Mike Ruefer’s Super Late Model Performance Ranking “Top 25”

Tyler Erb – Mike Ruefer photo

February 2021 “After SpeedWeeks Edition”

Last year was a weird year and let’s leave it at that. There might still be some weirdness this year but the way I see it we’ll be just fine because we’re experts now at this weirdness thing. Regardless of what the science experts and politician’s decree, we’ll sneak in under the radar and have a great racing season.

From the car counts and fans in attendance it sure looks like everyone wants to race and put the omens of the past behind us. It was great to see the Wild West Shootout and Winter Nationals at East Bay Raceway that I attended be very successful. It’s a testament of our sport that so many actively participate. It takes all of us for the show to go on.

So let’s kick things off for 2021 and recap the Top 10 for the first edition of the SLM Performance Ranking.

There is a big change early this year in the ranking and it starts at #1. For the first time in two years or for us south of I-80 that’s 24 months that Brandon Sheppard is not in the top spot. The new #1 with big wins and great average performance is Tyler Erb. Terbo and Randall Edwards have the Best Performance Rocket flying high with a great start to the year. Congrats!

A lot has gone on over the last couple years for Hudson O’Neal with team and car changes. I don’t think anyone has ever questioned his talent and I’d say he’s showing very early in the year what he can do with the right team and resources. It sure looks like Hudson can be a contender for wins and the accolades that go with running up front.

So did Jason Papich have a very good Wild West Shootout or what? Darn right he did. I saw it with my own eyes and every night he was hauling the mail like the Pony Express in Arizona. If he can keep some of that going later this year he’ll be a threat to win on the MLRA trail.

We all know that Ricky Thornton Jr. is a wheelman. When it comes to Mods he’s one of the “Best of the Best” and even with his Stock Car he takes home trophies. Now in the right Dirt Late Model Team situation and at this time he’s going to show the world he’s one the most versatile and winning drivers to race on a dirt track.

Never count out JD. Last year was not up to his standards and expectations for the Lance Landers Motorsports Team but I think this year is going to be different. Jonathan showed some dominance in Arizona and kept getting better while in Florida. Like they say, “You don’t tug on Superman’s Cape.”

The Big Gator winner at Volusia Speedway is Devin Moran and he’s had a great start this year in Florida. He was good on the East Bay Raceway Bull Ring and the Big Half Miles at All-Tech and Volusia. That tells me something. Devin, Wylie and Tye Twarog Racing have a good package of speed and balance to be competitive all year long.

Okay let’s not count out Brandon Sheppard and Rocket #1 just yet. Even though this is an unfamiliar position for Brandon, I will bet money and I’m not a betting man that this team will be back toward the top later this year. They may have not won yet but they keep getting better and don’t DNF very often. There is too much talent on this team to hold them back for long.

Consistency is what I look for and it’s how the ranking system per event rates performance. Brandon Overton is good. Real good. When I watch him through my eagle eye lens the balance, power and traction he has is second to none. Eliminate a few of the DNF’s and he’s right there at the top of the ranking.

Could this be a breakout year for Tanner English? I think it could be. Tanner has always had the talent and now as he’s getting older with more experience he has the opportunity to contend at the end of races for wins.

Kyle Bronson is making a jump in his performance overall on a nightly basis. It was happening last year and he’s keeping the momentum going into this year. Granted so far he’s only raced close to home but he’s now been to all the other tracks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kyle in the top echelon of the ranking as the year unfolds.

That wraps up February my friends with March right around the corner. Remember that later in the spring and summer when the regional drivers get into the rating system, the completion for the SLM Performance Ranking gets very interesting.

The current ranking qualifier number for February is 6 features and will go up by two each month and top off at 20 in September. Currently 45 drivers have met this threshold. All results are tracked via DirtonDirt. Without them and their attention to detail because they’re the best, I couldn’t do this and have this much fun.

With 140 drivers currently being tracked since January 1st, here is the SLM Performance Ranking “Top 25” for February. It’s the early season “Best of the Best” from around the country.

1          Tyler Erb

2          Hudson O’Neal

3          Jason Papich

4          Ricky Thornton Jr.

5          Jonathan Davenport

6          Devin Moran

7          Brandon Sheppard

8          Brandon Overton

9          Tanner English

10        Kyle Bronson

11        Johnny Scott

12        Brian Shirley

13        Mike Marlar

14        Garrett Alberson

15        Ricky Weiss

16        Bobby Pierce

17        Tim McCreadie

18        Kyle Strickler

19        Frank Heckenast Jr.

20        Donny Schatz

21        Stormy Scott

22        Josh Richards

23        Dennis Erb Jr.

24        Tyler Bruening

25        Rick Eckert


What is the Super Late Model Performance Ranking? The SLM Performance Ranking has its origins from the A-Team Ranking developed by Sam Holbrooks in 1996 and printed in “Behind the Wheel” and Late Model America.” The SLM Performance Ranking is a national ranking for Open Motor events that pay a minimum $2000 to win. Each driver who makes a feature event will earn a mathematical formula based rate built on performance, competition and durability. The final ranking is based on rate and logic rules that reward racing more. Nothing in the rate, rank or logic is subjective. It’s just all numbers, math and rules. The SLM Performance Ranking isn’t about who is best but who is having the best year. If you think that makes the driver “The Best” that’s ok with me.