Welcome to this first 2011 edition of the Speed51.com Short Track Power rankings. The slate from 2010 has been wiped clean and as a result, there are plenty of new faces gracing the Tower of Power this time around.
It may only be March, but there has already been a good amount of short track racing taking place out there. There has been Florida Speedweeks for the asphalt and dirt short trackers at places like New Smyrna, East Bay and Volusia Speedway Park. There was The Rattler, the PASS South, K&N West and Southern Modified openers, SpeedFest 2011 and the NASCAR All-Star Showdown that all took place as well. Competitors in all of those events and more were considered for this round of Short Track Power.
The rankings were decided after polling our panel of experts in the industry.
Here are our power rankings entering the first portion of the 2011 short track racing season:
1) CHASE ELLIOTT – Super Late Models
It wasn’t even close. Fifteen-year-old Chase Elliott, of Dawsonville, Georgia, was the runaway leader in the first Short Track Power poll of the 2011 season, earning 58% of the first-place votes. And why wouldn’t he be? As one of our poll voters noted, “At this rate, the kid's going to run out of things to win before he gets to race on TV.” Elliott started off the new season by winning both ends of SpeedFest weekend, won the Pro Rattler 125 at South Alabama and had a shot at winning the CRA Super Late Model portion of Rattler weekend had it not been for a late-race penalty. All of those races featured the best short track talents in the Deep South and beyond, so it’s not like he was just cherry picking some local shows to win three out of his four races this year. His next race comes in the NASCAR K&N East Series on March 26th at Greenville-Pickens Speedway (SC), a series that changed their age rule to allow 15-year-olds in 2011, seemingly just for Elliott.
2) TED CHRISTOPHER – Mods, Midgets
They don’t make them any tougher than Ted Christopher, and so far in 2011, they haven’t made them a whole lot better than him either. The grizzled 52-year-old veteran from the Nutmeg State of Connecticut won his 10th overall Florida Speedweeks Modified Championship at New Smyrna Speedway in February. TC sealed up this year’s Tour-Type Modified title by winning the Richie Evans Memorial 100. But we can’t just limit TC’s power to what he did in a Modified this year, either. One poll voter was quick to point out that TC won “out of his element” in not just one, but two indoor Midget races in the Northeast over the winter. TC’s not slowing down one bit in his old age – and if anything, he’s getting even better.
3) GEORGE BRUNNHOELZL III – NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour
While the two “Powerful” drivers that our pollers put ahead of George Brunnhoelzl III each have several victories in 2011, GBIII only has one win – but it came in the first race with a new team on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. Brunnhoelzl won the series’ title in 2009, then spent last year racing in the Northeastern-based NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour with limited success. GBIII then focused his racing efforts back down South in 2011 and teamed up with Howard Harvey, who like Brunnhoelzl is a Northeasterner racing out of the South, to drive a team car to Harvey’s 2010 driver, Zach Brewer. Brunnhoelzl received one first-place vote in this year’s first Power Poll, and “definitely has momentum on his side in 2011” as one of our voters noted.
4) BRENNAN POOLE – UARA Late Models
If the UARA-Stars Late Model Stock Car tour’s season-opening event at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) earlier this month was any indication, this may not be the only time we see Brennan Poole’s name on a Short Track Power list on Speed51.com. Poole mastered the field at Hickory in his first race for a family team after leaving Jamie Yelton’s Fat Head Racing at the end of the 2010 season. Poole did bring a lot of his crew over to the new deal and 2010’s hottest driver in UARA picked right up where he left off. He’s the “Odds-on favorite for the UARA championship,” according to one voter and already has seven victories on the tour.
5) GRANT ENFINGER – Super Late Models
One of our voters summed up Grant Enfinger’s power so far in 2011 perfectly: “You'd be hard pressed to find a field anywhere in the country more talented than the group of SLMs that took to the track for the 2011 edition of The Rattler. Big names be damned, Enfinger came up huge with one of the biggest wins of his career - for the second time.” Enfinger is no stranger to controversy and often his aggressive style earns him the ire of some of his fellow competitors, but he protected his line masterfully in the 250-lapper at South Alabama and held off the cream of the crop to win this year’s Rattler.
6) GREG PURSLEY – NASCAR K&N Pro Series West
Greg Pursley’s hot streak that ended the 2010 season just took a couple-month break in the off-season, but picked right back up when the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West kicked off 2011 at Phoenix earlier this month. Pursley put a whoopin’ on the field at PIR for the second-straight time there and won his third out of the last four races dating back to last season. As one of our voters noted, “If he can keep it up on the short tracks, he could be the odds-on favorites to be the best in the West.”
7) JAY FOGLEMAN – PASS South
Jay Fogleman ended the 2010 season with five top-10 finishes, but zero victories on the PASS South Super Late Model tour. In the series’ first race of the 2011 season at Anderson Motor Speedway (SC), Fogleman ensured there wouldn’t be another goose egg in the win column this year. Fogleman beat-and-banged with Preston Peltier in the final laps and held on to the victory over last year’s PASS South Champ. Fogleman is a veteran of the short track ranks and a frequent visitor to victory lanes in the Southeast, but it had been since 2009 since he was last there before Dillon. Now that he’s shown the power to get back into victory lane, could this be Fogleman’s year for a PASS South title?
8) BUBBA POLLARD – Super/Pro Late Models
Bubba Pollard is the only of the top-10 in the opening Power Poll of 2011 to not have scored a victory yet this year. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he hasn’t been powerful on the track so far, by any means. Pollard has scored posted three second-place, one third, and a seventh-place finish in five races this season, but he has yet to enter victory lane. As one voter mentioned, “Don’t expect that non-win streak to last much longer once the season gets underway in full force.”
9) JOEY POLEWARCZYK, JR.
The American-Canadian Tour doesn’t kick off its season for another few weeks, but Joey “Pole” is already a champion. The 21-year-old from Hudson, New Hampshire won the very first ACT Goodyear Speedweeks Cup race at New Smyrna Speedway and locked up the Speedweeks title the next night of the two-race series in Florida. Pole didn’t mess around, either, as he prevailed in a battle with veteran Patrick Laperle on the first night, then started near the rear of the field after an invert for the second race and finished fifth to earn the title.
10) TIM RUSSELL – Super Late Models
New Smyrna had been plenty nice to Tim Russell over the years in Super Late Model competition. The guy had won just about everything there is to win at the Florida half-mile over the years, with the exception of a Speedweeks championship. But, that Speedweeks Championship trophy that had eluded him for years finally made its way onto his mantle. Russell strung together top-five after top-five at New Smyrna, including two wins, to become the Super Late Model champion, just like his dad David had done several years prior. Russell also finished a close second to Stephen Nasse in the Red-Eye 100 at New Smyrna in January. Russell just won the Florida United Promoters Late Model race at Auburndale Speedway in Florida on March 19th, but that win came after our voting deadline had passed, so perhaps Russell’s name will be even higher come next Power Poll.
Martin Latulippe (Crate Late Models) – Canadian winner and Champion at Speedweeks.
Stephen Nasse (Super Late Models) – Red-Eye 100 winner and impressed at Speedweeks on a broken ankle.
Becca Kasten (SLM/LMSC) – Won emotional Super Late Model feature at New Smyrna & turned heads in UARA debut.
Steve Kinser (WoO) – Old man keeps getting it done with early-season victories.
Preston Peltier (PASS South) - 2010 Champion nearly started off new season with victory at Anderson.
Scott Bloomquist (Dirt LM) – Florida Speedweeks champion and tough-as-nails as always behind the wheel.
Earl Paules (Mods) – Multiple-time Speedweeks winner in Tour-Type and SK Mods.
Davin Scites (LMSC) – Winner of Caraway Speedway’s 200-lap LMSC opener.
Jason Bowles (NKNPS) – NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown winner.
Brian Hoar (ACT) - Winner of the ACT Speedweeks Championship
ALSO RECEIVING VOTES
Frank Deiny Jr.
Bobby Santos III
Ronnie Bassett Jr.
Ronnie Bassett Jr.