Bruce Ellis
Bruce Ellis.

ELLIS: The National Sprint Car Poll

Bruce Ellis
Bruce Ellis.

In the winter of 1984, Tom Schmeh, who would later become the driving force behind the creation of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum, devised the American Short Track Racing Congress. Its 30 members were a cross section of track operators, representatives from sanctioning bodies, racing media and manufacturers. Their task was to rank the top sprint car drivers in the country for what was then the monthly National Sprint Car Poll. Eventually the poll became just an annual thing. Thanks to Bob Baker at the Hall of Fame, the poll is still in existence 35 years after it began.

I’ve been on the voting panel from the beginning. My selections are based on performance against the highest levels of competition. Wins and strong finishes, especially in major events, are weighted heavily, while series and track championships are also considered.

In the interest of transparency, here are my selections for the national 410 poll, along with the reasons why each was chosen.

1) BRAD SWEET: An obvious choice. He had the most wins (16) in the most competitive series (WoO). He also won the race with the richest winner’s share (Kings Royal, $175.000). And for good measure he was the World of Outlaws champion.

2) DAVID GRAVEL: Although he finished third in the WoO point standings, we ranked him second because of his domination of the Knoxville Nationals, still sprint car racing’s premier event. Gravel was also second on the Outlaws winners list with 12 victories.

3) DONNY SCHATZ: The perennial champion surrendered his title to Sweet by a mere four points. None of his 11 wins came in what might be considered one of sprint car racing’s crown jewels. His richest victory was the $20,000 Summer Nationals finale at Williams Grove.

4) AARON REUTZEL: The All Star champion won 16 times in that series and still managed to enter 24 World of Outlaws races, winning one and recording nine top-five finishes in 21 A-Main starts. Reutzel’s biggest win came in Port Royal’s $52, 000 Tuscarora 50.

5) LOGAN SCHUCHART: Although he was fifth in the WoO point standings with eight victories and 32 top-five finishes, Schuchart ranked fourth in both categories. While he didn’t win any of the majors, he did finish second in the Knoxville Nationals and the Kings Royal and won a $15,000 race at Skagit Speedway.

6) DARYN PITTMAN: Consistency earned him a fourth-place finish in the World of Outlaws point standings with four wins and 31 top-five finishes. His biggest win was worth $15,000 at the Gold Cup. He was strong at the big races, finishing second at the National Open and third at the Knoxville Nationals.

7) DANNY DIETRICH: The leader of the Pennsylvania Posse in 2019, Dietrich won the Lawrence Chevrolet track championship at Williams Grove and the overall Champion Oil/Hoseheads PA title. Among his 15 victories were a World of Outlaws score and two All Star triumphs.

8) CARSON MACEDO: Finished sixth in the World of Outlaws point standings and scored four victories along the way to Rookie of the Year honors with that organization. His biggest win came in Rapid City, South Dakota and was worth $20,000.

9) SHELDON HAUDENSCHILD: Although there were only two wins, Haudenschild developed some consistency with 21 top-five finishes in 67 World of Outlaws starts. One of his two wins was worth $20,000 and came at Pevely, Missouri’s Ironman 55.

10) LANCE DEWEASE: Nine wins in 43 starts is an impressive winning percentage. Two of his victories were against WoO competition and one of them paid $17,000. He also won All Star races at Port Royal and Williams Grove and was the only Posse member to start the A-Main at the Knoxville Nationals.

11) GIOVANNI SCELZI: A World of Outlaws win at Charlotte and an All Star win at Knoxville were among the season highlights for the teenager from California, who was the youngest starter in the Knoxville Nationals, where he logged a top-10 finish.

12) BRIAN BROWN: The Knoxville Raceway champion scored six victories en route to another title at his home track. One of those wins came in a World of Outlaws race at Knoxville. Brown also managed six top-five finishes in just 27 starts with the Outlaws.

13) JAMES McFADDEN: This Aussie brought some excitement stateside in 2019. In just 14 All Star starts, he won four times and recorded seven top-five finishes. He also notched four top-fives in 18 World of Outlaws starts, including an eighth-place finish in the Knoxville Nationals.

14) BRENT MARKS: He did not have a great year with the World of Outlaws, finishing 10th in the points with only seven top-five finishes, but he did win the National Open at Williams Grove for a $65,000 payday. That win was the equivalent of 13 All Star victories. Marks also finished third in the Kings Royal and 17th in the Knoxville Nationals.

15) BRIAN MONTIETH: Any number of drivers could have filled the final spot, but this guy checked all the boxes of my criteria. The Edge locked up his eighth track championship at Lincoln Speedway, where he recorded four of his five wins. The most impressive was worth $20,000 at the Dirt Classic, which drew a strong contingent of invaders and was run under All Star sanction. Montieth’s fifth win came at Williams Grove, where he finished third in points.

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