Driver Trending Report

Through the first third of 2016, which of the top 20 money-winning drivers are trending up, which are down and which are consistent compared to the first third of 2015?

by Joe Fitzgerald

(**Editor’s Note: This item originally appeared on The View From The Grandstand blog and is republished here with the permission of the author)

We’re a third of the way through 2016, so I took a look at how the drivers in the current top 20, by earnings, are faring in relation to this point in the 2015 season.

Trending Up

Jason Bartlett, who just turned 35, and settled the question about whether Yonkers Raceway belongs to Brennan or Sears by taking it over himself, tops the money list, just as he did at the end of April last year. As of April 27, Bartlett had made only seven more starts, but he had 54 more wins and had banked almost $30,000 more. His UDRS went from a very good 0.338 to an outstanding 0.402.

Tim Tetrick, who lost early season time to recovery from a hip replacement two years ago and represented the U.S. in the World Driving Championship in Australia last year, stayed home and racked up enough wins to occupy the second spot on the list. In 2015, he was in seventh at this point. Tetrick, 34, has driven in 244 more races and accrued 65 more wins. He’s $598,000 ahead of where he was going into May of last year. Mach It So and Rockeyed Optimist have raced well for him.

Last year’s dash champ, 37-year-old Aaron Merriman, tops both the money and win lists a third of the way in. In 2015, he was sixth on the earnings list at this point. The day/night racing machine is up around 1,400 starts, 95 more than last year, and he has 13 more wins. Merriman, who drives at The Meadows and Northfield, is up $410,000 over late April, 2015. His UDRS is also up slightly.

Matt Kakaley, who has improved his standing with each passing year, moves up from number eight a year ago to the four slot. The drive and win figures are about the same, but his earnings have increased by more than $322,000. He was second in the lucrative Levy final with Ron Burke’s All Bets Off.

Twenty-eight-year-old Jordan Stratton dominated the Levy with Bit Of A Legend N taking all five $50,000 preliminary legs as well as the $609,000 final. He also won five legs of the Matchmaker with Al Raza N and Sell A Bit N. Stratton has made the leap from number 32 a year ago to number six. He has 32 more wins (up 46 per cent) and $925,000 more in earnings (up 54 per cent) than at this point in 2015. His UDRS went from 0.165 to 0.244.

World record holder Dave Palone, 54, has jumped from number 12 to number seven. His drives are up by 133, leading to 22 more wins and $321,000 more in earnings.

Mike Wilder, who turned 44 a few weeks ago, jumped from 17 a year ago to number 11. His drives are up by 175 and he has 25 more wins and $ 260,000 more in earnings.

We already saw Jordan Stratton leap ahead 26 spots to number six. Well, Jim Pantaleano, who has been winning plenty of races at The Meadows with a stable full of fresh stock, jumped 36 spots to number 12. His 289 more drives have resulted in 52 more wins and $699,000 more in earnings. His UDRS rose from 0.237 to 0.276.

Scott Zeron, who has is now a regular in New York and Pennsylvania, as well as at The Meadowlands, where he’s the leading driver, has driven in 200 more races than he had at this point last year. He’s got 44 more wins and has increased his earnings by $488,000. His UDRS rose from 0.211 to 0.259. The nearest WEG driver is seven spots below Zeron. Heading South has proven to be a winning move.

Tony Hall jumped nine spots from 23 to number 14. He has driven in 215 more races; won 19 more and banked an extra $300,000 in the first four months of 2015. His UDRS dipped from 0.281 to 0.246.

Josh Sutton moved up six spots to number 15. He only got seven more wins out of 100 extra drives, but his earnings increased by $287,000. His UDRS dropped from 0.330 to 0.294. Sutton finished last year at number 36.

Tony Morgan has stepped his game up markedly this year. He was at 31 this time last year, but is now at number 16. His 39 more drives have yielded an impressive 42 more wins. The money is up by $344,000 and his UDRS increased from 0.242 to 0.314. Morgan wound up at number 37 at the close of 2015.

Chris Page jumped 10 spots to number 18, with 24 more wins on only a half dozen more drives and an extra $250,000. His UDRS increased from 0.223 to 0.257. Page, 32, finished the 2015 season at number 23.

Holding Steady

Brian Sears is fifth, just as he was one year ago. He drove in 23 fewer races, but logged 16 more wins. His money is down $133,000. Four drivers in the top 10 have banked less than they did in the first third of 2015. Sears’ UDRS is up from 0.307 to 0.346.

George Napolitano Jr, who took most of the winter off, occupies the same number 20 slot he did last year. The soon to be 50-year-old did drive in 87 more races than last year and won 15 more times. His money was up $53,000. This early stretch reflects little from Harrah’s and Pocono, so it doesn’t say much about GNap, who finished in the runner up spot for the 2015 dash title.

Trending Down

George Brennan, the HTA DOY in 2012 and 2013, has dropped from fourth to eighth. His dash total is about the same, despite 43 fewer drives. His money is off by $234,000. Brennan’s UDRS rose from 0.249 to 0.274.

Early-season commitments in faraway places have put Corey Callahan in position to play catch up for the rest of the year. His 190 fewer drives have led to 102 fewer wins and a shortage of $820,000. Callahan was in second as the calendar was about to flip to May in 2015, but he’s presently in ninth.

Dan Dube, who won the Matchmaker with Yagonnakissmeornot, started very fast in 2015, primarily with Rene Allard’s stock at Yonkers Raceway. The 46-year-old Quebec native cooled off a little this winter, as he dropped from three to 10, with 43 fewer wins and $810,000 less in the earnings column. His UDRS dropped from 0.292 to 0.223.

Yannick Gingras, 36, is at number 17, seven spots back of last year. He has nine fewer drives, 18 fewer wins and is short more than $243,000. His UDRS dropped from 0.342 to 0.272. Not to worry; the money leader the past two years makes his dough in the six-month stretch between June and November, when those Takter and Burke youngsters are tearing it up. The latter had some success in the Levy series with Take It Back Terry and All Bets Off, but Brennan and Kakaley drove that pair. Also, Gingras lost time when he competed in the International All Star Series Down Under.

The 2013 and 2014 dash winner, Ronnie Wrenn Jr, dropped three spots to number 19. He drove in 158 fewer races; had 29 fewer wins and saw his earnings drop by more than $18,000. However, his UDRS jumped from 0.386 to 0.414.

Brett Miller, who accompanied Corey Callahan and Yannick Gingras to the All Star Driving Series in Australia, dropped from ninth to 32. He is short 150 drives and $560,000. He’s been driving a lot for Jimmy Takter, who is just getting warmed up, so he’ll make up that ground.

Eric Carlson, who was very successful last winter at Yonkers, dropped out of the top 50, after being number 10 at this point in 2015.
And David Miller, who took the winter off, went from 13 to number 47. That obviously won’t last.