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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It was only one race. But it was an impressive way to kick off the 2010 season.
In the NASCAR K&N Pro Series opener on March 27, Paulie Harraka won the Coors Light Pole Award and led 125 laps en route to winning at All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif. It was more than enough to impress the panel of auto racing writers and NASCAR representatives and earn the top spot in the latest edition of the Hunter Index.
The Hunter Index is a new feature in 2010 on NASCARHomeTracks.com that will spotlight the top 10 drivers in the NASCAR Developmental Series in a monthly power poll. Drivers are ranked on their performance over the previous month.
Harraka, who was fifth in the preseason poll on the strength of winning two of the last three NASCAR K&N Pro Series West races in 2009, earned four of the six first-place votes.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” said Tim Haddock of HaddockInThePaddock.com. “He won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West opener in impressive fashion. It’s clear the 2009 Sunoco Rookie of the Year has taken the crucial first step in becoming a West Series champion.”
Cole Whitt, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East points leader, checked in at No. 2. James Civali and Darrell Wallace Jr. are third and fourth, respectively, and each picked up a first-place vote. Civali is the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour points leader and coming off a win at South Boston (Va.) Speedway. Wallace became the youngest winner in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East history when he won at Greenville (S.C.) Speedway. While he finished 20th at South Boston, Wallace impressed by driving from the back of the field into the top three before a cut tire ended his day early.
“I voted Civali at the top because he’s the only driver in the touring division who has run multiple events, is leading the points, and has won an event,” said Shawn Courchesne of the Hartford (Conn.) Courant.
Civali will be back on track this weekend, when the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour kicks off its season at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway.
As the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series tracks have begun their seasons across North America, several drivers have made early gains on the national championship hunt. Most notable is Keith Rocco of Wallingford, Conn. Rocco, the national runner-up last year, is 2-for-2 in feature wins in the SK Modified division at the Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl and checked in at No. 5 in the Hunter Index.
Max Gresham (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East), Philip Morris (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series), Andy Seuss (NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour), Nick Joanides (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series), and Dexter Canipe Jr. (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series) rounded out the top 10.
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 panel also included media members Courchesne representing the Northeast, Adam Fenwick of National Speed Sport News from the Southeast, Haddock from the West Coast, and Greg MacPherson from the Canadian publication Inside Track Motorsports News. They are joined by Brett Bodine, who is the chairman of the NASCAR resumé committee and represented the NASCAR competition side on the panel, and NASCAR public relations representative Jason Christley.
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.
|1||PAULIE HARRAKA (NASCAR K&N Pro Series West)|
|Why he’s here: Won the pole and led nearly every lap in winning K&N Pro Series West opener at All American in Roseville, Calif.; third win in last four races in West dating back to last year.|
|2||COLE WHITT (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East)|
|Why he’s here: First in points in K&N Pro Series East; won pole and finished fourth at Greenville Pickens; was second at South Boston; only driver to lead laps in both events.|
|3||JAMES CIVALI (NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour)|
|Why he’s here: Has a win (South Boston), two top fives and three top 10s in three starts; won pole at Atlanta (finished sixth) and was third at Caraway; leads in points.|
|4||DARRELL WALLACE JR. (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East)|
|Why he’s here: Won debut at Greenville Pickens; qualified third at South Boston, started in back because of unapproved adjustment, moved up to fourth before cutting a tire.|
|5||KEITH ROCCO (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series)|
|Why he’s here: Last year's national runner-up has won first two races at Waterford Speedbowl and leads track points.|
|6||MAX GRESHAM (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East)|
|Why he’s here: Rebounded from a 23rd at Greenville Pickens with nearly perfect performance at South Boston, where he won pole and led 146 laps en route to win.|
|7||PHILIP MORRIS (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series)|
|Why he’s here: Won Motor Mile Late Model season opener on April 3 - won the pole and led all 152 laps, holding off field in a green-white-checkered finish; also third in Late Model points at South Boston.|
|8||ANDY SEUSS (NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour)|
|Why he’s here: Second in points with a win at Caraway and a third-place finish at South Boston.|
|9||NICK JOANIDES (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series)|
|Why he’s here: Opened defense of Super Late Model division title at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.) with a win.|
|10||DEXTER CANIPE JR. (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series)|
|Why he’s here: Is 2-for-2 in wins in Late Model division at Hickory Motor Speedway in Newton, N.C.|
HONORABLE MENTION: Ryan Truex (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East), Josh Combs (K&N Pro Series West), Ryan Gifford (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East), Travis Swaim (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series), and Tim Brown (NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour).