It’s safe to say that in the world of Late Model Stock Car racing and short track racing in general that predicting who’s going to be the top drivers before the season even gets started is very difficult. However we didn’t want that to slow us down and of course we didn’t let it stop us from trying to predict the best drivers for the 2016 season.
With that said, below is our first edition of Superior Trailer Power Rankings for the Late Model Stock Car division. The Superior Trailer Power Rankings ranks drivers who compete in both the CARS Late Model Stock Car tour and the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock Car division as well as Late Model Stock Cars competing at non-sanctioned tracks around the Southeast region.
Obviously we don’t know for sure if some of these young drivers will even be racing this season. They could be moving up or moving on but we try to make our best and most educated guess on who will be competing and who will be the cars to beat in all the areas we cover.
Anyways … here we go. Be sure to let us know on our Facebook page or our Twitter account if you agree or disagree with our predictions.
Best of the Rest:
Mike Darne – Not sure how much he’ll race but when he does he’s extremely competitive.
Justin Johnson – After a couple of years off he jumped back behind the wheel last season and was competitive but we’re looking for more from him this season.
Kyle Barnes – A return to Kingsport and Lonesome Pine could propel this driver into the elite category. He made his presence known last year before a disqualification and departure from competing at these two tracks.
Robert Turner – Ace Speedway is changing everything. From essentially mixing Late Models and Limiteds with more Limited slanted rules to running heats and features with no qualifying. Who does this change favor the most? One of the guys with the most experience and Robert Turner fits that mold.
Dylan Ward – While we’re not sure if he’ll compete at Ace, Dylan Ward will be a driver to contend with whether it’s at Ace or East Carolina or somewhere else.
Christian Eckes – Running for JR Motorsports alongside Josh Berry, this young driver could turn some heads fast this season.
Dexter Canipe, Jr. – He could very well be the face of Hickory Motor Speedway this season and he’ll certainly be competitive there week in and week out.
16 – Kyle Dudley
Two factors should play into Kyle Dudley moving from outside this list to inside the Superior Trailer Power Rankings this season. One is a return to Caraway Speedway, where he picked up his first NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock Car win last year. Two is a return to Franklin County Speedway where he’s been dominant in the past and has won several track championships. Racing at those two venues and an increased performance at Motor Mile in the past couple of seasons could launch Dudley into the top-level of drivers.
15 – Brenden Queen
While he’s yet to make it to victory lane at Langley Speedway, Brenden Queen is one of the upcoming young drivers who’s poised for a breakthrough this season. Queen has had great performances at Langley and isn’t scared to travel around the region and take on the best of the best and that will lead him to a breakthrough in 2016.
14 – Bradley McCaskill
If his breakthrough in 2015 was any indication 2016 could be a big season for “the other McCaskill”. Bradley is emerging for his cousin Deac’s shadows in a big way. Last season he won three races, the season opening Late Model event at Southern National Motorsports Park, a Limited Late Model race at Southern National and he pulled off the upset win in the Concord stop for the CARS Tour. That CARS Tour win was huge for McCaskill’s small team but it could very well propel him into the elite Late Model Stock Car drivers this season.
13 – David Roberts
He’s one of the UpState South Carolina areas top drivers and he could very well be one of the regions top drivers as a whole. David Roberts has won track championships at Greenville Pickens and Anderson Motor Speedway in the last two seasons and he could easily give Trey Gibson a run for his money for being the dominant driver in the UpState.
12 – Trey Gibson
Speaking of Trey Gibson …. He’s number 12 on our list but last years performance certainly shows that if he can repeat matching his 12 victories he could very well walk away with both the Greenville Pickens and Anderson Motor Speedway track championships. We lumped Gibson and Roberts together on this list but Gibson could easily find himself back among the top five drivers of the season.
11 – Matt Bowling
Matt Bowling has had some great performances in the last few seasons. He’s won championships in two of the last four seasons at South Boston Speedway but he’s fallen down our list from previously stronger positions. His slip back this list is due to the fact that we think “business is about to pick up” at South Boston with changes to their purse and tire program. Bowling will still be in the mix but other drivers will likely pick up wins that Bowling would otherwise be in a position to win.
10 – Deac McCaskill
Deac McCaskill is easily one of the best Late Model Stock Car drivers of the last decade but last season he faded from the spotlight of winning races. He only won two races during the course of the 2015 season, one was a CARS Tour race at Southern National, a track he’s raced at more over the years than any other and his other win came in the finale at East Carolina Motor Speedway. We expect he’ll be strong again this year and be in the mix for wins but how many will he win and where?
9 – Chad Finchum
Come March 19th, we might be kicking ourselves for placing Chad Finchum in ninth place on this list. Lets be honest with a return to Kingsport Speedway on the horizon, Finchum will likely have a great season. He might even take a lot of the steam out of Kres VanDyke’s sails but Finchum will be competing not in his own team car but a car from the stables of LMR Motorsports. Will that make a difference? We think not but we’ll wait until the March 2016 Superior Trailer Power Rankings come out, after he runs the season opener at Kingsport, to make that judgement.
8 – Greg Edwards
The cloud around the reopening of Langley Speedway has left many drivers from out that way in limbo. None of them probably want to get back to racing at Langley more than the Edwards brothers and defending champion, Greg Edwards. Edwards looks to be the leading candidate for the championship if/when Langley Speedway reopens, which it is expected to be reopened though no official announcement has been made yet.
7 – Kres VanDyke
After a dominating season at Kingsport Speedway and Lonesome Pine Raceway capturing 19 wins last year, Kres VanDyke came up short in both track championships after some disqualifications and a suspension from Lonesome Pine. VanDyke will be looking to increase his winning percentage but more importantly he wants to get back to winning championships and if he runs both tracks full-time he very well could win them both. Standing in his way at Kingsport will be defending champion Ronnie McCarty and former champion and two-time winner last season, Chad Finchum.
6 – Sam Yarbrough
With 13 wins in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock Car events and an additional win when the CARS Tour came to Myrtle Beach Speedway, Sam Yarbrough was one of the drivers to beat last year. His lack of traveling outside of Myrtle Beach, other than to Martinsville really kills his chances of launching inside the top three drivers in the Superior Trailer Power Rankings. Yarbrough could easily be one of the drivers to beat again this year and is looking to start that off with a big win in the IceBreaker 200 this season.
5 – Josh Berry
In our “Best Drivers” list from the 2015 season, Josh Berry was the number two driver after having an incredible 2015 season. He picked up 12 wins at six different venues including wins at a non-sanctioned track, CARS Tour victories and several NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock Car wins. This year he has more races with JR Motorsports on the NASCAR Xfinity Series and that’s why he’s slipped from that number two spot that he ended the season in to fifth, because we don’t know how much he’ll be focused on Late Model racing with an incredible opportunity of his future in front of him.
4 – RD Smith
He picked up five wins in a late season rally to win the Ace Speedway championship last season under CARS Tour rules and he was a player in many of the CARS Tour races as well as being incredibly strong at Martinsville after starting last and finishing third. With his performances up in the late part of the 2015 season we’re expecting RD Smith to be even stronger when the 2016 season opens.
3 – Myatt Snider
In our “Best Drivers” for 2015, Myatt Snider was voted by some of the staff as one of the top 3 drivers of the season despite the fact that he didn’t win but one race. That says a lot about the season he had given that Lee Pulliam won 30 races and he was voted by some to be close to and above in some instances. Snider was certainly the most improved driver of the 2015 season and he showed incredible consistency and if that breakthrough win in the next to last Late Model Stock Car race is any indication, he’ll be one of the drivers to beat all season long.
2 – Tommy Lemons, Jr.
Another Martinsville win and becoming a new father certainly capped off a great 2015 season for Tommy Lemons, Jr. Now that he is a new father, he’s hungry to get back to winning races in 2016 in a big way. Lemons will be competing all around the region again this season just like he always does and he’ll also be seeking his first championship at his home track of Caraway Speedway and he feels strong about winning more than three races this season.
1 – Lee Pulliam
30 Wins …. 30 victories …. 30 times he won in 2015 at six different venues. There’s no way we can make Superior Trailer Late Model Stock Car Power Rankings list without putting Lee Pulliam in first. I guess we could get delusional and talk about how he’s not going to be dominant this year but the truth of the matter is he’s only been getting better every year and while his stranglehold on the Late Model Stock Car contingent slips as others begin to catch, he’s still the best in the business until someone does it bigger and better than him. And 2016 isn’t likely to be any different.