Short Track Draft:  How It Works
Draft Annually Is the Most Anticipated – and Debated – Feature on 51
By Matt Kentfield; Twitter @mattkentfield
Speed51.com’s annual Short Track Draft is the site’s most popular feature every year.  It’s been that way since the very first Draft in 2004.  The Draft annually is announced around the same time as the NFL Draft.  The NFL Draft is analyzed, scrutinized and forms the future of franchises in the league.  There’s always debate on who should be picked #1 and/or is that person should be drafted at all.  The hopes and dreams of each team’s fans hang on every selection.

The Short Track Draft comes with almost the same amount of debate.  Short track racing fans are just as passionate about their favorite drivers as NFL fans are for their team.  When their driver makes the list, fans are ecstatic.  When their driver doesn’t make our top-51 or perhaps should be higher than the panel voted them, the floodgates open for debate. 

No matter the reason, people love the Short Track Draft.  Drivers long to be a part of the list.  Fans long to see their drivers’ names on the list.  We, at Speed51.com, are proud to bring it to you exclusively.

Since 2004, the Speed51.com Short Track Draft has been voted on by a panel of industry insiders.  The main instruction is to pretend each panelist were in charge of a top-tier NASCAR team and select the drivers that they would most want to have under contract for their team.  It doesn’t necessarily mean the driver that is the most ready to step into the top levels right now, just the drivers, whether for long term or short term, would be good to have under wraps.  Sheer talent and success rate were certainly considered by the panel when making their selections, but many voters also put a focus on marketability and fan-friendliness.   The panel could vote for any number of drivers on their ballot, but there were some stipulations on which drivers could be chosen. 

The debate and anticipation for the 2011 Speed51.com Short Track Draft is just as, if not higher, than ever.  With the presenting sponsorship from Hedman Husler Hedders for this year’s edition of the Draft, a new “Fan Vote” was presented for fans to post their choice to the Speed51.com Five Star Racecar Bodies Facebook Feed.  That resulted in the 51 Facebook page hitting and surpassing the 10,000 “Like” mark and set a record for the most wall posts in the page’s history.

This year, the criteria for the Short Track Draft were that the drivers had to be under the age of 30 and not currently have a big contract or full-time ride in one of NASCAR’s top three divisions, Trucks, Nationwide or Cup.  Lots of buzz on the Facebook page was for drivers such as Ben Rowe, Ted Christopher and Scott Bloomquist, but those drivers were excluded because of their age.  The NASCAR clause also excluded drivers such as 2010 #1 Draft Pick Chase Elliott (multi-year development contract with Hendrick Motorsports) and former Underclassmen Draft #1 Pick (done through 2009 for drivers under the age of 18) Johanna Long (full-time Trucks).  Beyond that criteria, it did not matter what discipline of racing they were from, full-fendered, open-wheel, dirt, asphalt or anything in between, drivers were eligible.  (EDITOR’S NOTE: Although we realized that Speed51.com has a heavy pavement short track bias.)

Our panel was distributed a list of 125 drivers eligible for this year’s Short Track Draft.  Each ballot also had five “write in” spots for voters to add in drivers not already on the list.  More than 50 voters from coast-to-coast and Canada were distributed the draft ballot and responded with their picks.  The voters ranged from series directors, track promoters, industry executives, NASCAR talent scouts and media members.  Because he was ineligible for the 2011 Draft, last year’s #1 pick Chase Elliott also participated as a voter, as did Johanna Long, which marked the first time teenagers were part of the panel.

The votes are being counted and once the winner of the Facebook Fan Vote is added to the count, the #1 pick in the 2011 Speed51.com Short Track Draft Presented by Hedman Husler Hedders will be announced later today at 5pm, followed by the remainder of the top-10 picks on Friday.  Then, next week, positions 11-51 will be announced on Speed51.com.

Who will add their name to the list of #1 Draft picks to join Elliott (2010), Brian Ickler (2009), Matt Hawkins (2008), Ryan Lawler (2007), Jason Hogan (2006), Charlie Bradberry (2005) and Ryan Moore (2004)?  Will some of the Draft picks turn out to be “busts” or will some drivers lower in the rankings turn up the wick to prove they deserved a higher spot?  No matter who is voted where, there will undoubtedly be a flood of debate over the list. 

That’s what the Short Track Draft is all about, and it all starts later today on Speed51.com.

2010 Short Track Draft #1 Chase Elliott
2009 #1 Pick Brian Ickler        
The late Matt Hawkins was the #1 Draft pick back in 2008.