The 2014 Speed51.com Short Track Draft presented by JEGS ballot was sent to more than 200 short track insiders, including media members, team and driver development professionals, track and series promoters and officials, product and industry representatives and more, NASCAR National Series drivers, crew members and more. The voters could select as few as 10 and as many as 51 drivers on their ballot, ranked in order that they would choose the drivers to compete for their Driver Development team in the top levels of the sport. The drivers with the best average result made the list of the top-51 picks in the 2014 Short Track Draft. The #1 Draft pick was announced on May 8. Picks 2-10 were announced May 9. Picks 26-51 were announced Monday evening, while the remaining "Best of the Rest" were announced on Tuesday.
Here are 2014 Short Track Draft Picks #11-#25.
Hometown: Concord, NC
Series: Late Model Stock Cars / ARCA / NASCAR K&N Pro Series East
Former Dallas Cowboys star Deion Sanders is one of the most well-known cornerbacks in the history of the National Football League. Although he was a very successful football player, he’s also well-known for being one of the most successful athletes to ever compete in two different professional sports leagues (NFL and MLB).
Concord, North Carolina’s Corey LaJoie is short track racings version of Sanders in the way that he has displayed success in two of the most premier short track touring series in the country. After winning five events during the 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season and finishing second in points, LaJoie made the move to the ARCA Racing Series in 2013 where he picked up wins at Chicagoland, Pocono and Kentucky. His results in 2013 earned him one first-place Draft vote this year.
The 23-year-old from North Carolina enters 2014 under contract with Richard Petty Motorsports for the NASCAR Nationwide Series and will race if and when sponsorship is found. Hopefully it is found, because he can flat-out wheel a racecar.
Pros: Has shown that he can be competitive and win in any car or any series that he competes in. Has the look and the cocky attitude that will earn him some fans if they ever get the chance to see him on TV some day.
Cons: LaJoie has not been racing as much as he should be as of late. While drivers that he was beating in the K&N Pro Series East are enjoying success competing in the three NASCAR National Series, LaJoie has been away from racing waiting for his opportunity.
Hometown: Coopersville, MI
Series: ARCA/CRA Super Series / Outlaw SLM / NASCAR K&N Pro Series East
It is a little surprising not to see Johnny VanDoorn in the top 10, where he was last year. He won the Battle at Berlin 251, Redbud 300, and the Border Wars event at Toledo. He was in contention to win the Winchester 400, which if he did, would have given him a six-figure payday.
In fact, he competed in six ARCA/CRA Super Series events last year and won four of them.
Besides Super Late Model racing, he also made eight starts in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East where he had a podium finish at Five Flags Speedway. He has yet to compete in 2014, but hopes to get behind the wheel next month.
Pros: Impressive resume. Three CRA titles, big event wins and knowledgeable when it comes to building and setting up cars.
Cons: Been focused on his driver development program and building racecars, doing more behind the scenes work. This may be why he fell out of the top 10 in the draft.
Hometown: Lakeport, CA
Series: NASCAR K&N Pro Series West / SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour
In college football, the focus is set almost solely on the teams in the SEC, ACC and Big 10 when it comes to talent and championships. There's just as good of ball being played out west, but even networks like ESPN can have a little bit of East Coast Bias. Perhaps that's what has cost Derek Thorn a top-10 Draft spot this year.
Thorn came east last season and ran the Snowball Derby. Not only did he run the race, but he was leading with 45 laps to go. Thorn is tall like a wide receiver, kinda like Shaquelle Evans who is a senior out of UCLA looking to go in the third or fourth round. Thorn would be a steal if he was still on the board that late in a draft. The 2013 K&N Pro Series West Champion is not defending his title, but his SPEARS Late Model efforts have already produced a win early on this season.
Pros: He can do it all. Has a great personality and can talk the talk, having fun doing it. He's a proven winner in every type of car he gets in.
Cons: He could continue to dominate out west, but probably not get the full attention he deserves from the east coast voters. He did get three first-place votes, so he's on the radar and just needs a little less "East Coast Bias" to help get him over the threshold.
Hometown: Sacramento, CA
Series: USAC Midgets
Just one win can help launch a huge jump in Draft status, just ask Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles. Bortles was almost unknown to the casual college football fan until he led his Knights to a big BCS bowl game win and was the top QB taken on Thursday night by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Bryan Clauson certainly had done enough to get onto past Short Track Drafts in his career, but winning the 2014 Chili Bowl and becoming the first driver since 2008 not named Swindell to win the Golden Driller trophy in front of a live TV audience helped move Clauson to 14th in this year's Draft with four first-place votes. Clauson is a two-time USAC National Midget Series Champion, three-time USAC National Drivers Champion and two-time Turkey Night Grand Prix winner, plus he made his debut in the Indianapolis 500 in 2012.
But it wasn't until the Chili Bowl win in January that really opened the stock car world's eyes to just how talented Clauson is once again.
Pros: One of the most decorated open-wheel drivers of his generation. Well-spoken and smart when it comes to his racecars.
Cons: Unfortunately, his lackluster NASCAR success is all the majority of the stock car fans remember about Clauson. NASCAR's loss is the open-wheel game's gain.
Joey Polewarczyk, Jr.
Hometown: Hudson, NH
Series: American-Canadian Tour / Super Late Models
The University of New Hampshire Wildcats were one game away from FCS National Championship in December of 2013. New Hampshire native Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. might have been watching that, but there's a better chance he was in his nearby Hudson, New Hampshire race shop working on his racecar.
"Joey Pole," as he's known through the New England region, has kept his winning ways alive in 2013 with three mid-season wins and then a big money win at Airborne Speedway (NY) in the International 500. Polewarczyk is also a former Oxford 250 winner and a winner at New Hampshire. Diamonds in the rough can be found anywhere and Polewarczyk is worth the pick. He was P1 on one Draft ballot and appears in his highest position of his five Draft appearances.
Pros: Wants to branch out and run other things when the schedule allows. The more exposure the better for this New Hampshire driver.
Cons: Has the big wins, but most the success has only come in one type of car.
Hometown: Fort Kent, ME
Series: American-Canadian Tour / Super Late Models
Austin Theriault, the third place finisher in last year’s Snowball Derby recently signed on with JR Motorsports to run some select NASCAR Nationwide Series events. He will make his debut at Iowa Speedway on Sunday, May 18th, becoming the first Maine driver to have a legitimate shot to win NASCAR top-level races since native son Ricky Craven almost 20 years ago.
Last year, Theriault picked up wins in the PASS North and South Series along with several top-five and top-10 finishes.
Theriault has gotten experience working both with his family team and with Brad Keselowski Racing in the past and has shined in any setting. He's got a typical hard-work ethic that is a staple of drivers from his region. Theriault has a huge fan following and driving for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the Nationwide Series will only help get an even bigger fan base.
Pros: Always a contender when he shows up for an event and always has solid runs. Pretty quiet but gets the job done.
Cons: Not always in the media spotlight, but his racing resume has caught several eyes, thus the opportunity with JR Motorsports.
Hometown: Ladera Ranch, CA
Series: NASCAR K&N Pro Series East / West
He may not have been talked about in the same capacity that Johnny “Football” Manziel is being talked about heading into the 2014 NFL draft, but 16-year-old Cole Custer had everybody in the racing world talking when he became the youngest winner in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East history following his win at Iowa Speedway last August.
Fast forward to 2014 and Custer now has three career K&N East wins, as well as one K&N West win on his resume. All of this combined with a strong 12th place running in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut has industry experts putting Custer in the top-20 of this year’s draft after being absent from the draft in 2013. Custer earned two first-place votes from the panel.
Pros: An excellent team and foundation behind him with Stewart-Haas Racing and Bill McAnally Racing to help propel him to the next level.
Cons: Now a member of the NASCAR Next class of 2014, Custer should look to build his off-track charisma to increase his marketability as a driver.
Hometown: El Reno, OK
Series: NASCAR K&N Pro Series East
Football experts often look for an all-around prospect - someone who has impecable talent in all facets of the game. When it comes to short track racing, Kenzie Ruston is one of those all-around talents. She's fast behind the wheel, she's got the look, the marketing savvy and she communicates as well or better than anyone else in her age bracket.
Ruston proved she belonged in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East ranks in 2013 after a solid Super Late Model career. A Legends Car champion in her scale-car days, Ruston parlayed a CRA Super Late Model win in 2012 into some strong K&N East runs in 2013.
When an opportunity dried up at Turner Scott Motorsports and another opened up at Ben Kennedy Racing in 2014, Ruston seeminly had her opportunity to shine as the solo driver in the stable. So far this season, she's run up front, but luck hasn't allowed her the results she maybe deserved. Still, Ruston remains a part of the NASCAR Next program and has oodles of fans from coast-to-coast clamoring for her success in NASCAR.
Pros: She's got the looks, the attitude and the talent to do whatever she wants to do in the sport. She just needs the doors to open her way.
Cons: Everyone knows she's a marketing dream and she's run up front in her K&N career, but that first win has eluded her. NASCAR can make a gigantic deal about her being the first female to win a K&N race, but she has to do it on the track first.
Hometown: Suwanee, GA
Series: Super Late Models / NASCAR K&N Pro Series East / ARCA Racing Series
The state of Georgia is good at producing football players and race car drivers. Anderson Bowen lands on the Draft for the third time in his career and he is the second driver from the Peach State to be in the top 20. Bowen can relate to Bulldogs QB Aaron Murray who was injured in his senior season at Georgia and would have been considered a strong draft pick despite the injury. Bowen broke his ankle in June and was out several week before his return.
Bowen shook off the up and down season that lacked consistency and started working on 2014. That change of the calendar has been the best news yet as he nine top 10's and five podium finishes. Bowen has rebounded and looks for the next big step in the Super Late Model world. He has also been quick in his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East starts, winning at pole at Iowa in 2013, and has seen some success in the ARCA ranks with a top-five finish earlier this year at Mobile.
Pros: He's smooth on and has shown a quick recovery from a 2013 season that was just short of a disaster.
Cons: The wins are not there yet, but with his strong start to 2014 when that first one comes then the flood gates could open.
Hometown: Delaware, OH
Series: JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour / Super Late Models / ARCA Racing Series
Two Ohio State Buckeyes went in the first round of this year's NFL Draft, linebacker Ryan Shazier and cornerback Bradley Roby. Just down the road from OSU's campus is Delaware, Ohio, the home of top-20 Short Track Draft pick Cody Coughlin, the 2013 JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour Champion. Coughlin isn't the kind of kid who can intimidate people with a hulking appearance like a linebacker such as Shazier, but he's quick and does his work when it matters most, just like a cornerback like Roby.
The biggest knock on Coughlin in his past Draft appearances was a lack of victories, but he took care of that issue with two JEGS Tour victories in 2013 along with the championship. He got the season off to a strong start last year with a victory in the Pro Late Model division at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing during February Speedweeks at New Smyrna (FL).
This season, Coughlin will compete in some of the bigger Super Late Model events on the schedule as well as select ARCA Racing series events. He ran amongst the leaders in his ARCA debut at Mobile and has aligned himself with ARCA superteam Venturini Motorsports with the guidance of Joe Gibbs Racing moving forward.
Pros: Now that he has the wins, he has the confidence of a proven front-runner. He's well spoken and has broken out of his shy stage at the start of his short track career.
Cons: Will have everything he needs to win in the ARCA ranks with Venturini and has opportunities ahead of him with JGR, so anything less than victories or podium finishes won't be up to the standards set before him.
Hometown: Mooresville, NC
Series: NASCAR K&N Pro Series West
Brandon McReynolds has worked his way up like many other young drivers have in their career. He started in Bandoleros, then to Legends, then to Allison Legacy, Late Models and beyond. He has won events at Rockingham and even picked up an ARCA Racing Series victory at Talladega.
The son of former NASCAR crew chief Larry McReynolds had been looking for the right, solid, opportunity to really showcase his talents and has seemingly found it this year driving for Bill McAnally in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
So far in three West starts he has two top-fives and a top-10 finish along with one pole award. He is currently second in the standings.
Pros: Has already proven that he can be successful behind the wheel of any car. He has wins in just about every style he has competed in from short tracks to big tracks.
Cons: Really hadn’t had the opportunity until this year to run a full season schedule in a top series where there is potential for more notoriety. A championship in the K&N West could be huge for his career.
Hometown: Huntersville, NC
Series: Pro Late Models / Super Late Models
Harrison Burton is very much like Trey Boston of the University of North Carolina. They may be small, but they're mighty when it comes to their particular sport. Boston, a safety who stands at just 5-foot-11, may be smaller than his comptitors, but he packs a punch. The same can be said for Burton, who at 13 may not have the stature outside of the car, but it's his ability inside the car that matters.
Burton wrecked a car bad in qualifying for the the Pete Orr Memorial 100 at New Smyrna Speedway in late January. He returned a few weeks later during February Speedweeks to win twice and one of those wins came in the headline 100-lap Pro Late Model event. Making his first Draft at the age of 13 is nothing new these days, but how much can he make his stock rise before the 2015 Draft?
Pros: Has noted racer and driver mentor Freddie Query on his side, along with a Cup dad Jeff. But, dad isn't pushing his son along too quickly, which is the right plan.
Cons: Still a very shy kid, but heck he's 13. He'll have to break out of that as the success continues. Twitter is not always the answer, but getting one would help boost exposure and fan base.
Hometown: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Series: NASCAR K&N Pro Series
Cameron Hayley made a name for himself when he won the inaugural Battle at the Beach in 2013. He had a solid season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West where he had 12 top-five runs and finished in the top 10 in every event, which led to a second place finish in the standings.
He has now moved over to the K&N East this year, driving for the same team that helped Dylan Kwasniewski win the title last year. It's like whenever an underclassman quarterback has to take over for a championship-winning signal caller when he moves up to the big leagues. While he hasn't yet won in the East series, Hayley was a bumper away from winning the first event of the year at New Smyrna Speedway. So far in five events, he has two top-fives and a top-10 finish along with one pole award.
He also gets behind the wheel of a Super Late Model whenever he can. This year he ran every night at New Smyrna’s World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing where he had three top-five’s and two top-10 finishes.
Pros: He is 17 and is showing potential behind the wheel in the K&N Series. Friendly guy and is marketable.
Cons: He was asked after the K&N West finale why he was going to run the K&N East in 2014. He said that running the East would get him more noticed by teams. He just needs more eyes to look at him.
Hometown: Norman, OK
Series: World of Outlaws Sprints / Midgets
Each year, at some point during the NFL Draft, the television cameras will point to fans in the crowd of a particular team wondering just who the heck their club just picked. Maybe you haven't heard of Christopher Bell to this point, but it's a safe bet you will - even as early as this week.
Bell pickedup his first career World of Outlaws Sprint Car victory earlier this week at Jacksonville (FL). He was also one of the starts of this year's Chili Bowl in Tulsa, where he won on one of the prelim nights. He was the 2013 USAC National Midget Champion.
Two 51 Draft voters picked Bell as their number-one pick, a sign that the kid is the real deal, even if stock car fans don't know much about him yet.
Pros: He's young and aligned with some powerful people on the scene. He's also proven that he can get the job done in some of the most competitive open-wheel series in the country.
Cons: It's likely that he won't get left in Sprints and Midgets long. He'll get a call to do some NASCAR stuff soon. Hopefully a stock car owner allows him to get the experience and maybe even tear up a few cars, before he can really shine like Kyle Larson.
Hometown: Hampstead, NH
Series: NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour
Andy Seuss has been a household name in the Tour-Type Modified ranks since he made his Valenti Modified Racing Series debut in 2004. Since that time, Seuss has become one of the most successful drivers on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.
Near the end of the 2013 season, Seuss recorded three straight wins between his two at Caraway Speedway and the other Southern National Raceway Park to rally to a fourth place finish in the NWSMT standings. The New Hampshire native has started off the 2014 season with two wins in four starts and currently holds the NWMST points lead.
Pros: One of the most experienced and successful Modified drivers in the field at any event he shows up at. He knows what it takes to go fast and win in that type of car.
Cons: Seems to be confined to the Modified ranks. Like many of this year’s NFL Draft hopefuls, Seuss deserves a shot at the next level, but the question is, will he get that chance?