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, 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. Positions 2-10 were announced in the morning of May 9, with Picks 11-25 were announced in the evening May 9. Picks 26-51 were announced Monday evening, while the remaining "Best of the Rest" were announced on Tuesday.
Now, the #1 Short Track Draft selection, as voted by the Speed51.com panel, is...
Hometown: Kannapolis, NC
Series: Southern Super Series, Super Late Models
Ask a few dozen NFL Draft "experts" who will be this year's number-one pick when the Draft is held Thursday night in New York and you'll likely get a few dozen different answers. Johnny Manziel, Jadeveon Clowney, Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Sammy Watkins and Khalil Mack are just some of the college football standouts who have been tossed around as potential number-one NFL Draft picks.
But when it comes to the voting for the 2014 Speed51.com Short Track Draft presented by JEGS, there was hardly a debate.
Receiving nearly 40-percent of the total number-one votes from the more than 100 motorsports industry insiders who sent in their Draft ballots, 23-year-old Kannapolis, North Carolina driver Daniel Hemric has been selected as the top Short Track Draft pick for 2014.
Short Track Draft voters selected Hemric third in the voting in 2012 and second in 2013. On the heels of a Southern Super Series presented by Sunoco championship in 2013, voters overwhelmingly made Hemric the top short track prospect of all drivers under the age of 30 for 2014.
"That's pretty shocking," said Hemric upon being told he was the number-one Short Track Draft pick. "I needed something like that. I've been struggling the past few weeks, having a rough go of it on the track, but I really appreciate this honor."
Hemric's name now appears alongside former number-one Short Track Draft picks such as current NASCAR Nationwide Series point leader Chase Elliott, who was the top selection in 2010. Other notable former number-one picks include current NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Brian Ickler (2009), ARCA Racing Series winner Kyle Benjamin (2013) and fellow short track standouts Ross Kenseth (2011) and Bubba Pollard (2012).
"It's a little overwhelming to have my name on the top of the list that has seen a lot of talented number-one picks over the past years," added Hemric. "It's a huge honor for me to be listed in the same group of drivers that have been number-one in the past. In racing you can have your ups and your downs, but some of the bad things often overshadow the good things. It's great to have a little bit of a bright light shining in and this is the first step in a good move forward in 2014."
In a day where so many young short track racers are able to move up the racing ladder because of solid financial backing, Hemric has seen most of his success utilizing hard work backed up by on-track success. Hemric's meager beginnings in Kannapolis, the same mill town that spawned the Earnhardt racing family, did not allow him to buy his way up the racing ladder. Instead, Hemric and his family and supporters pooled together everything they could to get the driver's career started in the scale car ranks. When the victories soon followed, more doors opened for him to continue his winning ways.
After wins and championships in the Legends Car circuits, where he was the 2009 National Champion, Hemric turned to Super and Pro Late Models with Jeff Fultz Racing and any other teams that would allow him to drive without having to bring a huge check. More wins allowed Hemric an opportunity to win in a NASCAR Tour-type Modified during February Speedweeks at New Smyrna Speedway in 2012. His Modified career lasted only a few months between late 2011 and early 2012, but he was in position to win races on several occasions in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modfied Tour and was battling with the leaders in the northeastern-based NASCAR Modified Tour at the Thompson (CT) World Series at the end of the 2011 season.
After starting 2012 in the Modified ranks, he switched to a full-time assault on the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour with Indiana-based Scott Neal Racing. Hemric dominated the JEGS Tour, winning eight of the series' 14 races en route to the championship. The championship ways continued for a second-straight year in 2013, when he piloted the Carswell Motorsports No. 98 to a title in the first season of the Southern Super Series.
"Growing up, I never knew what I would have the opportunity to drive next," said Hemric. "Anything I got in, I just tried to master it. I've been fortunate to be around a lot of different kinds of cars. I think that has made me a better driver just by being to rely on my own knowledge of different cars. Whether it's notes on different geometry stuff or just knowing what will work on one car and wouldn't work on another, just trying to build up that mental notebook has been really important."
Hemric did it all while working on his racecars, sometimes by himself, and impressing those who could help him continue his success on the track.
"I've said all along that you've got to be surrounded by good people and I've been fortunate enough to do that. That being said, you've also got to take advantage of the opportunities that you're presented with. Sometimes it's the best opportunity or ride that you can be in. Sometimes, you just have to make the best of it. I've been fortunate enough to have lady luck on my side and a lot of good people helped me accomplish a lot of my goals in short track racing in a short amount of time. It speaks a lot for everyone who was involved or maybe could be involved in the future.
"Maybe this gives a little push to some of the drivers who don't necessarily have the funding. Hopefully there is still a spot in this sport for talent and talent will eventually prevail."
Hemric's short track success did open a door to get some experience in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2013. The team he made his two starts with shut down at the end of the 2013 season, leaving Hemric back in the short track ranks, where he is currently competing for a second-straight Southern Super Series championship. His season started with two PASS South victories, giving him a total of four in that series along with his two SSS wins, eight JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour victories and one win in ARCA/CRA Super Series competition.
But like any short tracker, Hemric still hopes for an opportunity to showcase his skills on NASCAR's national stages. Since some other Speed51.com Short Track Draft picks went on to success at the sport's top levels, could this be a kick-start to more doors opening there for Hemric?
"It can't hurt," said Hemric. "Something like this definitely can keep a name out there more and more. Speed51.com does a lot of great things for our sport, especially for drivers trying to make a name for themselves. It brings a guy's name from a local or regional scene to a national scene. Speed51 gives us an opportunity to get our name out there to a wider audience. I couldn't have an opportunity to be where I am if it wasn't for all the people who have helped me get to this point. "
2014 Short Track Draft presented by JEGS picks 2 through 10 will be announced Friday morning on Speed51.com. Selections 11-25 will follow Friday evening. Picks 26 through 51 will be revealed on Monday, May 12 and “The Best of the Rest,” the drivers who received multiple votes yet fell short of the top-51 selections, will be announced Tuesday on Speed51.com