CONCORD, N.C. – With the deadline approaching to submit applications for the inaugural Kulwicki Driver Development Program (KDDP) class, Paul Andrews and Tony Gibson offered their thoughts. The two racing veterans had key roles in Alan Kulwicki’s 1992 NASCAR championship team and now serve as advisory board members for the organization.
The KDDP was established earlier this year by Kulwicki’s family with the mission of helping worthy drivers while at the same time keeping alive Alan’s memory and legacy. The program’s specifics call for seven drivers to contend for the inaugural “Kulwicki Cup” during the 2015 racing season.
The seven competitors selected will receive a one-time stipend of $7,777 early in the season. The Kulwicki Cup winner will pick up an additional check worth seven times that amount ($7,777 x 7 = $54,439) plus a trophy and other prizes. In addition to the financial benefits, the selected drivers will also receive assistance in other important aspects in racing such as publicity, marketing, sponsorship development and industry networking.
“This is an unprecedented opportunity – actually seven of them,” said Andrews, who served as crew chief for Kulwicki and is now the general manager at Cunningham Motorsports. “I have the opportunity of viewing the KDDP and what we are offering from a pretty unique perspective. I know what a bonus it could have been back when I started in the sport with Rusty’s (Wallace) short-track team. I certainly can tell you what a huge benefit it could have been several years back when we were working so hard at trying to get my son’s (Tim) driving career going.
“It was such a different environment back in the 80’s racing with Rusty,” said Andrews. “The economy was better and he was such a huge self-promoter. But he still would have welcomed all the additional support he could get. If I was a father today trying to get my kid’s career going, this potential opportunity would be huge and applying to be one of the drivers would be a big priority right now.
“The financial support the program offers could definitely be helpful, but the other aspects would get really get my attention. To be able to get help, advice and expertise from the folks associated with the KDDP can be so important to a young driver and team on their way up.”
Gibson, who served as the car chief for Kulwicki’s championship squad and is currently the crew chief for Kurt Busch and the No. 41 Sprint Cup team at Stewart-Haas Racing, believes there will even be a “prestige factor” associated with the seven drivers selected.
“I can look back years ago when I was helping my big brother get started at New Smyrna and think about what a big deal it would be to be one of the seven Kulwicki drivers,” Gibson said of his career’s earliest period. Gibson, one of the most respected team leaders in the garage area today, was a college student then and worked with his family-owned team which saw his brother (Mark) win a track championship at New Smyrna. “If our team could have been fortunate enough to have that kind of support back then, it would have definitely identified us as a team that was on the way up.
“This program is so unique, especially when you consider the hard times young drivers may be having in trying to find sponsorship out there,” Gibson said. “It’s the first time I have ever seen a racing family willing to give back to the sport like this and I applaud Thelma (Alan’s stepmother) and the others for doing so. I’m convinced that being among the seven drivers chosen and carrying that logo on your car in 2015 might be one of the most prestigious accomplishments ever in short-track racing.
“I was so thrilled that we (KDDP) were able to get the relationship with Speed51.com going,” Gibson added. “Those guys are the best when it comes to covering everything that’s going on with short-track racing. I may be looked at as an old-school racer, but I’ve kept up with the times. It’s Speed51.com that I count on to keep me up to date with all the news as far as the short track stuff goes.
“I think the bottom line is that the whole situation is pretty incredible,” said Gibson. “Seven young drivers out there will be extremely special in my eyes. I will look at it like they are carrying the torch for Alan during the 2015 season. I will be pulling for all of them and supporting them all the way.”
The official deadline for applications is this Friday (Dec. 26) and the organization hopes drivers will take advantage of the benefits that are offered.
“This program has been a true labor of love,” said KDDP executive director Tom Roberts, a 30-year veteran in the motorsports field who was Kulwicki’s confidant during the last decade of his career. “Drivers from everywhere now have a chance to benefit from Alan’s legacy and accept the challenge ahead if they are selected.
“We will be making public the criteria involved in determining the Kulwicki Cup winner in the near future,” said Roberts. “The premise of being able to help young drivers on their way up and educate another generation about Alan Kulwicki at the same time is such a compelling venture. I know how much our organization is looking forward to that.
“The racing shops will be shut down this week for the holidays,” said Roberts. “There will be quite a bit of free time in enjoying the days with family and friends. It might just be the most productive minutes ever spent for young drivers to fill out an application and send it in.”
All the information on the KDDP, including a downloadable application to be eligible for the inaugural 2015 season, is available at the organization’s website at www.KulwickiDDP.com.
-KDDP Press Release