The 2019 finalists for the Kulwicki Driver Development Program were announced Monday on Speed51’s “The Morning Bullring.” In an exciting and fun twist, the finalists learned of their selection via phone calls from hosts Bob Dillner and Casey LaJoie, allowing viewers to witness drivers’ immediate reaction to the news.
The first driver to receive “The Call” was Carson Kvapil, the second-generation driver who will compete on the ARCA Midwest Tour this season. Kvapil will get to race on many of the same tracks where the late Alan Kulwicki cut his teeth, as well as Kvapil’s father Travis.
Another driver competing in the Midwest, Luke Fenhaus, was the youngest finalist to be named by the Kulwicki Driver Development Program.
“It’s a huge part of my career to be in this,” Fenhaus commented. “I’m looking forward to starting my year down at Golden Sands. It’s probably a bit tougher around these guys like Derek Griffith and Paulie Shafer, but it should be an interesting year and I’m ready to get started.”
Derek Griffith returns to the Kulwicki Driver Development Program after being a finalist in 2018. The New Hampshire racer had put his day on hold, watching “The Morning Bullring” in hopes of receiving the phone call.
“I had been waiting to hop in the shower for a little bit, just in case,” Griffith stated. “It’s such an awesome program. I’ve had my fingers crossed the whole time and been watching all morning.”
CARS Late Model Stock Tour competitor Justin Carroll also rejoins the list of finalists. Carroll hopes his experience from last year will be beneficial in 2019.
“I’m back, I’m excited,” Carroll said. “It’s a big deal. Last year I learned a lot about the program and what it takes to win the (Kulwicki) Cup. I’m definitely looking forward to chasing after it again this year.”
The personable Paul Shafer, Jr. of Portage, Indiana was very excited to receive his phone call, the third person contacted on the show.
“Hell yeah! That’s awesome,” Shafer said. “That is so cool. It means a lot to be a part of something bigger than just racing in the Midwest.”
There was a slight change in proceedings when it came time to call Canadian racer Danny Benedict. Speed51’s Kendra Adams, Benedict’s girlfriend, made the call to inform him of his selection.
“That’s awesome,” Benedict began. “That’s really good to hear. And hearing your voice is pretty nice, too.
“It’s definitely an honor to represent Alan,” Benedict added. “I really feel like I can relate to him a lot. We’re a pretty small team, so that means a lot to me to have his backing and the support of the other drivers.”
The last finalist proved to be the most difficult to contact, as it was still 6:30 a.m. in Upper Lake, California when Jeremy Doss’ phone first rang. After several attempts, however, Doss touched base with the show and spoke to the honor.
“II appreciate it,” Doss said. “It’s a great program all around, and something to help better my career. To help the community is an honor. It’s really cool to be a part of it.”
All seven drivers spoke at length about their plans for the season, their community involvement, and much more, from Carson Kvapil’s Spanish vocabulary to Paul Shafer’s next hairstyle.
Click here to watch an on-demand replay of the show. Fans can also watch the show each Monday on the Speed51 Facebook page, and turn on notifications to receive alerts when the show begins each Monday at 7:00 a.m. Eastern.
Segments from Monday’s show will also be available in podcast form in the coming days.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com photo