"Best of 2011: Top Late Model Stock Car Rookies" - 12/29/11
Content by: Langley Austin ~ langley@RACE22.com (@langleyaustin on twitter)
List Compiled by RACE22.com Staff and Industry Experts
Copper Hill, VA(December 28, 2011) — With the Top Drivers list being released yesterday, it's time to give a little love to the Top Rookies of the 2011 season from the Late Model Stock Car division.
At RACE22.com, we try to support everyone and not just beat the drum of the NASCAR kids and our clients, though we're happy to help give our clients exposure, we're not looking to hand them anything they don't deserve. With that, we enter the 2011 Best Rookies list, which for short track racing means that there are a lot of them and that it's hard to define a rookie first and then figure out who's the best of them. And, while I'm sure each of you have your favorite rookie, some who are listed and some who we didn't realize was a rookie, we hope you'll enjoy our list.
Also, if you see someone on this list who isn't a rookie, don't blame us, blame most of the tracks(Langley and Hickory aside), who do a poor job at recognizing their rookies on their individual websites. We can't possibly know how much experience every driver in Late Model Stock Car racing has and who just started this season, but at least we give an effort to give them exposure.
1 – Austin McDaniel
It would have been really hard to go against Austin McDaniel for the Best Rookie of the 2011 season. He was easily the odds on favorite at the beginning of the season and as the season progressed he showed exactly why as he picked up three wins enroute to a second place points finish at the historic, Hickory Motor Speedway. McDaniel is a beast behind the wheel, getting the job done at every turn and after a breakout season this year, if he isn't hindered by a sophomore season slump, he very could make himself one of the top five drivers of the 2012 season.
2 – Taylor Doggett
While it's hard to top a four win season with a single victory, Taylor Doggett was able to do just that this season as he turned out performances at South Boston Speedway that while weren't victories, might as well have been. Doggett, who entered the season poised to win the Late Model Stock Car championship at Orange County Speedway driving for Frank Deiny, Jr., ended up only running a handful of races for FDJ Motorsports after rainouts got the best of them and ended up as a teammate to four-time NASCAR National Champion, Philip Morris. Though he would win a race at Orange County, his best performances came at South Boston, where he finished third to Morris and Motor Mile Speedway champion, Lee Pulliam. He also led many laps in the Danville Toyota 300 at South Boston before a miscue at halfway ruined his chances of victory.
3 – Chad Finchum
Chad Finchum had the potential to be the "Rookie of the Year" in the UARA-STARS Series when the season started, but a tough call on an illegal part in the second race of the season had erased a second place effort at Kingsport Speedway. From there, he and his team decided to race around at different tracks, where he secured four wins at Newport Speedway, his home track. With those four wins, he completed the season with the most wins as a rookie in the Late Model Stock Car division and cemented his place on our Top Rookies list.
4 – Jeff Oakley
Jeff Oakley turned out to be one of the surprise rookies of the 2011 season as after starting the season at Langley Speedway, he finished the season at Southside Speedway, a track that opened halfway through the season due to the owner's health problems. Oakley finished the season with two wins at Southside and secured the track championship as well as finishing the season 31st in points at Langley Speedway after only a couple of starts.
5 – Josh Wright
Honestly when we started working on this list, I didn't realize that Josh Wright was a rookie in the Late Model Stock Car division. I guess, I had remembered him from the Limited Late Model ranks and just assumed he wasn't, but upon gazing at Hickory Motor Speedway's point standings, I soon realized he had to be among the top five of this seasons rookie crop. He opened the season with a win at Hickory Motor Speedway and looked early on to be one of the top drivers of the season, but later faded as it seemed he couldn't get a handle on the handling of his cars.
6 – Hunter Devers
At one point early in the season, I was questioning veteran Late Model Stock Car driver and Driver Development Team leader, Frank Deiny, Jr.'s decision to bring Hunter Devers on board the FDJ Motorsports team. However, as the season progressed, Hunter started showing signs of having the talent that Deiny had promised in the off-season. Once the young man was switched to a newer chassis and a crate engine instead of the built motors, it seemed to suit his style and he began showing his talent more. After reeling off a third place finish at Motor Mile Speedway, Devers had solidified his place on this list.
7 – Paul Nogradi
The 2011 list of Rookies is one certainly full of unknown talents for the most part and Paul Nogradi is certainly one of those such drivers, but a mid-season tangle among the leaders at Kingsport Speedway led to the young driver picking up his first career win. Nogradi was a consistent finisher at Kingsport against some of East Tennessee's finest and put together a solid season as well as earning the respect of the veteran drivers by keeping his nose clean.
8 – Jesse Little
So, maybe we can throw a bone to a NASCAR kid every once in a while …. Jesse Little, son of former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver, Chad Little. Jesse didn't exactly set the world on fire, but he did put in some impressive performances, mixed in with some rookie moments. Little, who moved up from Limiteds after a successful, but short stint in the division, didn't live up to expectations, but did become a solid wheel man along the way.
9 – Renno Marchetti IV
Renno Marchetti IV, might not be someone that you think of when thinking of Late Model Stock Car racing, but putting in the top rookie performance of the 2011 season at Langley Speedway, may well give him a leg up on some of his competition. The Langley, VA track is known as one of the toughest in the country and this young man proved he could wheel with the best of them with a 15th place points effort against some of the best coastal Virginia Late Model Stock Car drivers in the country.
10 – Brad Cox
Brad Cox isn't a household name, really many of his competitors might not know his name, but this season as a rookie he earned a lot of respect racing in the Late Model Stock Car division at historic, Hickory Motor Speedway. He finished the season seventh in the points standings and put in a solid year, steering clear of becoming labeled as a "weapon" as many rookies do.
11 – Ryan Stiltner
Ryan Stiltner is a second generation racer following in his father, Keith's footsteps in the Late Model Stock Car division. His father, who has won a many of races in the East Tennessee and SouthWest Virginia area has paved a good path for his young son to follow and the young man is doing a great job. This season he competed impressively in the Late Model Stock Car division at his home track of Lonesome Pine Raceway as well as winning the championship in the Charger division an impressive feat for any young driver.
So, there you have it … our 2011 Best Rookies for the Late Model Stock Car division. Look for more of the Best of 2011 in the coming days!