needed to come off the bench and come up with a big play, JR Roahrig came through. Roahrig, a veteran racer of the Midwest Late Model tours, had been showing his son Tyler the short track ropes in recent seasons, but when he puts the helmet back on in select events, the old man can still come through in the clutch. Roahrig hopped into Bob Blount’s Outlaw Super Late Model and took a big 100-lap win at Toledo Speedway (OH) earlier this month. He also was the first non-Bozell across the finish line in the recent All-Star Shootout at Kalamazoo Speedway (MI), finishing third.
You don’t have to be tall like Randy Johnson or steroid-filled like Roger Clemens to be a dominant starting pitcher. You just have to have great stuff like two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. Like Lincecum, Brennan Poole won’t impress anyone with his size, but he puts up big numbers where it counts - the win column. Poole has a season-high four UARA Late Model Stock Car tour wins this season and a commanding lead in the points. Had he not been thrown out of a win in 2010, he very easily could’ve won the UARA title last year. The fireballer saved his best performance for his biggest game of the season, his ARCA Racing Series debut. Poole took the Venturini Motorsports car to victory lane in his first-ever ARCA start at Salem Speedway (IN).
Super Late Models
Tim Russell can throw “The Heat,” that’s for sure. And he does it in some of the hottest ballparks around, in the Sunshine State of Florida. He’s already hit seven “Long-Balls” this season on three different fields, New Smyrna Speedway, Citrus County Speedway and Auburndale Speedway. No question about it, Tim Russell has the speed on the radar gun and he intimidates opposing batters everytime he steps on the mound. Right now though, he has only pitched on his hometurf, so the verdict is out if he could be an “Ace” of the staff.
ASA Midwest Tour
A good closer doesn’t have to be good for very long, just very effective when they need to be. In order to make the All-Star team, Skylar Holzhausen came through in the late stages of the balloting, much like the end of a ballgame, to seal the deal. Had the voting been done earlier in the year, Holzhausen wouldn’t have been on the roster. But, they don’t play eight innings in a baseball game to eliminate a closer, so we couldn’t close out our roster without him. Holzhausen’s big $10,000 payday for winning the Grandstay Summer Clash at Elko Speedway (MN) last weekend solidified his spot in our bullpen. Holzhausen certainly has a good mentor to show him how not to let that one win be the lone highlight, as his father Steve is an All-Star in his own right as a driver over the years.
NASCAR K&N Pro Series East
Andy Santerre is a multi-time All-Star not just as a manager, but also as a “player,” much like Mike Scoscia of the Angels. Santerre dominated as a driver over the years, winning four straight NASCAR K&N Pro Series East titles before retiring from the driver’s seat and taking an ownership role. He helped develop Sean Caisse and Brett Moffitt under the Andy Santerre Motorsports banner before taking on the role of team manager role with the KNPSE outfit at Revolution Racing. While RR came out like gangbusters in 2010 with Sergio Pena’s second-place run at the Toyota All-Star Showdown and Darrell Wallace, Jr.’s two KNPSE wins, Santerre’s tutelage has stepped up the entire Revolution program in 2011. Wallace and Pena have both gone to victory lane and Michael Cherry and Ryan Gifford have shown marked improvement this season.