Concord, N.C. – Officials of the Kulwicki Driver Development Program (KDDP) announced today the seven drivers who will represent the organization during the 2019 racing season. These young racers will be helping keep the memory and legacy of 1992 NASCAR Cup Champion and Hall of Famer Alan Kulwicki alive, while also competing for the rich ($54,439) and prestigious annual Kulwicki Cup Championship. The announcement was made live on this morning’s edition of Speed51.com’s “The Morning Bullring.”
The drivers range in age from 15 to 23 years of age and represent five states and one Canadian province.
The seven drivers, in alphabetical order, are:
DANNY BENEDICT, 22, KAWARTHA LAKES, ONT (@DannyBenedict54)
The second Canadian to compete for the Kulwicki Driver Development Program crown, Danny Benedict hopes to follow countryman Cole Butcher’s incredible success over the past two seasons. The 2018 NASCAR Whelen All American Series (NWAAS) Provincial Champion in Ontario, Benedict will again compete at his home track of Sunset Speedway in 2019 and will join the highly competitive APC United Racing Tour for pro late models. A power line technician apprentice, Benedict has won 10 career late model races, including the Velocity 250 in 2017 and 2018, the biggest race at Sunset Speedway.
JUSTIN CARROLL, 23, CONCORD, NC (@toast57)
Justin Carroll returns to the Kulwicki Driver Development Program after finishing fourth in the 2018 standings. Carroll will again carry the torch for the Late Model Stock Car (LMSC) division in the KDDP, competing for the CARS Tour championship and racing throughout North Carolina and Virginia all summer long. Carroll and his family-owned team are working with noted crew chief Jason Stanley for the first time in 2019 and hope to add to Justin’s career total of 10 LMSC victories. Carroll scored the inaugural Throwback 276 win at Hickory Speedway in 2017 and picked up the checkered flag in the Rodney Cook Classic at Ace (NC) Speedway in 2018.
JEREMY DOSS, 22, UPPER LAKE, CA (@jeremydoss75)
Jeremy Doss returns to the Kulwicki Driver Development Program for the second time, having finished fifth in the 2016 standings. Doss won the 2018 Spears SRL Southwest Tour points championship and is a two-time Pacific Challenge Series champion (2012 and 2016). A winner of over 40 super late model races, Doss plans on defending his SRL championship in 2019, while also running part-time at several Northern California tracks with his family-owned team. Doss will also travel to several of the bigger West Coast races, including the Montana 200 and the Summer Showdown at Evergreen Speedway, as his schedule allows.
LUKE FENHAUS, 15, WAUSAU, WI (@luke_fenhaus)
This high school freshman stormed onto the Central Wisconsin Super Late Model scene in 2018, winning five races and the track championship at State Park Speedway in a hotly contested battle with 2018 Kulwicki Driver Development Program runner-up, Justin Mondeik. Fenhaus was also Rookie of the Year in the Midwest Truck Series, capturing four victories. In 2019, Fenhaus will defend his title at State Park Speedway and compete in a handful of both ARCA Midwest Tour and Wisconsin Challenge Series races. When not behind the wheel of his race car or attending school, Fenhaus helps out on his family’s grain farm.
DEREK GRIFFITH, 22, HUDSON, NH (@DerekGriffith12)
Derek Griffith will again compete for the Kulwicki Cup in 2019, hoping to improve upon his sixth-place finish in 2018. Griffith and his family-owned team claimed the Pro All Star Series (PASS) National Championship in 2018, winning two early season races at Dillon (SC) Motor Speedway and Thompson (CT) Speedway, and posting consistent finishes to close out the year. Griffith finally captured a long-deserved victory during Speedweeks at New Smyrna (FL) Speedway, winning the week-ending 100-lap finale in a hard fought battle with Bubba Pollard. In 2019, Derek will again chase the PASS National and North series championships and plans on competing in both the Speed 51 Select Challenge at O’Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis and the Canadian Short Track Nationals at Jukasa Motor Speedway.
CARSON KVAPIL, 16, MOORESVILLE, NC (@Carson_Kvapil)
The 16-year-old son of former NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series champion Travis Kvapil, Carson will compete full-time for Brad Mannstedt under the tutelage of noted crew chief Toby Nuttleman in 2019. Sitting in a Super Late Model for the first time in 2018, Carson won an ARCA Midwest Tour race at Golden Sands Speedway and a TUNDRA series race at Dells Raceway Park. A sophomore at Mooresville (NC) High School, Carson is a 58-time winner in outlaw karts and is a two-time Open Division champion at Millbridge (NC) Speedway. In 2019, Carson will compete for the ARCA Midwest Tour championship and tackle the Red, White, and Blue series at Wisconsin International Raceway, the Triple Crown at Madison International Speedway and other major events.
PAUL SHAFER, JR., 22, PORTAGE, IN (@ShaferRacing7)
This Valparaiso University senior has not only established himself as a racer to beat throughout the Midwest, he is also one of the most beloved drivers in the pits because of his easy-going nature and quirky sense of humor. Behind the wheel, though, Shafer is all business, winning the Tony Bettenhausen 100 at Grundy County Speedway and an ARCA Midwest Tour show at Jefferson Speedway in 2018. The 2013 Illiana Motor Speedway track champion plans on competing for the ARCA Midwest Tour championship again in 2019. He will also defend his Tony Bettenhausen 100 title and plans on trekking north to Madison International Speedway for the Triple Crown Series. Shafer with graduate from Valparaiso with a degree in Accounting this May.
“This is the most intriguing lineup of drivers in our program’s history,” said Tom Roberts, Executive Director of the KDDP and Kulwicki’s longtime confidant. “We’ll have five drivers who are 22 years old or older and then two young bucks all getting after it. The story lines are so compelling. Can youth and exuberance stack up with age and experience? Can one of the three returning drivers put together a season strong enough to take the Kulwicki Cup? Or, will it be a first-timer in the program who becomes our fifth KDDP Champion? Stay tuned and we’ll all witness how it plays out this season. It’s going to be fun, for sure!
“Our advisory board members all said that this was the toughest voting scenario they have faced in the five such annual final ballots they have cast so far,” said Roberts. “All of the semifinalists were exemplary in every facet along the way and were so impressive in their interviews. I think the real decision-making criteria came down to the number of races each driver would run and their locale. They wanted to be confident that each driver would compete in the minimum 15 races that the program requires. They also took into consideration where the drivers raced and the level of competition they faced.
“When it got down to making their selections among the group of incredibly talented semifinalists, 17 different competitors received votes,” Roberts said. “The voting was so tight that a single vote determined the final spot among four drivers. I applaud our board members for doing another magnificent job in deciding our seven drivers for 2019.
“I also want to say a special thanks to our former KDDP Champions – Ty Majeski, Alex Prunty, Cody Haskins and Brett Yackey – who all provided incredible input and played an integral role in this year’s voting process. They will always be such important members of our Kulwicki Team who we are so proud of.
“We know that there are seven extremely jubilant young drivers out there after hearing our announcement,” said Roberts. “To each of you who will carry Alan’s colors this season, we issue you this challenge:
“Strive to emulate the personal fortitude and dedication that Alan Kulwicki did in becoming a NASCAR Champion and Hall of Famer. As one of the drivers chosen to represent Alan during the year he was inducted into the Hall, take extra pride in what you do on and off the track. Take your game up a notch this season. You represent a true motorsports legend who has his own Hall of Honor display at the NASCAR Hall beside other luminaries that include Jeff Gordon, Roger Penske, Jack Roush and Davey Allison.
“We also know that there are twice that number of drivers who are very disappointed right now,” Roberts offered. “To those competitors, we urge you to take pride in being among our semifinalists this year. There were many other drivers out there who were qualified enough to receive complete consideration, but didn’t make it to semifinalist status. We hope that you learned from being a participant in the process and will continue to go forward this season, turning heads along the way. We hope that when the season concludes, you’ll be an improved racer who will consider applying again for our 2020 program.”
The 2019 season marks the fifth fully-functioning year for the KDDP, which was established in 2014 by the Kulwicki estate for the purpose of helping worthy drivers toward reaching their dreams while at the same time keeping Alan’s memory and legacy alive.
The seven drivers announced today as members of the 2019 KDDP class will each receive a one-time stipend of $7,777 to cover operational expenses. The organization will work 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 “Kulwicki Cup.” That award winner will pick up an additional check worth seven times the initial prize ($7,777 x 7 = $54,439) and a special unique trophy. Seymour, Wisconsin’s Ty Majeski won the inaugural Kulwicki Cup in 2015, while Lomira, Wisconsin’s Alex Prunty claimed the 2016 title. Marietta, Georgia’s Cody Haskins returned from being a 2016 finalist (finished sixth) to win the 2017 Kulwicki Cup Championship and Greeley, Colorado’s Brett Yackey claimed the title last year after finishing third in the 2017 competition.
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.
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