Joanides Fourth in First Nascar Power Ranking
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Experience or the new kid in the spotlight?
That was the question posed to the panel of auto racing writers and NASCAR representatives tasked with compiling the inaugural Hunter Index – a brand new feature on NASCARHomeTracks.com that will spotlight the top 10 drivers in the NASCAR Developmental Series in a monthly power poll.
The first edition boiled down to a simple question: Which driver enters the 2010 season with the most momentum?
In the end, it was three-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champion Philip Morris who got the nod over Sergio Pena, who was impressive in his NASCAR K&N Pro Series debut with a runner-up finish in January’s NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.
Defending NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion Ryan Truex was a close third.
“As far as momentum goes, Philip Morris sure has it after getting a third NASCAR Whelen All-American Series title,” said Adam Fenwick of National Speed Sport News. “Morris finished his season with two wins, two second-place finishes and a third-place finish en route to his championship.
“Pena had a great race. But it was only one race. His overall resume is more or less unproven, while Morris has all the experience and momentum on his side.”
Shawn Courchesne of the Hartford (Conn.) Courant was one of the panelists who disagreed.
While Pena’s resume is much shorter, he left an indelible impression with his standpoint performance at the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, NASCAR’s signature short-track showcase.
“Based on the competition faced and the singular importance of the event, I have to put Sergio Pena at the top of my list,” said Courchesne. “His body of work is one race, but it was one simply amazing race. Against some of the toughest competition out there the kid didn’t flinch. If Pena shows even half the poise, ability and talent he showed that night, there’s little doubt he’ll be a force to reckoned with on the East series this year.”
Nick Joanides and Paulie Harraka rounded out the top five. Joanides was third in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship last year, was third in the Late Model race and 14th in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series race at the Toyota All-Star Showdown. Harraka closed out 2009 with two wins in the final three NASCAR K&N Pro Series West races.
The Hunter Index is named for Jim Hunter, NASCAR’s vice president of corporate communications and a long-time supporter of the weekly and touring series that make up the NASCAR Developmental Series.
The Index was designed in the off season as an opportunity to compare the top drivers from the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series all the way up to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series. It will also encompass drivers from the NASCAR Mexico Series, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.
“The great thing about this new feature is it gives us a chance to highlight the drivers that are making an impact in our developmental series,” said Brett Bodine, who is part of the NASCAR resumé committee and represented the NASCAR competition side on the panel. “Every series has a strong, passionate fan base that loves to get behind their favorite driver. With the Hunter Index, we’ve opened the forum for the fans to debate about who the hottest drivers are across the board.”
Bodine started in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and made it up the NASCAR ladder to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. As chairman of the resume committee, he helps drivers map out their path.
The panel also included media members Courchesne representing the Northeast, Fenwick from the Southeast, Tim Haddock of HaddockInThePaddock.com from the West Coast, and Greg MacPherson from the Canadian publication Inside Track Motorsports News. They were joined by Bodine and NASCAR public relations representative Jason Christley.
Once the top two were determined, the panel weighed a number of factors to come up with an initial top 10 for the first Hunter Index.
Andrew Ranger checked in at No. 7. The two-time NASCAR Canadian Tire Series champion’s plans for 2010 are currently still being determined, which likely cost him a couple spots. Defending NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion Jason Bowles won’t be running a full West schedule in 2010 while focusing on progressing to the NASCAR Nationwide Series. And George Brunnhoelzl III closed out the 2009 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour with a win in the season finale and the championship, but his move to running the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour full time this year left most of the voters with a wait-and-see approach.
Ted Christopher didn’t have the end to last season on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour he had hoped – finishing third in points – but a strong finish in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, where he won the track championship at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway and a fifth-place finish in the national standings, helped land him in the No. 6 spot.
Keith Rocco (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series), Eddie MacDonald (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East) and Brett Moffitt (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East) rounded out the top 10.
The panel will conference on the first Wednesday of each month, and the Hunter Index will be released the following day.
NASCAR fans are encouraged to weigh in with their own opinions through the NASCAR Home Tracks Community page on NASCAR.com at community.nascar.com/nascarhometracks
HONORABLE MENTION: Ryan Preece (NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour), David Mayhew (NASCAR K&N Pro Series West), Eric Holmes (NASCAR K&N Pro Series West), D.J. Kennington (NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1), George Brunnhoelzl III (NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour)