Every year the Kulwicki Driver Development Program seeks out young drivers who they feel have the richest of talent on the race track, as well as the richest character away from the race track. While all seven members of the 2018 KDDP class have been doing just that, four drivers all across the continent opened the month of June this past weekend with performances that turned many heads towards the class.
Last Sunday up in province of New Brunswick, two of those drivers, Nova Scotia’s Cole Butcher and New Hampshire’s Derek Griffith squared off in Pro All Stars Series competition at Petty International Speedway. Butcher made headlines just one week prior, winning his first race of 2018 in the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour, where he is a previous champion.
“It was a good quality field. It was cool to race against guys like Ben Rowe and DJ Shaw on our side of the border,” Butcher told Speed51.com. “We led a lot of laps, but that last restart was tough, because the outside was the place to be. I followed him for a number of laps and then I had to rub him to get him out of the way. I went in hard, drove up a little bit, made a little contact and drove away from him.”
It was a great breakthrough moment for the 21-year-old Canadian, who has been mentored by Rowe throughout his time in Super Late Models.
“We go back a bit,” Butcher said. “Usually I don’t race people like that, I’ve been afraid to, and he’s always said I need to be more aggressive, and he was the victim. But he was all happy when we got out of the cars, he was proud of me that I actually did what I had to do to win.”
Fellow KDDP driver Griffith watched the battle between Butcher and Rowe from the third spot, but didn’t get the opportunity at the win he was looking for.
“It was awesome. I was sitting there in third on a restart with 20 to go, and I got a front row seat to one of the best shows from a driver’s standpoint in a long time,” Griffith commented. “Props to both of those guys. I was hoping it would give me a chance. I was within striking distance, but they both kept it straight and steady.”
Griffith was still happy with the journey north of border, especially with how the day started.
“Good day for points both for PASS North and for Kulwicki as well. We might have had a shot at them if I didn’t get a piece of a wreck on Lap 2 when someone slammed into the right side of us and bent the rear end a little. But to come home with third after that, I was plenty happy with that.”
Griffith expects to attend a 50-lap weekly show at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME) this coming Saturday, before setting out for the next PASS show on June 17 at Speedway 95 (ME).
Butcher will resume his Maritime Pro Stock championship hunt on June 16 at Riverside International Speedway (NS).
Thousands of miles to the west on the Colorado plains this past Saturday, Brett Yackey continued what has been a brilliant 2018 season, winning his fifth race in seven starts.
“It was pretty good,” Yackey said of his race. “It was a close race, but I felt good knowing I had the fastest car. It makes it five out of seven, it’s definitely something that puts your team in the right direction.”
Yackey’s victory, along with the knowledge of the wins of the other drivers, plus the still fresh news of Alan Kulwicki being elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame back in May, has the Colorado driver feeling pride for all those involved in the KDDP.
“It’s awesome to see all the men and women in the program getting their wins this weekend. It makes me proud to be in the program, especially with Alan getting in the Hall of Fame and then the drivers coming through with huge victories.”
Even further to the west in Washington State, Brittney Zamora continued her quest for a second straight Northwest Super Late Model title and received a big boost, winning her first race of 2018 at South Sound Speedway on Saturday.
“It was a fun weekend for us, besides the invert after qualifying and the outside groove not working well,” Zamora said. “I had to work my way back through the field patiently, but I got to the front on Lap 54 and had a 60-lap green flag run. After that it was about maintaining speed. We had a caution with four laps to go, so it got a little tricky there for the win.”
With the NWSLMS on break until July 21, Zamora is turning her attention for the rest of the month to another home state track, Evergreen Speedway and its biggest race, the Summer Showdown. She will use this Saturday as a tune up, before throwing down against a field of the best in the West.
“I’m really excited to be in it. I’ve watched it in years past, it’s a race I want to be in and it’s great to finally have the opportunity to see how well we stack up against these guys.”
While Zamora will be waiting for her opportunity to see how she stacks up against a strong field, this past week proved that the Kulwicki Driver Development Class of 2018 stacks up well against racers throughout North America.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Cole Butcher Twitter