The Northeast racing scene is widely considered to contain some of the most prestigious competition in the dirt track universe. Race car drivers like Billy Pauch, Brett Hearn and Lance Dewease are seen as some of the best wheelmen to ever grace the planet. Yet, as time passes, new race car drivers rise through the ranks and look to take this mantle from the legendary veterans. The next generation of superstars is emerging quickly to become the next heroes of dirt track racing, and while there are quite literally hundreds of phenomenally talented race car drivers, it is time to narrow it down to the best of the best.
The stipulations and parameters of this list are simple. To be considered, one must be less than 25 years old and must race dirt cars on dirt oval racetracks. This is measured by statistics only and does not consider equipment or divisions. This is simply a top 10 list of the best future stars in the Northeast based on what they have been able to do on the track.
Take a look at some of the race car drivers who will be taking over the sport of automobile racing in the next couple of years.
1. Briggs Danner
This should come as no surprise to anyone. Danner has done everything but set the world on fire over the past year and has rapidly reached the top of everybody’s list. Since jumping into a wingless sprint car, Danner has nearly won more races than he’s lost and is rarely seen outside the top 3 in the USAC East Coast division. On top of that, he is always a top contender in the all-star field of the SpeedSTRs and — to top it all off — he has just won his very first micro sprint race. Danner is versatile, explosive and fearless, making his future as a racer limitless. He began racing in a quarter midget and his ceaseless hard work every step of the way has really paid off. The Danner family is a humble, amazing group of people and this is reflected in Briggs’ character. He is one of the hottest names in motorsports right now and is certainly one to keep an eye out for, to say the least.
2. Damon Paul
If you have ever seen Damon Paul drive a race car, you know exactly why he is here. Paul, nicknamed “Ginger Larson” by his contemporaries, has grown to dominate every division of cars he has ever raced. He was a champion in the Junior Slingshot division, a champion in the Stage 1 Modified division, and is now a relentless winner and champion in the 600 Micro Sprint division.
Paul is coming off a season with two track championships at the arguably most competitive micro sprint tracks in America and over 20 wins all across the United States, including the Terry Sprague Memorial race that hosted over 100 drivers. He is now quickly getting his feet wet in the USAC East Coast division and sits sixth in points in his rookie season. Paul and his father give their absolute all to the racing world and have inspired everybody they have come across to work as hard as they do. There is nothing stopping Paul from becoming one of the best race car drivers in the world and, as a result, he can easily be considered one of the top 10 young drivers in the Northeast.
3. Alex Yankowski
Alex Yankowski is a certified superstar in the highly competitive modified division; each year seems to be his breakout season yet he just keeps getting better and better. Yankowski can always be seen charging through the field at tracks like Bridgeport Speedway, Big Diamond Speedway and Penn Can Speedway. It is unbelievable what he has been able to do as a teenager, and it is easy to forget just how young he really is in comparison to the other stars of the modified division.
On top of that, Yankowski also runs extremely well in the SpeedSTR class at Action Track USA. It is quite clear that he is taking the reins from the modified legends as he is quickly grasping this sport in the palm of his hands. No matter what the kid races in, his car is going to the front. The Yankowski family is an amazing, hard-working group of people that will continue to provide Alex with the tools he needs to be the next Brett Hearn or at least the man who will take down Stewart Friesen for years to come.
4. Tanner VanDoren
What else is there to say about this kid? It has been difficult to fathom how much he has already accomplished during his racing career. At the ripe age of 13 years old, VanDoren has wheeled several types of race cars to victories and championships. Needless to say, VanDoren is en route to becoming one of the top Crate Sportsman drivers in the Northeast and a top Small Block Modified driver at the famed Orange County Fair Speedway (OCFS).
He has learned to dominate in every step of his career and never fails to exceed expectations. Just when you think his biggest moment has come, he follows it up with an even bigger one. VanDoren won the Eastern States race last year at OCFS and several Short Track Super Series races across the Northeast. It is a spectacle to see such a young kid show so much intelligence and ability behind the wheel of a race car. His future looks like it may be one of the brightest in the racing world, and it will likely continue to be an exciting story, as it is just beginning to unfold.
5. Anthony Macri
Many consider the Pennsylvania Posse as the most talented group of racers in the world, and Anthony Macri has clawed his way to the top tier of competitors as a 410 Sprint Car driver. Macri has become more and more successful by the season as it seems his peak is far from being reached. The rim riding maniac is not only an exhilarating show on the track, but is also efficient. His fearlessness and maturity behind the wheel take him to the absolute next level. 410 Sprint Cars are virtually the big leagues of Northeast racing, and for Macri to be such a consistent contender at his age is immaculate. His incredible and raw talent is evident to the eye, and it will be amazing to see what he will accomplish in the long career ahead of him.
6. Eddie Strada
Eddie Strada has been one of the best drivers in every car he’s jumped into for a long time, which just goes to show how long he has been at the top of the game. Although his 2020 season was filled with bad luck, it’s impossible to deny just how talented this young man is. Whether it be micro sprints at the most competitive tracks around, sprint cars or modifieds, Strada has proved himself over and over again as a certified, throttle smashing, absolute wheelman.
7. Kenny Miller
Kenny Miller seems to have rushed out from the shadows as he suddenly has become one of the top young guns around. Miller has reigned victorious in multiple divisions, is an Action Track USA Champion, and one of the best SpeedSTR and USAC East Coast Sprint competitors around. Miller seems to improve with every single race, and there is no telling what his prime will look like. Against the best of them, Miller has proven to be one of the worthiest opponents.
8. Kyle Spence
Kyle Spence has traveled around the country for a worthy adversary yet he always emerges victorious no matter the car, track or situation. With a Golden Driller under his belt and multiple huge wins across the United States, it’s safe to say he is one of the best. Spence drives everything he can get his hands on and is simply one of those guys that can make any car look good. Watch out for him next year as he is currently recovering from back surgery.
9. Tommy Kunsman
Tommy Kunsman has been a serious force to be reckoned with in every type of micro sprint for a long time. Whether it be his own car or somebody else’s car, Kunsman can frequently be seen charging his way into the victory lane at every racetrack there is. His career has never slowed down for a moment and as he establishes himself in the USAC East Coast series, it is clear that this guy is the real deal if ever there was one.
10. Freddie Rahmer Jr.
Anybody related to Freddie Rahmer is bound to have some serious racing talent in their blood, especially his own son that shares the same name. Rahmer Jr. has been illustrious in the early days of his sprint car career to no surprise at all. His driving has carried him to dozens of victories among the Pennsylvania Posse and it seems that these abilities will lead him to many more in the future. Winning in 410 Sprint Cars in Pennsylvania is probably one of the hardest things to do on planet Earth, yet Rahmer Jr. has made it look easy many times in his budding career. It will be awesome to see him follow in the footsteps of his legendary father.
It is an understatement to limit this list to just 10 race car drivers. Racing is a unique sport that combines knowledge, resources, funding, opportunity and so many more external factors. Many drivers have just as much talent — if not more — than these names, but they may not have the same economic support or the opportunity that some other drivers have. This is a downside of racing as a sport. Please support the sponsors you see on the side of race cars, and please keep an eye out for the “little guys” doing a whole lot with very little. You may even find your new favorite driver by doing so.
Here are some honorable mentions and other race car drivers you should certainly keep an eye out for:
Tyler Dippel, Colin White, Louden Reimert, Logan Rumsey, Dillon Steuer, Christian Bruno, Joe Toth, Kassidy Kreitz, Danny Buccafusca, Jasper Zeigafuse, Dylan Swinehart, Tyler Thompson, Ryan Simmons, Sammy Martz, Tyler Johnston, Joey Amantea, Jared Silfee, Nash Ely, Logan Watt, Nick Sweigart and many more.
The Northeast dirt track racing scene is as rich as ever and is brimming with young talent; pick your favorite driver before you get called a bandwagon fan! If you are a driver out there that didn’t make this list, I invite you to take it as motivation. Manifest it. Pursue it. Scream your wishes and dreams into the clouds. And then … Make it happen!