Often imitated, but never duplicated, the Speed51.com power poll ranks drovers from all across the land on their strength to this point in the season. We know the year is just a few months old and the Midwest and Northeast drivers have yet to start their seasons, but there has been plenty of racing elsewhere to go around.
A panel of industry experts from all four corners of the country and Canada have voted on their choices for the first Short Track Power poll of 2014. Drivers in all forms of short track racing, including Late Models, NASCAR Touring Series, ARCA, 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 for the first few months of the 2014 short track racing season:
1. Daniel Suarez (KNPSE, NTSMx)
One might think Daniel Surez is a slow learner. After his first 16 races in his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East career, he had only had a career-best finish of fifth on two occasions between 2011 and 2012. But if Suarez is a slow learner, then the rest of the racing world is going to hate the fact that he has it all figured out now. With victories in each of the first two K&N shows this year, Suarez is starting to make believers out of all of us. We should have seen it coming after he won at Columbus last year. He outscored champion Dylan Kwasniewski in the second half of the year and finished second to him on three occasions. Let's add fuel to that fire - he's won each of the last two NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series races. Suarez has made a believer out of the panel as he was the runaway No. 1 selection in this edition of 51's Short Track Power.
2. Stephen Nasse (SLM)
If the first two months of the season is any indication, it's a safe bet that Stephen Nasse is back on top of his game. After a year of bad luck and medical issues that kept him out of victory lane on a regular basis, Nasse has returned to the Super Late Model spotlight after scoring three wins at the New Smyrna World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing. Had it not been for a busted power steering line late in the week, Nasse was the odds-on favorite for the division's championship. The fresh start is good for Nasse who is soon to compete with the Adrian Carries team for the first time at the Rattler 250.
3. Steve Wallace (SLM)
Wallace may have won the championship at New Smyrna last month, but Nasse's three wins were enough for the voters to give a slightly-higher rank than Wallace in the "Tower of Power." That's no worry for Wallace, however. He was thrilled to become a part of Speedweeks history by adding the Wallace name to the list of champions at New Smyrna. His dad never won a title down there, so the younger Wallace now has that to hold over his NASCAR champ dad Rusty in addition to a Snowball Derby victory.
4. Spencer Davis (SLM, PLM, Mods)
If there has been a race on an asphalt short track since the start of the year, then there's a good chance Spencer Davis has racing in it. Since the middle of January, the Georgia teen has logged well over 1500 laps between practice, qualifying and feature events. Davis has racked up three wins so far in 2014, including two feature wins at the New Smyrna World Series and the Pro Late Model division championship. He also got his feet wet in a Modified, running well throughout Speedweeks with Hillbilly Racing.
5. Travis Cope (SLM)
Travis Cope swept the first two rounds of the Florida Super Late Model Triple Crown series at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) in January. When he showed up on the final night of the World Series to finish off the Triple Crown series, Cope's No. 26 was the most feared machine in the pit area based on his undefeated status so far in 2014. While he came up just a bit short of a third victory and a clean sweep of the Triple Crown in the Bruce Gowland Memorial 100 at the end of Speedweeks, Cope's strength at New Smyrna earned him enough votes to keep him in the top five in this edition of Power.
6. Ron Silk (Mods)
The TS Haulers machine for Ron Silk was almost unbeatable at New Smyrna. After taking down three wins, including becoming the first repeat winner of the John Blewett III Memorial, Silk had to be consistent to rebound from a tire infraction that cost him points on Sunday. He never got the point lead back until the final night when he finished strong in the Richie Evans Memorial 100.
7. Harrison Burton (PLM)
Harrison Burton's dad Jeff Burton had never been able to see his son win a Pro Late Model feature before the New Smyrna World Series. He finally got to do just that in the biggest Pro Late Model race of the week as the youngest member of the Burton household won the 100-lap event against a talented field of cars. Burton then won again the next night in the 35-lapper to bring his win total to two for the week. Not back for the youngest winner in Pro Late Model history at the World Series.
8. (Tie) Justin Bonsignore (Mods), Daniel Hemric (SLM)
Justin Bonsignore turned a lot of heads with a dominating win in a 35-lapper at New Smyrna and then a powerful win after coming from the back of the pack in the Richie Evans Memorial 100. Plans are to run both MRS and the Whelen Modified Tour this season. If New Smyrna was any indication, look out. On the flip side, Daniel Hemric scored the win in the season-opening PASS South event at Greenville Pickens. After winning the 2013 Southern Super Series championship, Hemric hopped into Dickie Woodman's No. 41 PASS South entry and took it to victory lane for a second time. Look for Hemric to keep up his winning ways in just about any Super Late Model he wheels in 2014.
9. Doug Coby (NWMT)
New team, no problem for Doug Coby who won the Battle at the Beach at Daytona International Speedway (FL). Coby then stuck around to run the Richie Evans Memorial 100 and finished fifth at New Smyrna. We are a few weeks away from the Icebeaker, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season opener, but the No. 2 team with its new driver Coby behind the wheel already has a ton of championship hype.
10. Lee Pulliam (KNEast, LMSC)
Once again Lee Pulliam is quietly doing his thing with strong runs and winning in the Late Model Stock Car world. Pulliam is 100% focused on his opportunity to run K&N Pro Series East and it shows. Two races and he's second in points with two top-five runs. In his off time, he won at Southern National (NC) in his Late Model and it's a safe bet he'll be earning more victories there and throughout the Southeast once again in 2014.
11. Kyle Benjamin (SLM) - Dethroned Travis Cope in 100 lapper and won final night of Speedweeks.
12. John Hunter Nemechek (SLM, PLM) - Won SpeedFest JEGS Tour event and ran well at Greenville's PASS South race.
13. Ryan Preece (NWMT) - Dominant Modified performance at Daytona ruined only by late-race heartbreak.
14. Ryan Moore (SLM) - Tuned his car into a contender at New Smyrna and won twice before final night wreck.
15. Ty Dillon (Dirt Modified) - He was lights out with four wins and a Volusia Speedweeks championship.
16. Grant Enfinger (ARCA) - Watch out as he could repeat in Mobile and start the year two-for-two.
17. Cole Custer (KNWest) - Dominant performance in winning season-opener at Phoenix.
18. Cameron Hayley (KNEast, SLM) - Second at Smyrna's K&N East opener and second in PASS South opener.
19. Darrell Lanigan (Dirt LM) - Was the only Speedweeks winner at two tracks.
20. Steve Kinser (WoO) - Won for the 577th time at Volusia in February.
Others Receiving Votes: Scott Bloomquist (Dirt), Jeff Cannon (CRA), Joey Doiron (PASS), Chris Gerchman (LOMods), Austin Hill (KNEast), Ross Kenseth (SLM), Brad May (PLM), Burt Myers (NWSMT), Casey Roberts (Dirt), Anthony Sesley (Indoor), Matt Sheppard (Dirt), Todd Stone (Modified), Brandon Watson (SLM).
Despite not having hit the track yet this season, these drivers below carry some big power into the new season in their respective series and received votes as such.
Waiting on a new Season: Travis Braden (CRA), George Brunnhoelzl III (NWSMT), Brian Campbell (CRA), Corey Deuser (JEGS), Nathan Hasleu (ARCAMT), Wayne Helliwell Jr. (ACT), Casey Johnson (ARCA MT), Ty Majewski (ARCAMT), Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. (ACT), Keith Rocco (SK Modifieds), Travis Sauter (SLM), DJ Shaw (PASS), Dominique Van Wieringen (JEGS).