Bowles’ 2011 schedule may still be up in the air, but that didn’t stop
NASCAR observers from tabbing him as the driver with the most momentum
heading into the season.
Bowles’ win at the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown in January earned him six
first-place votes among the 14 panelists and a one-point edge over defending
NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion Keith Rocco for the top
spot in the preseason edition of the Hunter Index.
“After a huge win at the All-Star Showdown and a top-five in the 2011 ARCA
Series Opener, things have never looked brighter for Bowles,” said voter
Spencer Lewis, representing the Canadian publication Inside Track
Motorsports News. “Add to that the fact that the California native plans on
racing all across the continent this season, and you have a driver with
momentum behind him, and pressure and attention on him.”
The Hunter Index, which was launched in 2010 on NASCARHomeTracks.com, is a
monthly power poll designed to highlight the standout performances in the
NASCAR developmental series.
Drivers are ranked on their performance over the previous month. The
rankings are compiled by a panel of auto racing writers and NASCAR
representatives. This season, the panel was expanded to 12 media members
from across North American with experience covering NASCAR’s touring and
weekly series, along with two voters from NASCAR.
The resulting preseason poll had 43 different drivers receive at least one
vote, with six different drivers receiving a first-place vote. While Bowles
led the way, Rocco, defending NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Bobby
Santos (third overall) and Ted Christopher (seventh overall) each received
"What's not to like about Bobby Santos going into the 2011 season?” said
Shawn Courchesne of the Hartford (Conn.) Courant. “The defending champion of
one of the most competitive developmental divisions in NASCAR returns to the
seat for the most successful team on the Whelen Modified Tour over the last
four seasons. And he kicks off the season with events at two tracks where
he's historically been dominant.”
DJ Kennington and Burt Myers received one first-place vote each.
Kennington, the defending NASCAR Candian Tire Series champion and NASCAR
Toyota All-Star Showdown runner-up, finished fourth in the preseason voting,
followed by Myers. Myers finished the 2010 season with back-to-back wins to
claim his first NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour title.
Brett Moffitt (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East), Christopher, Eric Holmes (NASCAR
K&N Pro Series West), Philip Morris (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series) and
Matt Hirschman (NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour) rounded out the top 10.
Panelists rank their top 15, with first place receiving 15 points, second
14, third 13 and so on.
The Hunter Index is named for the late Jim Hunter, NASCAR’s vice president
of corporate communications and a longtime supporter of the weekly and
touring series that make up the NASCAR Developmental Series.
The Index was designed 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
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West opens Thursday at Phoenix International
Raceway. Openers for the other touring series are: NASCAR Whelen Southern
Modified Tour, Sunday, March 13 at Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C.;
NASCAR Mexico Series, Sunday, March 20 in Monterrey; NASCAR K&N Pro Series
East, Saturday, March 26 at Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway; NASCAR
Whelen Modified Tour, Sunday, April 10 at Thompson (Conn.) International
Speedway; and NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, Sunday, May 28 at Mosport
Speedway, Bowmanville, Ont. The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series opens at
sanctioned tracks across North American throughout the spring.
The Hunter Index will come out the first Thursday of each month, beginning
in April and running through November.
The panel also included media members: J.A. Ackley, Dick Berggren’s Speedway
Illustrated; Shawn Courchesne, Hartford (Conn.) Courant; Bob Dillner, SPEED;
Adam Fenwick, National Speed Sport News; Tim Haddock,
haddockinthepaddock.blogspot.com; Keith Lair, Los Angeles Newspaper Group;
Spencer Lewis, Inside Track Motorsports News; Jorge Mondaca, FOXSports.com;
Pat Patterson, SIRIUS NASCAR Ch. 128/ESPN Radio; Len Sammons, Area Auto
Racing News; David Smith, DavidSmithMotorsports.com; and Elgin Traylor,
Speed51.com. They are joined by Brett Bodine, who is the chairman of the
NASCAR Resumé Committee and represents the NASCAR competition side on the
panel, and Jason Christley, a NASCAR public relations representative.
PRESEASON HUNTER INDEX
1. JASON BOWLES
NASCAR K&N Pro Series/NASCAR Canadian Tire Series
Why he’s here: The Ontario, Calif., native and 2009 NASCAR K&N Pro Series
West champion won the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown in January and plans
to run a handful of NASCAR K&N Pro Series and NASCAR Canadian Tire Series
2. KEITH ROCCO
NASCAR Whelen All-American Series
Why He’s Here: The Wallingford, Conn. driver will look to celebrate the 30th
year running of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series by becoming just the
third driver to win back-to-back national championships.
3. BOBBY SANTOS
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour
Why He’s Here: In addition to returning to the Bob Garbarino-owner Mystic
Missile, he’s currently 10th in NASCAR Nationwide Series points after a
solid run at Daytona.
4. DJ KENNINGTON
NASCAR Canadian Tire Series/NASCAR K&N Pro Series
Why He’s Here: Defending Candian Tire Series champion plans on running a
handful of K&N Pro Series races, starting Thursday at Phoenix.
5. BURT MYERS
NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour
Why He’s Here: Finished last year with back-to-back wins and eyes defense of
his tour title and Modified Division track title at Bowman Gray Stadium.