For the third year in a row, seven drivers, their families, and family members and friends of the late Alan Kulwicki gathered in the ballroom at The Speedway Club at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina for the Kulwicki Driver Development Program banquet. It’s a night that celebrates the accomplishments of the seven drivers selected for the program, and of course celebrates Alan Kulwicki’s birthday.
“Every year has been special. That’s what I really like,” said Tom Roberts, Executive Director of the KDDP. “Every driver that we’ve had involved has really appreciated the opportunity. They don’t take it for granted. That’s been my philosophy and motto forever, especially when you think of the namesake of this program. You often wonder had he not perished in the plane crash if he’d won more championships. But I know, as close as we were, that he’s looking down on us and smiling.”
The Kulwicki Driver Development Program has a competition within itself for its seven drivers. A points standings system is used to determine the program’s champion. The system looks at on-track statistics for the year, as well as what the driver does in the media and off-track for charity work.
This year’s champion is Cody Haskins, a Late Model Stock Car driver from Georgia, who won races on the track, but whose best work came off the track.
Haskins and his wife did a ton of charity work over the last year, including serving meals to those less fortunate on their wedding night. Their good work was recognized by the Kulwicki Driver Development Program.
“Once we started, we just wanted to keep doing something to make a difference in our community,” Haskins said. “We did something just about every night. My wife has been big in pushing me to do it, and once we started we just weren’t stopping. When you go do a cancer run and you have a three-year-old girl that is attached to your leg who is dying for cancer, you cry the whole time. So it’s just an honor to be able to help their family out and be a part of this program representing Alan.”
Haskins won the KDDP championship this year in his second year with the program. He finished sixth in the program a year ago and he said that was the driving factor behind his championship this year.
“It was definitely tough. It was hard to swallow. You spend so much money and time on your racing program and I sat in the corner and I felt like I was a sixth-place race car driver. I’ve always been at the top of my class so it was definitely a lot of motivation. We really thrashed this winter to be ready.”
While the night was about recognizing Haskins’ championship and honoring Kulwicki’s legacy, sixth-place driver Braison Bennett stole the show with a special moment by proposing to Megan, his girlfriend of four and a half years. Of course, she said yes.
“I’ve been nervous since I got on the plane,” Bennett joked. “I knew I’ve been wanting to do this for a while. I finally had a good opportunity. I talked to TR last week and he said I’d be dumb not to do it at the banquet. It was awesome to have Speed51.com covering it. Everyone at home, I was telling them ahead of time to watch so they all knew about it and it worked out awesome. Everyone knew because I wanted them to be able to see it. It was just like they were there.”
In addition to recognizing Haskins as the champion this year, Michael Ostdiek, Brett Yackey, Justin Mondeik, Cole Butcher, Bennett and John Peters were also recognized for their participation and competition within the program.
For those who were unable to attend this year’s banquet and were unable to watch live, an on-demand replay is available to watch for free by clicking here.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com