One of the true honors of this industry is getting to meet some very talented people. Those people may be behind the wheel of the race car, working on the race car, working in the shop, or creating products for the race car.
What is mostly on display in front of us at the track is the talent of the racer himself (or herself). So we talked to some of our trusted freelancers and contributors around the country and asked them a simple question. Who are the best racers from your area? With their input, and to commemorate the upcoming 35th Anniversary of Circle Track, we compiled a list of the 35 best.
Because it is difficult to match racers in a “Power Ranking” system due to many factors (they don’t race head to head, they race different types of cars, different types of competition, etc. etc.), we listed them in alphabetical order by last name. We’ll let you decide who deserves top billing… or if we left anyone out. Enjoy!
Rico Abreu – The 2016 Chili Bowl Nationals winner moved up to some of the higher ranks of racing this season, but kept to his roots by visiting major open wheel races (and winning some).
Tony Anderson – If you receive an official letter of recognition from your home state for your racing accomplishments, you’re doing something right. Tony Anderson won both the Street Stock and UMP Modified Championships at Limaland in 2016.
Brady Bacon – It was a sizzling season for Bacon (pardon the pun). Bacon collected the overall USAC National Sprint Championship by more than 300 points.
Josh Berry – This up-and-coming JR Motorsport driver is one to keep an eye on. He ran 25 races including NASCAR Whelen All American Series and CARS in 2016 and won 10 times, 22 Top Fives and 24 Top Tens. That’s a 40% win average. (Josh Berry Facebook Photo)
Dale Blaney – He may have come second to Chad Kemenah in the 2016 All Star Sprint points, but Blaney is still getting it done. His 7 wins in the series was second only to Sheldon Haudenschild. His 34 Top Tens were the most by any driver.
Scott Bloomquist – Speaking of legends who just keep winning…there is this guy. Bloomquist dominated the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series this season and collected a major win in the Gateway Nationals.
Chase Briscoe – Domination comes to mind when you hear this guy’s name. Briscoe put the ARCA Series field far behind him in 2016 on the way to a Championship. Like Abreu, Briscoe finds time to return to his open wheel roots as well. Look for him in the 2017 Chili Bowl Nationals.
Doug Coby – This driver has cemented himself as the man to beat on the always tough NASCAR Whelen Mod Tour. Coby won his third Championship in a row in 2016. It was his fourth in the last five seasons.
Christian Eckes – Better late than never. Eckes won the illustrious Snowball Derby at the beginning of December to put himself on the map. However, he scored big wins driving for JR Motorsports in the Myrtle Beach 400 and Thanksgiving Classic. (Christian Eckes Facebook Photo)
Garret Evans – The legend of the Northwest. Evans is still the man to beat in big races west of the Rockies. He captured this year’s Northwest Super Late Model Series Championship.
Stewart Friesen – In the world of Big Block Modified racing Friesen was able to capture two major wins this season. He won the Super DIRT week crown and the Eastern States 200. Friesen also finished second in the Super DIRTcar Series standings to Matt Sheppard. (Stewart Friesen Facebook Photo)
Sam Hafertepe Jr. – The American Sprint Car Series schedule can be a grueling one, so naturally we had to look to their Champion for this list. In 37 features, Sam Hafertepe collected eight wins, and 33 Top Tens. (Photo from ASCS Facebook by Daryl Turford)
Sheldon Haudenschild – We’ll throw an honorable mention to Kemenah, the ASCoC titlist again. However, Sheldon Haudenschild grabbed the most wins on the circuit in 2016 with nine.
Trevor Huddleston – Huddleston remains the top dog at Irwindale Speedway. He captured his second straight NASCAR Late Model crown at the facility.
Jason Hughes – There is no name feared more than Jason Hughes on the USMTS circuit. Hughes was the Champion of the Central Region, Southern Region, Northern Region, and Hunt for the Casey’s Cup.
Casey Johnson – A rising star in the Midwest. Johnson captured the TUNDRA Super Late Model Series Championship. The Red, White and Blue Series at Wisconsin Int’l Raceway, the Madison Int’l Speedway Triple Crown and was the ARCA Midwest Tour Rookie of the Year.
Danny Lasoski – “The Dude” is another Sprint racer who keeps getting it done. His three wins and 23 Top Fives in 25 National Sprint League starts propelled him to a 556-point win in the series standings. (National Sprint League Facebook Photo)
Mike Looney – Driving for “The Open Trailer Gang” won twin 75 lap races at Motor Mile, then went to Martinsville for the big end of the year Valley Star Credit Union 300 and sat on the pole and won. He beat out many of the better funded teams, 70 entries total, which were there. (Photo from www.motormilespeedway.com)
Ty Majeski – Perhaps one of the most talked about short track racers of the year. Majeski began the season with a World Series of Asphalt Championship at New Symrna, won his third straight ARCA Midwest Tour Championship and capped it with a win in the Governor’s Cup and a pole at the Snowball Derby.
Burt Myers – Another dual Champion on the list. Myers won the Bowman Gray track Championship and was the Whelen Southern Mod Series titlist, as well. (Burt Myers Facebook Photo)
Bobby Pierce – “The Smooth Operator” found some major success in 2016. Some of Pierce’s banner wins include the World 100 and the North/South 100.
Bubba Pollard – A top dog on asphalt, now with some dirt under his finger nails. Pollard scored some big asphalt wins this season, but was also tough to beat in the late models at his home track Senoia (GA) Speedway.
Josh Richards – Richards had a dominating season with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Models. In 39 starts Richards captured 18 wins (more than double the next driver) and an astounding 31 Top Fives.
Tayler Riddle – The young Washington driver captured the biggest win of his career in 2016. Riddle took home a $20,000 top prize for winning the Summer Showdown at Evergreen Speedway in June.
Ben Rowe – Maybe not the Champion of the North. Maybe not the Champion of the South. But… Ben Rowe took the prestigious Pro All Stars Series (PASS) National Championship, taking on the best that both the North and South had to offer.
Donny Schatz – At one point in the spring Donny Schatz was more than 200 points out of the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series lead. With 25 wins and 77 Top Tens he went on to win the title by over 300 points.
Matt Sheppard – The top dog when it comes to Big Block Modified racing in the Northeast. Sheppard collected 12 wins this season on the way to his second straight Super DIRTcar Series Championship.
Brian Shirley – A relative “newbie” on the list, Brian Shirley proved impressive with the World of Outlaws Crafstman Late Model Series. He picked up three wins on the season, including one close to home at Rockford (IL) Speedway.
Dave Shullick Jr. – It takes some fortitude to race an ISMA Super Mod. It takes a ton of skill to win races and a Championship. Dave Shullick Jr. came out on top of a spirited battle throughout 2016 with Mike Lichty
Kyle Strickler – A major threat wherever he goes. The former IMCA Super Nationals Champion was always an intimidating name on an entry list for major dirt Modified events in 2016.
Nick Sweet – Kiss the cow, make the list. Nick Sweet won his second straight Milk Bowl at Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl this season. He also captured the 2016 American Canadian Tour Championship.
Derek Thorn – The top gun of the West. Thorn won the Southwest Tour again in 2016 and was a major threat at other big Super Late Model races across the country including the All American 400 and Snowball Derby.
Ricky Thornton Jr. – One of the most grueling weeks in racing is the IMCA Super Nationals at Boone. It takes something special to come out on top. Ricky Thornton Jr. did just that this season. (Ricky Thornton Jr. Facebook Photo)
Tanner Thorson – Thorson was in a dog fight for the USAC National Midget Championship with teammate Spencer Bayston all season long. In the end Thorson won by 18 markers. Thorson also managed to collect 8 wins and finish Third in the POWRi National series. (Tanner Thorson Facebook Photo)
Dalton Zehr – It’s hard to ignore someone who wins four Championships in a season. Zehr won titles at State Park Speedway, Golden Sands Speedway, Marshfield Motor Speedway and in the Central Wisconsin Racing Association. He also finished second to Casey Johnson in TUNDRA standings by a slim margin.