Concord, N.C. – Justin Mondeik, a promising 21-year-old racer from Gleason, Wisconsin, is the early leader in the 2018 Kulwicki Driver Development Program (KDDP) “Kulwicki Cup” point standings. With three months remaining to determine this year’s champion, Mondeik leads 18-year-old Greely, Colorado driver Brett Yackey by 51 points (531 for Mondeik to Yackey’s 480). Cole Butcher, a 21-year-old competitor from Porters Lake, Nova Scotia, Canada, is third (with 433 points), trailing Mondeik by 98 points and Yackey by 47.
“Justin and Brett are the current frontrunners in this year’s battle, but there’s still so much racing remaining you really can’t count out any of our drivers just yet,” said KDDP Executive Director Tom Roberts. “Those two drivers have certainly set the bar with their on-track success and off-track activities so far this season, but several of the other drivers are really starting to pick up the pace.
“When you look at where Cole is in the standings, you have to take in consideration that he’s competed in just half the races that the other drivers have,” said Roberts. “He can close the gap drastically with just the competition points that he has yet to accrue.
“Some of the other drivers also haven’t gotten up to full stride and it’s going to be really interesting to see what happens in the next couple of months.”
Here are the current Kulwicki Driver Development (KDDP) point standings: (as of 7/15/18)
1st - Justin Mondeik - 531
2nd - Brett Yackey - 480
3rd - Cole Butcher - 433
4th - Justin Carroll - 342
5th - Derek Griffith - 294
6th - Brittney Zamora - 231
7th - Molly Helmuth - 198
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 rich 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.
“Realizing that each voter’s input represents a potential 60-point swing from seventh to first, it’s very evident that this year’s contest is far from being over,” Roberts said. “With our unique points system, there is still another regular season judging on tap before the final voting is held in early November.
“I want to thank all of our voting advisory board members for being so involved and prompt with their responses in our first voting period for this season,” said Roberts. “I also want to express our gratitude to our former champions, Ty Majeski, Alex Prunty and Cody Haskins for their participation in the balloting process.
“This has to rank as the most interesting and intriguing class of drivers that we’ve had so far,” Roberts offered. “We’ve never received such in-depth opinions and commentary on our seven drivers from the voters like we did with this group in this year’s initial voting.
“Justin Mondeik received so many positive comments relative to his ability to race as much as he does, yet be so active in his community service projects,” said Roberts. “The fact that he is also in between semesters at Michigan Tech, where he is an engineering student, certainly adds to the impact of what he has done so far this season. He also garnered many accolades for his schedule last month where he attempted to compete in six races in just an eight-day stretch. While it was a difficult task, many of the other drivers were envious that Justin had the opportunity to race so many times on tracks within driving distance of his race shop.
“Brett Yackey continued to get praise for his impressive ability to stay so active both on and off the track,” Roberts said. “Brett did everything imaginable in athletics during his senior year at Greeley Central (High School), including winning the coveted MaxPreps Marines Athlete of the Year Award. When the school year concluded, he immediately went into full race mode and even dropped weight to be as competitive as possible. He’s racing in all the races at Colorado National Speedway and I-25 Speedway in Pueblo and trying to branch out all he can. He recently ventured all the way to Kaukauna, Wisconsin, for the Midwest Tour race and plans on traveling even more before the season ends.
“Cole Butcher is one of the hottest young drivers in North America today,” said Roberts. “While he currently ranks only fifth in competition points, his on-track record is so striking. As of July 15, he had raced only eight times, winning three of those events and finishing in the top five in seven races.” Competing in the tough Maritime Pro Stock Tour, the former series champion has considerably increased his off-track activities from last year when he finished fourth in the battle for the Kulwicki Cup and the voting panel is certainly taking note.
“Justin Carroll is a driver who I feel is just now getting a good grasp on what the KDDP competition is all about,” Roberts said. “I have to point out that all the drivers in front of him were in our program last year. He has been pretty active out in his community, but few folks really knew of what all he was doing. Justin is really coming around in being able to communicate all of that. He is winning races and really stole the hearts of everyone associated with the KDDP with the special color scheme he ran in the recent “Throwback 276” CARS Tour race at Hickory Motor Speedway. We can’t wait to see how he performs on and off the track for the remainder of the season. He comes from a great racing family and has always been such a fan favorite.
“Derek Griffith is having an impressive season and we think he may be the biggest mover during the second half of the year,” said Roberts. “Derek actually won a race before our official competition started on April 1, so he didn’t get any credit for that. He has so much support from everyone in the Northeast, such as two-time KDDP driver Dave Farrington and others, that he’s a guy that you have to keep your eyes on. Several of our judges said that if a driver could come through with a huge big-time win, it might shake up everything they have considered so far. He is in a fantastic position to do that, as the prestigious annual Oxford 250 is just around the corner on August 26.
“Brittney Zamora is such a fantastic young talent,” Roberts said. “She just turned 19 and her ability to learn and consistently improve each and every time out really got our judge’s attention. She was able to start from 40th and drive all the way up to a strong eighth-place finish in the big Summer Showdown at Evergreen Speedway. She is also branching out and traveling to races out of state. She has already ventured over to Kalispell, Montana for the Montana 200 and is scheduled to head down to “The Bullring” in Las Vegas late this season. Brittney just completed her freshman year at Washington State University and that fact didn’t go unnoticed by the panel.
“Molly Helmuth would definitely get the ‘Hard Luck Award’ award so far this season if we gave one,” said Roberts. “Everything negative imaginable on the track it seems has happened to her so this year and it’s the competition points that has her so far behind. Molly has definitely proven her skills behind the wheel and her on-track season looks like it’s finally beginning to turn around. She is a PR & marketing phenom in the short-track motorsports world and her growing fan base is so impressive. Molly’s incredible work off the track certainly was noticed by our judges as only Mondeik and Yackey collected more bonus points.
“With half the season remaining, we are hoping for many more victories from our drivers,” Roberts said. “But above all, we want to express our gratitude to every member of our 2018 class as they were so helpful in our effort to get Alan voted into the 2019 NASCAR Hall-of-Fame Class. This year’s Kulwicki Cup Champion will always carry the distinction that he or she won the title during the same year that Alan was finally voted in and that will be such a monumental accomplishment.
“I can’t wait to see how the rest of the 2018 season unfolds,” said Roberts. “Mondeik and Yackey have both established themselves as the ‘hunted’ and the battle between those two fantastic young drivers will likely go down to the wire. But Butcher is in such a great spot to win more races, continue turning heads with his off-track activities and be there at the top in the end. Carroll, Griffith, Zamora and Helmuth…they all have yet to show their full potential so far. When they all get it rolling, it will be such an interesting finish to the year for sure.”
As of this period’s cutoff date (July 15), only Mondeik had competed in 15 or more races. The current 2018 KDDP competition (on-track) points look like this: (points & number of races/wins/top-5s from 4/1 through 7/15)
Justin Mondeik - 106 (15/4/15)
Brett Yackey - 93 (13/7/9)
Justin Carroll - 87 (14/4/9)
Derek Griffith - 70 (14/2/6)
Cole Butcher - 57 (8/3/7)
Brittney Zamora - 42 (8/1/3)
Molly Helmuth - 14 (8/0/0)
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 next points update is scheduled for the first week in October. 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.
-Kulwicki Driver Development Program Press Release
-Photo credit: Speed51.com