For a great example reinforcing those views, just take a look at his most recent racing schedule.
2021 Kulwicki Driver Development Program finalist Kole Raz is competing up and down the West Coast, logging plenty of travel miles in the process.
This Saturday, the 18-year-old rising star can be found at All American Speedway in Roseville, California, piloting the No. 21 Wells Johnson/Sigma Performance Services entry in the “Wild West Shootout 147” SPEARS Southwest Tour Series battle. Last weekend, he was 850 miles away, getting after it on the quarter-mile Stateline Speedway in Post Falls, Idaho, behind the wheel of the No. 42 Jefferson Racing entry in Northwest Super Late Model Series competition.
“We’re so proud to be racing the No. 21 car for Sigma Performance Services out of Las Vegas on the Spears SRL tour this season,” said the hard-charging Raz, who is a star senior forward on the basketball team at Horizon Christian School in Tualatin, Oregon, where he will graduate on June 1. “What I do with my Sigma guys is fly from Portland down to Las Vegas and then travel with the team to our SRL races. It’s been just fantastic, especially getting to work with Preston (Peltier, Director of Racing Operations with Sigma Performance Services) and Brandon (Farrington) as my teammates. We’re all working so well together and I’m learning so much.
“The two seasons Brandon and I raced together as teammates in Tucson will always be so special,” Raz said. “He really helped me become the racer I am today. We were both KDDP semifinalists this year. When I was selected as a finalist and he wasn’t, it became a situation where he’s wanting to help me all he can to win the Kulwicki Cup. He’ll never know how much I appreciate that.
“Preston has not only been instrumental in the overall operation of the team, he’s been a mentor for both of us,” said Raz. “With him out there competing with us in some of the races, it’s been so helpful because he knows so much about all of the tracks from his wealth of experience. Brandon and me are running the Fury Chassis, while Preston is doing R & D with our own in-house chassis and that’s really cool.
When a racer like Preston [Peltier] tells you that he’s wanting to help you be successful and have opportunities at a higher level than he ever had, a young driver like me certainly listens. I have so much respect for him, personally and professionally. I’m trying to be like a sponge, soaking in everything I can. – Kole Raz
So far this season in SRL competition, Raz has posted one top-five and three top-10s in the four races completed. His best finish is the third-place he scored at Irwindale Speedway on April 10. With a 9.0 average finish, the SRL rookie is currently fifth in the series point standings.
“With the SRL schedule having us run less than 10 races during the period we race for the Kulwicki Cup (April 1 through October 31), we looked for a way to supplement what we had already put together and are happy to be racing Jefferson Racing’s No. 42 car in the Northwest Series races,” Raz said. “We were actually working on it toward the end of last year. It’s a great opportunity to be competing with Jeff (Jefferson) in several of the Northwest Series races and we’re really enjoying it. Jeff won a ton of races and three championships, so it’s a real honor to me to drive his No. 42 car.
“We ran his car for the first time at Wenatchee Valley (Super Oval in East Wenatchee, Washington) in the Leonard Evans 150 a few weeks back,” Raz said. “I had raced there before and really liked the track. We were fourth in qualifying and had a strong car for the long runs. Unfortunately, our brakes started going out about 30 laps into the race. We ran the final 120 laps without a caution, but still were able to finished ninth and running on the lead lap.
“Last weekend in my first race ever at State Line, we had a decent car,” said Raz. “We ran as strong as sixth, but the motor went sour with five laps to go and we finished 12th.
“Right now, our deal with Jeff was just for the first three races, but we’re hoping to maybe even run for the series rookie title and championship with him,” said Raz. “Our priority is the SRL Tour and we have a schedule conflict we have to work out. The Northwest Series has been having plenty of cars and the competition is tremendous. They had 30 entries for Wenatchee and 25 cars started the race. They had 22 cars at State Line.
“Our next race with Jefferson Racing will be on June 5 at South Sound Speedway,” said Raz. “We tested there a couple of weeks ago and think we’ll have a car capable of winning.”
Traveling long distances to race is nothing new for me. For three seasons, we made the commute from Portland down to Tucson to race, so our schedule this year isn’t a burden at all. Balancing the school work with the racing has been a challenge, but it’s all been very worthwhile.
From 2018 through 2020, Raz regularly made the 1,400-mile one-way trip from his home in Lake Oswego, Oregon, to the NASCAR-sanctioned 0.38-mile paved oval located just south of Tucson, Arizona. Most of the time, that required him to take a two-and-a-half-hour flight from Portland to Phoenix, get a rental car and make the two-hour drive down I-10 to Tucson. After spending time working at the team’s shop the day after the race, Raz would make the reverse commute back home.
Driving for the Brad and JoAnn Corneliusen-owned Tucson Motorsports Inc. (TMI) Team, Raz won Tucson Speedway’s SLM Rookie-of-the-Year honors in 2019, while finishing second to Farrington in points. He also garnered the Arizona State NASCAR Championship. In 2020, Raz won five features en route to both Tucson Speedway and Arizona State Championships.
“I learned about the KDDP through my brother (Gracin), who wished he’d had the chance to apply several years ago when he started up the racing ladder,” said Raz. “In addition to Preston and Brandon, Gracin and my entire family have been so supportive of me and my racing career. I realize how blessed I am to get the opportunity to compete everywhere I am this season. It’s such an honor to be racing for Alan and the KDDP. I am fortunate to have the support from so many folks and my goal for the year is to make them all proud of me, both on and off the track.”
In between all of his racing and time spent in the classroom, Raz has been active in supporting the Ayden’s Army of Angels Childhood Cancer & Sickle Cell Foundation. Just three weeks ago, he hosted a fundraiser for the Las Vegas branch of the organization and raised $1,777 for the worthy cause.
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The Kulwicki Cup competition goes from April 1 through Oct. 31. The contest’s points system is based on a combination of judging input from members of the advisory board and the drivers’ on-track performance. Drivers are given points for both their success in chasing checkered flags and for community engagement, program representation and social media activities.
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.