CONCORD, N.C. – The finalists for the 2015 Kulwicki Driver Development Program roster certainly comprise a diverse and talented group. However, there is one huge common denominator between them all: the aspiration to be among the seven-driver inaugural KDDP class.
“It’s an impressive group for sure,” said KDDP executive director Tom Roberts. “We have drivers hailing from Florida to Maine, Maine to California and many areas in between. We have both male and female drivers with many short tracks and racing series represented. Their ages range from 15 to 26 and their backgrounds and levels of experience vary greatly.
“I have personally interviewed each of the drivers and I am inspired by all of their stories,” said Roberts. “All the drivers in the group would make tremendous representatives for our organization. Our advisory board members definitely have a monumental task in narrowing it down to the seven drivers who will carry our colors this season.”
The KDDP was established last year by family members of 1992 NASCAR Champion Alan Kulwicki as a means to offer assistance to worthy drivers while keeping the late champion’s legacy and memory alive. The organization’s seven-member advisory board has already reviewed an enormous amount of impressive applications generated with the assistance of official media partner Speed51.com. They have narrowed it down to the drivers listed below and will now tackle the job of naming their seven KDDP drivers.
Those seven drivers will be competing for the inaugural “Kulwicki Cup” during the 2015 season. They will each receive a one-time stipend of $7,777 to cover operational expenses. The organization will work to provide the drivers assistance in important aspects such as publicity, marketing, sponsorship development and industry networking during the season. The Kulwicki Cup winner will be announced in November. That driver will pick up an additional check worth seven times the initial award ($7,777 x 7 = $54,439) and a special trophy during an event honoring the winner in December.
The finalists for the KDDP inaugural class of 2015 are (in alphabetical order):
26, West Bend, Wisconsin
“Racing is not just a sport in my eyes; it is a way of life.”
Following in the line of great Slinger Speedway racers like Alan Kulwicki, Conrad Morgan, Lowell Bennett, and Al Schill, Steve Apel has mastered the “World’s Fastest Quarter-Mile,” winning track championships in 2013 and 2014. A CNC milling machine salesman, Steve is widely respected for his sportsmanship, work ethic and his willingness to promote the track and his fellow competitors whenever possible. In 2015, Steve will again chase the track championship at Slinger and hopes to venture out to other tracks in the area.
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22, Windham, Maine
“I always want to be at the race track. The race track is where I feel at home.”
Born into a racing family, Brad Babb has made a name for himself throughout the Northeast, winning the Pro Late Model Series track championship at Beech Ridge (ME) Motor Speedway and the NASCAR Whelen All American Maine State Championship in 2012, the New England Late Model Series championship in 2014 and numerous features in Maine and Vermont. A skilled welder and fabricator, Brad will again chase the American-Canadian Tour (ACT) title in 2015.
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26, Hickory, North Carolina
“I want to be the Cinderella story; the local boy who worked hard to make it to the top.”
As the driver for an underfunded, family-run team, Tyler Church won the 2014 PASS South Super Late Model Series, overcoming three broken axles in the championship race to take home the title. He is highly respected by his fellow competitors for his determination, clean racing and ability to run competitively on a tight budget. Tyler achieved a lifelong dream late last year when he was hired by Hendrick Motorsports as a fabricator. In 2015, Tyler will compete in the new CARS Super Late Model Series.
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18, Statesville, North Carolina
“Ever since I was four years old, I knew that all I wanted to do was race.”
A freshman engineering student at North Carolina State University, Justin plans on competing in the CARS Late Model Stock Series and selected NASCAR Whelen All American Series races in 2015. Chasing the points championship at Hickory Motor Speedway in 2013 and 2014, Justin earned numerous top-five finishes while racing against some of the best funded teams in the Southeast. Throughout his career, from go-karts to late models, Justin has driven a black and orange #7 to honor his hero, Alan Kulwicki.
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20, Hubertus, Wisconsin
“I am a confident, patient and passionate racer that knows what it’s like to start at the bottom.”
There is no driver better prepared for battle at the Slinger Speedway than John DeAngelis. John earned the 2014 Rookie of the Year at Slinger, his first year in super late models. Known for hardnosed demeanor on track, but a quick smile and generous autograph pen after the races, DeAngelis will chase the ARCA Midwest Tour and the Slinger track championship in 2015.
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DAVE FARRINGTON, JR.
23, Jay, Maine
“Our family owned and operated race team represents the true meaning of local short track racing.”
The 2014 NASCAR Whelen All American Maine State Champion, Dave Farrington, Jr. won the track Pro Series championship at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway without winning a race, but with no DNFs. He won three races at Beech Ridge during the 2013 season. At age 15, he had become one of the winningest go-kart racers in New England with 276 feature victories. Dave works as an engineer for General Dynamics at the Bath Iron Works. He earned his Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Maine in 2013, and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Business Administration.
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20, Holly Hill, Florida
“We keep our heads up, keep pushing to the next race, and with a never-say-die attitude, we keep racing doing it our way.”
An Engineering Technology student at Daytona State College, Blaise Hetznecker is an accomplished dirt and pavement racer. Blaise has won features at New Smyrna Speedway and Volusia Raceway Park, and has earned numerous honors in the karting world. Respected for his work ethic, resourcefulness and hunger for racing knowledge, Blaise has persevered, utilizing limited resources to make it to the track each week. In 2015, Blaise will run for the Pro Late Model Division championship at New Smyrna Speedway.
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25, Sparta, Wisconsin
“A word that describes me is ‘perfectionist.’ We’re so much like Alan in that we’ve always done the most with the least.”
Like many young racers, Skylar comes from a racing family. His grandfather, Bud, raced in the 1950s and his dad, Steve, won several races in both the ARTGO Challenge Series and the original American Speed Association. A welder-fabricator by trade, Skylar earned his associate’s degree from Western Wisconsin Technical College. Skylar has won two of the Midwest’s biggest short track races; the Dick Trickle ‘99’ at LaCrosse (WI) Speedway’s Oktoberfest and the Summer Clash 250 at Elko (MN) Speedway in 2011. In 2015, Skylar hopes to again chase the ARCA Midwest Tour championship.
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20, Seymour, Wisconsin
“Once you feel are the best and have nothing left to learn, you begin to fall behind; I will always improve, always grow, and turn my goals into reality.”
Since jumping into the seat of a super late model in 2012, Ty Majeski has won five races and finished in the top-five 23 times in only 37 races. In 2014, Ty became the youngest champion in the history of the ARCA Midwest Tour, clinching the title at LaCrosse (WI) Speedway’s Oktoberfest in a borrowed car after destroying his primary car in a preliminary race. Ty is currently a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, majoring in Mechanical Engineering. Ranked #1 among 80,000 drivers on iRacing, an online racing simulator, Ty will again race for the ARCA Midwest Tour title in 2015.
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21, DePere, Wisconsin
“It is easy to talk about teamwork at the track, but those that teach, live and learn at the shop are the ones that make us who we are.”
Committed. Relentless. Conscientious. These are three words frequently used to describe Reagan May, the 2014 TUNDRA Series Rookie of the Year. Reagan won three super late model features last season, and finished fifth in TUNDRA Series points. Reagan has interned at Coleman Racing Products in Menominee, Mich., developing and testing prototype parts and learning how to operate CNC machines. A Mechanical Engineering major at Michigan Tech University, Reagan plans to expand her racing schedule in 2015, competing full time with the TUNDRA series and visiting several new tracks as her budget allows.
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15, Scotts Valley, California
“If a gear needs changing, I crawl underneath, sometimes burning my arm on the hot metal, but allowing nothing to stop me. When I’m finished, I zip my suit back up, climb in, and drive the car.”
Wise beyond his years and hungry to learn everything about his race car, 15-year-old Bryce Napier has earned the respect of competitors and fans for his work ethic and dedication to success. Working alone after finishing his homework, Bryce will clean the car from top to bottom, scale the car himself and consult over the phone with his crew chief about gear and sway bar changes. The car is always ready to go when he hits the track. The 2014 Stockton 99 Speedway Rookie of the Year, Bryce works closely with military families through his sponsor, the Support Military Foundation. He looks to build on an already impressive foundation during the 2015 season.
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22, Lomira, Wisconsin
“I see every race as an opportunity to do something incredible and continue the legacy of my family’s name.”
For third generation racer Alex Prunty, Sunday night at Slinger Speedway is more than just another race; it is a family reunion. Giving each other no quarter on the track, the Pruntys are always there for each other, offering a helping hand at the track and the race shop. Growing up working on the championship-winning cars of his three racing uncles, Alex will race a super late model full time in 2015, moving up after winning a 2012 track championship in the late model division. When not at the track, Alex is a Research and Development Engineer at Briggs & Stratton Corporation.
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22, Dyer, Indiana
“Racing and competing are part of me; they are in my blood and always have been.”
The son of multi-time ARCA race winner Dave Weltmeyer, DJ Weltmeyer – “The Dyer Flyer” – is carrying on a family tradition of competing at Grundy County Speedway and Illiana Motor Speedway. An engineering student at Purdue University- Calumet, DJ is an eager learner outside of the classroom, building shocks for local racers and testing experimental suspension components on his own race car. Known for his clean racing and perseverance, DJ hopes to race at Grundy County and Illiana again in 2015. He looks to also race with the ARCA Midwest Tour and the ARCA CRA Super Series as his schedule and budget allow.
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18, Sellersburg, Indiana
“Working hard is the key to success; there is no other way to make it in this sport.”
When there is no local short track, a racer will go to great lengths to compete. In 2014, Cole Williams traveled seven hours each way to the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway and won the track championship It’s a cherished honor shared by NASCAR legends Darrell Waltrip and Sterling Marlin. A year earlier, Cole won the NASCAR Whelen All American Series Missouri State Championship and track championship at I-44 Speedway in Lebanon, Mo., some six hours from home. A Journalism major at Indiana University- Southeast, Cole will race his family’s car at Nashville again in 2015, while also running several Late Model Stock races in Virginia and North Carolina.
-KDDP Press Release & Photo