CONCORD, N.C. – Justin Carroll, a 23-year-old rising racing star from Concord, North Carolina, is the early leader in the 2019 Kulwicki Driver Development Program (KDDP) “Kulwicki Cup” point standings. With three months remaining to determine this year’s champion, Carroll leads 22-year-old Upper Lake, California’s Jeremy Doss by 99 points (563 for Carroll to Doss’s 464). The battle for third is a tight one, with 22-year-old Hudson, New Hampshire’s Derek Griffith holding a one-point lead over Luke Fenhaus, a 15-year-old racer from Wausau, Wisconsin (374 points for Griffith to 373 for Fenhaus).
Here are the current Kulwicki Driver Development (KDDP) point standings: (as of 7/15/19)
1st - Justin Carroll - 563
2nd - Jeremy Doss - 464
3rd - Derek Griffith - 374
4th - Luke Fenhaus - 373
5th - Danny Benedict - 290
6th - Carson Kvapil - 158
7th - Paul Shafer, Jr. - 91
“Although it’s really way to early to predict the outcome of this year’s battle for the Kulwicki Cup, it shouldn’t be too surprising to see Justin and Jeremy battling it out for the lead at this point in the season,” said Tom Roberts, the KDDP’s organizational leader. “Both of these young drivers are in our program for their second year, with Justin finishing fourth in the points last season and Jeremy finishing fourth back in 2016.
“While these two drivers have established themselves as the early leaders, you really have to consider just how much racing remains for all of our drivers from now until the end of October,” Roberts said. “I can never remember a spring when the weather played havoc on the racing schedule as it has this year. With some of our guys enduring as many as six rainouts in the first few months of the season, some of them are just now really getting cranked up. These current standings reflect the results through the middle of July and there are still 15 weeks to consider before our 2019 champion will be determined.”
Carroll, the lone Late Model Stock Car campaigner of the seven KDDP drivers this year, had posted two wins and four top-five finishes in 13 races at the July 15 judging cut-off point. He is a regular competitor on the tough CARS Tour series, starting all eight races. Although he’s still looking for his first series victory this year, he has a runner-up finish and three top-10s total.
“Justin learned so much by being in our program last season and I truly think it’s made him a better overall racer this year,” Roberts said. “He’s shown that he can win races over the last few seasons and now he’s really coming around to demonstrate just how much of a complete championship-caliber competitor he is. He’s not just a great driver when he gets behind the wheel of that No. 57 race car, he’s also such a top-quality young man off the track. He has been so active in community service projects and has found such a really great balance for what he does in and out of his race car. He continues to be an exemplary representative for our organization right there in the heart of NASCAR racing country. His popularity is on such an upward spiral and his fanbase is growing by leaps and bounds each and every day.”
Doss, who was the reigning champion of the Spears SRL Southwest Tour, had already won in that series this season and was a solid contender to claim another points title when his family-owned team decided to go in a different direction. They sold both of their proven-winner Super Late Models and built a brand new Senneker Chassis Pro Late Model. Jeremy and the sleek shiny black No. 75 race car won in its debut at All American Speedway in Roseville, California.
“When Jeremy sent a text saying what they were going to do, I was pretty much left scratching my head and wondering why,” Roberts said. “When he told me a few days later that everyone with the KDDP would like what they were going to see, it certainly built up the suspense. When he brought out the car for the first time and won at Roseville, I was watching the race live on Fans Choice TV and was pretty blown away to tell you the truth. He’d accomplished all he could in the Supers out there and was looking at the big picture. I’ll admit that it’s been a chore to explain all the positives for switching to my KDDP team. The SRL guys raced on July 20 and don’t race again until September 28, which doesn’t make any sense at all. Jeremy will be racing eight times between now and then. He named his winning car “Bonnie” and they have become a terror at Roseville and Madera against some really tough competition. What’s such a huge bonus is that all of the races at Roseville and Madera are televised. Off the track, Jeremy has been really active with the Ronald McDonald House Charities. The whole deal has turned out for the best for Jeremy, the KDDP and everyone involved.”
At the July 15 cut-off date, only a single point separated third-place Derek Griffith from Luke Fenhaus in fourth. While Fenhaus had competed in 13 races, he was still looking for his first win of the season. Griffith had competed in 11 races, but had scored two victories since the competition began on April 1.
“Derek’s season started way back in February when he won the big race down at New Smyrna and he continues to be a victory threat every time out,” said Roberts. “He was a member of our 2018 driver lineup and we’re so proud to have him back this year. Derek is the leading winner on the tough PASS North Series and is right there in the thick of the battle for the championship. He has plenty of time to catch up, especially considering the huge Oxford 250 coming up and all the off-track opportunities he could have.
“Luke has come onto the Midwest racing scene with a huge splash this season,” Roberts said. “He won the track championship at State Park Speedway in Wausau (Wisconsin) at only 14 years of age. He’s 15 now and turning heads everywhere he goes. He was impressive at the Milwaukee Mile and his stock really shot up the charts with his performance at the Slinger Nationals, where he qualified second and finished eighth. Luke is not only gaining a sizable fan following each time out, he’s also garnering the respect of all the veteran competitors. Even though he’s so young, he’s shown that he’s not intimidated by any race track or the competition he faces.
“Danny Benedict’s learning curve has been so impressive and fun to watch this season,” said Roberts. “Already a proven race winner and NASCAR provincial champion on the Canadian short tracks, Danny joined the highly competitive APC United Racing Tour for pro late models this season and is making his presence known. His consistency of qualifying and running up front continues on an upward spiral. His first win is just around the corner. His off-track activities have really been getting a lot of attention.
“Carson Kvapil has been winning just about everything there is in dirt Outlaw Karts competition, while also continuing to try to get established on the asphalt Super Late Model scene,” Roberts said. “While all of his success in the karts has no bearing on our KDDP competition, it is fun to watch. He was already a proven winner on the tough ARCA Midwest Tour coming into this season. He’s only competed in half a dozen asphalt races so far this year. But with his schedule expanding to include races down south, I look for Carson to be turning a lot of heads in the next few months.
“Pauly Shafer earned his college diploma back in May and has now been able to focus additional attention on his racing,” said Roberts. “He’s working a full-time job, but spending all the time he can at his race shop. He admittedly struggled in getting his cars as competitive as he liked early this season, but his testing at tracks such as Kalamazoo has really started to pay off. Pauly’s only raced in a handful of events at our cut-off point and it’s going to be fun to see what he can do between now and November. It’s easy to understand why he’s such a popular young racer and we love some of the activities he has planned for off the track in the next couple of months.”
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.
“What’s so important to take into consideration is that each voter’s input represents a potential 60-point swing from seventh to first,” said Roberts. “A competitor who may have not done so well in the first voting has the opportunity to step up his game on and off the track and impress our voters before the next points update.
“I want to personally thank all of our voting advisory board members for the great job they continue to do,” Roberts said. “They have been really impressed with this group of competitors overall and appreciate greatly the activities that have been done to educate others about Alan. With our organization enjoying a successful fifth year of assisting young drivers, it’s been so heartwarming to see what we’re doing coincide with Alan’s induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
“I also want to express our gratitude to our former champions Ty Majeski, Alex Prunty, Cody Haskins and Brett Yackey for all of their valuable assistance in our balloting process. We will always be proud of them and getting their feedback about our current class is appreciated so much.
“Considering the structure of our points system, it’s very evident that this year’s contest is far from being over,” Roberts said. “There is still another regular season judging on tap before the final voting is held in early November.
“With all the potential our drivers have already shown this year, we can’t wait to see what the second half of the season holds,” added Roberts. “We think we’ll see many more race wins and celebratory Polish Victory Laps on the track and witness so many instances of our drivers giving back to their communities off the track. Our 2019 team of drivers has done a great job displaying their social media skills as a whole and we expect their visibility to increase even more in the next few months.”
As of this period’s cut-off date (July 15), no driver had competed in 15 or more races. Three drivers had competed in fewer than 10 races. The current 2019 KDDP competition (on-track) points look like this: (points & number of races/wins/top-5s from 4/1 through 7/15)
Jeremy Doss - 58 (7/4/7)
Justin Carroll - 50 (13/2/4)
Luke Fenhaus - 50 (13/0/5)
Derek Griffith - 48 (11/2/5)
Danny Benedict - 42 (10/1/4)
Paul Shafer, Jr. - 19 (6/0/1)
Carson Kvapil - 15 (5/0/2)
The 2019 season marks the fifth 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 2019 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.
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.
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We invite you to follow each of our seven 2019 KDDP drivers on Twitter for their timely updates of activities on and off the track: DANNY BENEDICT, KAWARTHA LAKES, ONT (@DannyBenedict54); JUSTIN CARROLL, CONCORD, NC (@toast57);JEREMY DOSS, UPPER LAKE, CA (@jeremydoss75); LUKE FENHAUS, WAUSAU, WI (@luke_fenhaus); DEREK GRIFFITH, HUDSON, NH (@DerekGriffith12); CARSON KVAPIL, MOORESVILLE, NC (@Carson_Kvapil) & PAUL SHAFER, JR., PORTAGE, IN (@ShaferRacing7).
For additional information on the Kulwicki Driver Development Program, please visit the official website at www.kulwickiddp.comand follow us on Twitter at @KulwickiDDP. Tom Roberts is on Twitter at @22carPR and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tom.roberts.39904181.
About the KDDP:
The Kulwicki Driver Development Program (KDDP) 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. The Program provides drivers with financial assistance along with support in publicity, marketing, sponsorship development, industry networking and relationship building. Based in Concord, N.C., the KDDP is a non-profit organization with the mission of playing a significant role in developing the next era of America’s short-track racers while educating new generations about the life, passion and values of the 1992 NASCAR Champion.
Tom Roberts – [email protected]– (256) 508-2595
Jeff Kollath – [email protected]– (608) 516-0448
Jan Beatty – [email protected]– (704) 262-2345
Mark Horn – [email protected]– (704) 331-3540
-Kulwicki Driver Development Program Press Release
-Photo credit: Speed51.com