Welcome to this second 2011 edition of the Speed51.com Short Track Power rankings. We are now halfway through the 2011 racing season and plenty of drivers have shown that they are among the best and most successful drivers in the country.
But who has carried the most clout in the first six months of 2011? Some drivers that came out of the box hot this season and were at the top of our Tower of Power in our first quarter edition of Short Track Power have faded, while some not even on the radar screen back in March have turned up the heat in the Spring and early Summer. Some drivers have been tough to beat all year long thus far.
A panel of industry experts from all four corners of the country and Canada have voted on their choices for the first half Short Track Power poll. Drivers in all forms of short track racing, including Late Models, NASCAR Touring Series, Pro Cup, Dirt Late Models and Modifieds, NASCAR Whelen All-American Series or ASA Member Track program and everything in between were eligible.
The rankings shown below were decided after polling our panel of experts in the industry. Rankings were based on overall number of votes, with more weight given to each vote the higher the vote. Example, a #1 vote would be more valuable than a #2, #3, etc.
Here are our power rankings entering for the first half of the 2011 short track racing season:
1) ROSS KENSETH - ASA Midwest Tour/CRA Super Series/Super Late Models
In one of the closest votes in Short Track Power history, our panelists have elected Ross Kenseth to the top of the Tower of Power this time around. The 17-year-old from Illinois kicked off the new season with a victory in the ASA Midwest Tour season opener at Madison International Speedway (WI). The next week, Speed51.com's panel elected him as the number-one pick in the 2011 Short Track Draft Presented by Hedman Husler Hedders. Since then, all Kenseth has done is prove that he is worthy of the title. He is poised for a title in the ASAMT, which one panelist considered the "toughest-to-win-in Super Late Model tour in the country." He has three wins on the ASAMT circuit this year, a win on another tough SLM tour, the CRA Super Series, and a weekly win at Grundy County Speedway (IL). Kenseth only received one first place vote, but appeared on nearly every ballot. As that voter noted, "He'll go anywhere...any time...challenge the best and usually come out on top or near it."
2) TED CHRISTOPHER – NASCAR Whelen Modified Tours/Midgets
Ted Christopher has been the model of speedy consistency in 2011. He started off the season placing second in our Short Track Power edition back in March and he remains in the runner-up spot three months later. At 53, TC is making kids a third his age envious of his winning ways on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Don't believe he deserves his spot in the rankings? His performance at Thompson in late June was one for the ages. He won the pole, but missed the driver's meeting and had to start at the tail of the field. He picked his way through, but got spun out and had to come from the back again. He hustled to the front to win his second tour race of the season. He also has two NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour wins at South Boston and Caraway. The success started early this season when TC won his 10th overall Florida Speedweeks Modified Championship at New Smyrna (FL) and two victories in indoor Midget races in the Northeast.
3) KEITH ROCCO - NASCAR Whelen All-American Series
Dominance is relative. It's not easy to win in any premier division of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, but to do it at a track that handicaps fast cars to force them to start deep in the field is truly impressive. To do it at three tracks is even more astounding. To do it 13 times at those three tracks so far in 2011 boggles the mind. But it shouldn't, as Keith Rocco is only repeating his success from 2010, when he maxed out on his NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified wins en route to the NWAAS National Championship. He's well on his way to doing it again this year - a year that was highlighted by his three-win weekend last week in Connecticut. He took the SK wins at Thompson on Thursday, Stafford on Friday and Waterford on Saturday. Rocco has also been a winner in Late Model competition at Stafford, as well. As one voter stated, "The reason he's higher than the other NASCAR drivers is he starts at the back or deeper in the field. He does not start on the pole. He passes cars to get his points and wins." Rocco was tied for the most first-place votes in this edition of Power with three.
4) BRENNAN POOLE – UARA Late Models
When Brennan Poole was elected to spot #4 on the Tower of Power back in March, we wrote, "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." Well, guess what? We called it. After smoking the field with his new family race team to kick off the season, Poole has gone on to win three more UARA races and is dominating in the points. But, perhaps even more impressive than that, Poole went to victory lane in his first-ever ARCA Racing Series start at Salem Speedway (IN) with Venturini Motorsports.
5) BUBBA POLLARD – Super Late Models
Pollard has been a fixture on the Short Track Power list over recent seasons, and for good reason. He's been "The Man" in the Deep South when it comes to Super and Pro Late Model racing. Mobile International Speedway (AL) draws in some of the top Pro and Super talents each time it's in action, but Pollard has come out on top of them all not just a few times - but an astounding seven straight times between PLM's and SLM's. He has nine wins in 23 starts this season. Perhaps the most impressive part of Pollard's year is that he's been fast when he has left his home area of the Florida Panhandle and Lower Alabama. He had a second-place effort in "THE RACE" PASS South event at North Wilkesboro (NC) before losing it in tech and even ventured to the Rowdy 251 at Berlin Raceway (MI) last month and was running fairly well before an incident took him out. He rebounded from that heartbreak to win at Mobile the following weekend.
6) GREG PURSLEY – NASCAR K&N Pro Series West
Jason Fensler and Joey Logano can give each other a high five the next time they see one another. Why? Because they're the only ones that have beat Greg Pursley in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West in the seven races this season. Pursley has been on fire, winning five of the seven races and never having finished outside the top-five. He hasn't just lucked into those wins, either. He has smoked the field in just about all of his race wins. Pursley has also taken 15-year-old teammate Dylan Kwasniewski under his wing and led that youngster towards the 2011 NKNPSE Rookie of the Year title. Pursley, who co-led the Power poll with Rocco at three first-place votes, was considered to be "Lights-out" according to one voter.
7) JOHNNY CLARK - PASS North
We mentioned earlier how hard it was to win in the ASA Midwest Tour for Ross Kenseth, but he was getting it done. The same can be said for Johnny Clark in the PASS North Super Late Model tour. Clark has three wins in the series' first five races, besting perennial foe Ben Rowe and the rest of the PASS regulars. Because PASS North points reflect bonuses for success in its heat races, Clark does not have the point lead, but he has plenty of momentum on his side as he goes for a record sixth PASS North championship.
8) RYAN BLANEY - Super Late Models/ARCA
Two times a winner on the PASS South Super Late Model tour, Ryan Blaney was near the top on many voters' lists, including a first-place vote, earning him this top-10 spot. Blaney is the only repeat winner in PASS South this season, but his success was not limited to just that tour. He had a good run going in the Rowdy 251 at Berlin and has competed well in other SLM shows around the Southeast, but his breakout performance may have come in his ARCA Racing Series debut at Winchester Speedway (IN) in late June. Blaney set fast time in qualifying and dominated the event, only to have his shot at the win seemingly go away with a flat tire. He made up laps lost while pitting for the flat, but he made them up and was in position for the win again at the end of the race before laps ran out and he was left with a sixth-place finish.
9) BRIAN CAMPBELL - Super Late Models
If the Short Track Power poll had been done about three weeks ago, Brian Campbell very well could have been higher. Some recent races haven't gone his way, but for about a month stretch earlier this year, Campbell was darn near unbeatable. He won the inaugural CRA/JEGS All-Stars Tour event at Toleo Speedway (OH), then won twice on the CRA Super Series at Baer Field (MI) and Lucas Oil Raceway (IN). For the second year in a row, Campbell was prime for a strong finish and perhaps a chance to battle with Kyle Busch for the win in the Rowdy 251, but a late-race crash once again cost him a shot at the victory. But, despite the bad luck, Campbell has been on a tear and is showing no signs of slowing.
10) JOHN DONAHUE - ACT Late Models
John Donahue was alone in second place in the total number of first-place votes with two. When it comes to ACT-type Late Model racing thus far in 2011, nobody has had anywhere near the success that John Donahue has. The Vermont native has an ACT Tour win at White Mountain (NH), seconds at Lee USA (NH) and Devil's Bowl (VT) and a third at Thunder Road (VT). In non-Tour events at Thunder Road, Donahue has been on a roll, having won the prestigious Memorial Day Classic and Vermont Governor's Cup events there.
Rowan Pennink (Modifieds) - Title contender on NASCAR Mod Tour & Modified Racing Series.
Scott Bloomquist (Dirt Late Models) – Lucas Oil LM Dirt leader with seven wins in 2011
Philip Morris (LMSC) – Dominator in NASCAR WAAS Late Models at South Boston with 11 overall wins.
Augie Grill (Super/Pro Late Models) – Another Deep South threat with a Blizzard Series win last month.
Ben Rowe (PASS North) - PASS North point leader and winner at Canaan Fair Speedway (NH).
Zak Hausler (NWAAS Modifieds) – Winning so many races there is a bounty on him in Texas.
Jimmy Carter (LM) – Becoming a name with a JEGS/CRA race and a big Outlaw SLM show in Midwest..
Chuck Hossfeld (Mods) – Winner of three of the four Race of Champions Tour Modified events.
Ty Dillon (ARCA) – Four wins in nine starts on the ARCA Racing Series.
Max Gresham (KNPSE) - Winner at his home track in Georgia in NASCAR K&N East competition.
ALSO RECEIVING VOTES
Darrell Wallace, Jr.
Terry Fisher, Jr.
George Brunnhoelzl, III