CONCORD, N.C. -- With only the final weeks of October remaining in the battle for the 2018 Kulwicki Cup Championship, both on-track and off-track activities are more important than ever in the four-year history of the Kulwicki Driver Development Program. It is apparent that what the seven KDDP drivers accomplish during the remaining days of the competition will determine the final point standings for 2018 and see one of those drivers claim the rich and prestigious Kulwicki Cup.
“I’ve personally always believed in the popular adage of first impressions making lasting impressions,” said KDDP Executive Director Tom Roberts. “There’s actual research that supports that axiom. But when it comes to our organization’s contest to determine our annual champion this year, it looks as if it will be the last impressions that prove to be first in importance.”
After the KDDP’s second voting period that ended on Sunday, Sept. 30, the point standings have tightened up to show that only 42 points now separate new leader Brett Yackey of Greeley, Colorado, from second-place Justin Mondeik of Gleason, Wisconsin. Porter's Lake, Nova Scotia’s Cole Butcher is running a solid third and could vault to the top after the third and final voting. Brittney Zamora, of Kennewick, Washington, has been the driver on the move since the last standings were released. The hard-charging 19-year-old racer has catapulted up to fourth and could be a serious challenger when the final points are tallied next month. Concord, North Carolina’s Justin Carroll, Derek Griffith of Hudson, New Hampshire and Seattle, Washington’s Molly Helmuth round out the seven-driver 2018 roster.
“Brett’s on-track progress over the last couple of months certainly made a huge impact on our voters,” said Roberts. “His breakthrough victory in Super Late Model competition at Colorado National Speedway on September 22 was a major topic of conversation among our board members. Justin continues to keep such an incredible personal schedule as a driver and team owner and that was certainly noted. Both Brett and Justin are remarkable when it comes to their community service activities. It’s almost like the two drivers are going tit for tat out there. We have so much respect for these young fellows as both are balancing their activities associated with our program with hitting the books in pursuit of their engineering degrees.
“Cole continues to be a proven winner and champion out on the track,” Roberts said. “He won four races this season on the tough Maritime Pro Stock Tour and wrapped up his second series championship with a solid third-place finish on September 15 at Scotia Speedworld. Cole was a participant in our 2017 program and has really beefed up his presence outside the race track. His stock is really escalating when our voters consider the total package he offers.
“Brittney’s star looks to be on a meteoric rise,” said Roberts. “Her huge victory in the September 23rd Neal Newberry 125 at the Wenatchee Valley (Washington) Super Oval and the Northwest Super Late Model series championship that came with it was quite an accomplishment. It affected our voters so positively that she moved all the way up to fourth in the standings. The Toyota Racing Development (TRD) folks are certainly paying attention to her and their continued support could see her advance from the Super Late Models to the next level.
“Justin Carroll, Derek Griffith and Molly Helmuth all have the opportunity to make their presence known during the next few weeks and advance in the final standings,” Roberts added. “Molly recently relocated to North Carolina as she chases her motorsports dreams and it will be so interesting to see what her future holds.”
Here are the current point standings in the battle for the 2018 Kulwicki Cup Championship (as of 9/30/18):
1st - Brett Yackey - 993
2nd - Justin Mondeik - 951
3rd - Cole Butcher - 862
4th - Brittney Zamora - 574
5th - Justin Carroll - 563
6th - Derek Griffith - 458
7th - Molly Helmuth - 307
When the KDDP Advisory Board members reconvene early next month, they will cast their final votes which will award one of these 2018 drivers a check for $54,439 and the unique and prestigious Kulwicki Cup champion’s trophy that goes with it. They will join the illustrious list of KDDP champions which also includes Ty Majeski (inaugural 2015 season), Alex Prunty (2016) and Cody Haskins (2017).
The KDDP points system is based on a combination of judging input from members of the advisory board and the drivers’ on-track performance. Voters are asked to rank the drivers from first to seventh in their job of representing the organization and points (from 70 for first to 10 for seventh) are awarded for those rankings. Each voter is given 10 discretionary “bonus” points to award the drivers for “exceptional contributions” to the program. Community engagement, program representation and social media activities account for much of those points. The remainder of the points come from actual racing statistics (based on each driver’s best 15 race finishes Race wins award 10 points, with 2nd-5th-place finishes getting 6 points, 6th-10th 4 points, 11th-15th 2 points and 15th-plus 1 point.
During the annual competition, two regular season rounds of judging points are averaged (however, bonus points continue to accrue) and added to a final round of voters’ judging points. The overall competition points (maximum 150 points for 15 wins) are applied and the driver with the largest points total will be the Kulwicki Cup Champion.
“The way that our points system is structured certainly adds to the drama and excitement in the competition for the Kulwicki Cup,” said Roberts. “When you consider that our first two votes are averaged and then the final vote is added, there could be significant movement in the final standings. Realizing that each voter’s input represents a potential 60-point swing from seventh to first, the final vote can amount to almost half of the total points earned. With that fact in mind, it’s shaping up to be a true nail-biter all the way down to the finish line.
“I want to thank all of our advisory board members for continuing to be able to display the utmost objectivity in the voting process,” Roberts said. “With our drivers competing all across North America, it is a huge challenge to always keep in consideration the car counts, strength of starting fields and other factors. We also want to acknowledge the importance of having our former champions, Ty Majeski, Alex Prunty and Cody Haskins participate in the judging process.
“During this most recent voting period, there was quite a bit of discussion among the voting board members concerning the importance of making progress on the race track, winning races and claiming championships,” Roberts said. “Questions were raised about perhaps not awarding enough points for the on-track aspect of our competition. When it was pointed out that facet could be – and should be – considered in their overall ranking points, I feel it certainly made an impact in the latest standings.
“This round of voting really reflects what the true basis of our competition is,” said Roberts. “While community service is extremely important, there needs to be a good balance with what is also achieved on the track. It has always been our main objective to promote multi-level progress for all the drivers who participate in our program. We hope to see them improve and receive accolades for what they do on the race track, while also honing their personal skills with their community service activities and social media interaction.”
As of this period’s cutoff date (September 30), only Molly Helmuth was yet to compete in 15 races (since the official contest started on April 1). The current 2018 KDDP competition (on-track) points look like this: (points & number of races/wins/top-5s/top-10s)
Brett Yackey - 134 (29/11/22/25)
Justin Mondeik - 106 (40/4/21/32)
Cole Butcher - 96 (15/5/11/13)
Justin Carroll - 96 (20/4/10/17)
Brittney Zamora - 86 (20/2/9/17)
Derek Griffith - 82 (20/2/8/14)
Molly Helmuth - 40 (14/0/3/5)
“These last few weeks of competition for the Kulwicki Cup will be as interesting and compelling as it can possibly get,” said Roberts. “Our voters have made it clear that they are putting a premium on seeing measured on-track progress, while also continuing to reward the drivers for their activities outside the race track. With so few races remaining, I’m confident that our competitors will be digging extra deep to bring home those checkered flags. This group of drivers has been so creative and I can’t wait to see what they have planned for their off-track pursuits for the remainder of the month.
“One thing that I am certain of is just how much Alan Kulwicki would love, appreciate and respect our 2018 KDDP class,” Roberts concluded. “Each of these young men and women have displayed the ultimate class and sportsmanship in everything they do. Every race track and series promoter are thrilled to have them competing with them. All of their fan bases are on upward spirals. We’re so elated that Alan made it into the NASCAR Hall of Fame this year and will be officially inducted this winter. All of our drivers were vital players in the campaign to get Alan elected among the five inductees. They deserve major kudos for all the support they gave and energy they exerted into the successful effort.”
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The 2018 season marks the fourth full year for the KDDP. The seven drivers receive a one-time stipend of $7,777 to cover operational expenses. The organization works to provide the drivers assistance in important aspects such as publicity, marketing, sponsorship development and industry networking during the season as they compete for the “grand prize.” The Kulwicki Cup winner will pick up an additional check worth seven times the initial award ($7,777 x 7 = $54,439) and a special unique trophy.
The Kulwicki Cup competition runs from April 1 through October 31. The final voting is scheduled for the first week in November, with the 2018 KDDP “Kulwicki Cup” Champion expected to be announced on November 15. The champion and all the other competitors will be honored at the organization’s annual banquet held in December at The Speedway Club at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
As always, all the news about the KDDP can be found first on Speed51.com, the organization’s official media partner.
We invite you to follow each of our drivers on Twitter for their timely updates of activities on and off the track: Cole Butcher (@colebutcher1); Justin Carroll (@toast57); Derek Griffith (@DerekGriffith12); Molly Helmuth (@Molly_Helmuth90); Justin Mondeik (@JustinMondeik44); Brett Yackey (@brett_yackey) and Brittney Zamora (@brittz52).
For additional information on the Kulwicki Driver Development Program, please visit the official website at www.kulwickiddp.com and follow us on Twitter at @KulwickiDDP.
-Kulwicki Driver Development Program Release
-Photo credit: Starr Photo