Concord, N.C. – In terms of on-track performance, the inaugural 2015 class of the Kulwicki Driver Development Program (KDDP) set the gold standard. Current NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Ty Majeski, former Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway track champion Cole Williams, former Slinger Speedway track champion Steve Apel, and former Golden Sands Speedway track champion Reagan May accounted for 38 wins over the course of the season. While Majeski's 17 wins and extensive off-track activities made the Kulwicki Cup points a foregone conclusion, the top-to-bottom excellence of the class remains unparalleled.
Until 2018, perhaps. Through the Fourth of July, the 2018 Kulwicki class has posted 19 wins, surpassing the 2015 class, which had 16 victories at that point in the season.
Leading the way is Greeley, Colorado's Brett Yackey, who has picked up seven victories in both Super Late Model and Late Model action at Colorado National Speedway and I-25 Speedway. To date, Yackey's worst finish is 11th. He continues to gain confidence in his SLM program at Colorado National and hopes to be in Victory Lane with his Rice's Honey machine before the end of the year.
Following Yackey with four wins is Late Model Stock Car driver Justin Carroll of Concord, North Carolina. Carroll has three checkered flags at Hickory Speedway and scored a big win in a 100-lap LMSC race at Ace Speedway after the winner was DQ'd in post-race tech. Carroll has been traveling extensively so far this season, racing at five tracks in three states and running consistently in the top 10.
Porter's Lake, Nova Scotia's Cole Butcher has three victories in 2018 but easily could have five, having been nipped twice at the line in Maritime Pro Stock Tour action. Butcher has only raced seven times in 2018, giving him an incredible winning average of nearly .500 this season. Were it not for bad luck at the Firecracker 200 at Spud Speedway on July 3, he likely would have seven top-fives in seven races.
New Hampshire's Derek Griffith and Wisconsin's Justin Mondeik have each tasted victory twice this year, with Griffith picking up two big PASS series wins in April and July. Mondeik is having a career year, earning his first two Super Late Model wins and running in the top-10 in local action at State Park and Golden Sands and with the ARCA Midwest Tour as well.
With a victory at South Sound Speedway in early June, Washington's Brittney Zamora reminded everyone that she is still the driver to beat in Northwest Super Late Model Series action. Zamora won the series title in 2017 and is spending 2018 concentrating on weekly NASCAR Whelen All American Series action at Evergreen Speedway.
Molly Helmuth, Zamora's fellow Washington native, is still looking for her first win in 2018, but has perhaps been beset by more bad luck than anyone. She had quality runs at Myrtle Beach Speedway and Evergreen Speedway come apart due to mechanical issues within the final twenty laps. Balancing time between running the full CARS Tour Super Late Model Series in the Southeast and the Evergreen Speedway schedule in Washington has proven to be a learning experience for Helmuth, who continues to excel and impress in her off-track activities.
"This class has been tremendous both on and off the track," said KDDP Executive Director Tom Roberts. "Each of our four classes has been special, but there is something unique about this group of young people. They race hard. They represent Alan's story so well. They are all great with their fans at the track and on social media. Each weekend, it is so fulfilling to see each driver achieve such a high level of success."
While the Kulwicki program judges its drivers on both on-and-off-track performance, winning certainly is not everything. But as you can imagine, checkered flags certainly bring extra attention to the program and its mission.
"You know, Alan won only five career NASCAR Winston Cup races,” Roberts said. “He won only five ASA races. He certainly did not win every night out at Slinger or Kaukauna, either. Alan certainly cherished all his wins, but he also felt that consistent improvement as a driver, team leader or person in general -- was as, if not more, important. It’s all about building character and integrity.
“That's our continuing message that we share with all of our racers – just do your best and always try to improve,” Roberts added. “Each time you get out there should be considered as your next opportunity to do so. This group is very talented and they are only getting better each and every week. We are so proud of all of them."
The first 2018 KDDP point standings will be released later this month. The first Kulwicki Cup scoring period will end on Sunday, July 15.
This season marks the fourth fully-functioning year for the KDDP, which was established in 2014 by the family of late NASCAR Champion Alan Kulwicki for the purpose of helping worthy drivers toward reaching their dreams while at the same time keeping Alan’s memory and legacy alive. All drivers receive a stipend of $7,777 and compete for the rich KDDP points championship, awarding the winner a check for $54,439 and the special unique Kulwicki Cup trophy.
The Kulwicki Cup competition goes from April 1 through Oct. 31. The contest’s points system is based on a combination of judging input from members of the advisory board and the drivers’ on-track performance. Drivers are given points for both their success in chasing checkered flags and for community engagement, program representation and social media activities. Seymour, Wisconsin’s Ty Majeski won the inaugural Kulwicki Cup in 2015, while Alex Prunty, of Lomira, Wisconsin, claimed the 2016 KDDP Championship. Marietta, Georgia’s Cody Haskins returned from being a 2016 finalist (finished sixth) to win last year’s Kulwicki Cup title.
The KDDP urges you to keep up with all of its news and activities by regularly visiting Speed51.com, the organization’s official media partner.
-Kulwicki Driver Development Program Press Release
-Photo credit: Starr Photo