A current Kulwicki Driver Development Program semifinalist is set to join forces with a former KDDP runner-up to compete at Slinger Speedway for the 2021 season. Steve Apel, who was the 2015 KDDP runner-up, will field a second car at his home track in Slinger, Wisconsin for RJ Braun.
“I’ve had a lot of success at Slinger and thought why not,” Apel told Speed51. “My team thrives on staying busy during the season and thought it would be the right time to put together another car.”
“After the Slinger Speedway season was over, Steve asked if I wanted to try driving his track championship car at Slinger Speedway,” Braun said. “I was kind of nervous, I didn’t quite understand why he wanted me to take laps in his car, but I found it was more of a try-out to see how I would do. We met him at the track with his crew, and Steve took some laps then I took some laps after he warmed up the 51. Steve gave me some pointers with my line, pick up, and drop off points. Just in that little time, Steve was able to help me improve my lap times. I quickly realized that Steve truly wants to help me become a better racer, with his offer in developing me on and off the track.”
While Apel has known the Braun family and raced alongside them for many years, their relationship took another step last year and led to Braun’s first career Super Late Model win.
“I have been watching Steve race at Slinger Speedway since I was a little kid. I have always admired and respected the way Steve has performed year after year,” Braun said. “My Dad and Steve have been close friends for many years, and our partnership came together last summer. Steve offered to come up with us to the Dixieland 250. We qualified 10th and were able to qualify into our first ARCA tour race. Unfortunately, the race did not represent our performance as we encountered a power steering issue. We confidently decided to go back to WIR three weeks later to run the weekly show, and we were able to win my first SLM victory. Steve coached me over the radio and was a huge help on keeping my head in the game towards the end of the race. It was a memory I will never forget for the rest of my life.”
For the partnership to extend to Slinger Speedway for this year is a no brainer. Apel owns five Super Late Model championships at his home track. While Braun will drive one of the car’s from Apel’s stable, Apel does plan to compete for another title this year.
“We plan to race every week along with RJ racing every week,” he said. “Having two cars at the track will be a challenge, but our team built both cars from the ground up and know the car that RJ will be driving has a pretty stout track record. I’ve raced with RJ and his dad for many years and we’ve always raced with respect, that won’t change knowing that RJ’s car will be prepared by our team.”
The KDDP connection bring the Apel and Braun partnership to a whole different level this year as well. Apel was part of the 2015 KDDP class and finished second to Ty Majeski. Braun is a semi-finalist this year and still hoping to be selected as one of the seven finalists. While chasing wins at Slinger Speedway, the two will also hopefully chase a KDDP title.
“I strongly believe that I can help RJ run up front and win races at Slinger,” Apel said. “Both cars are being built to be identical which will help us bounce ideas off each other. I’ve helped RJ in the past at WIR and we had instant success. He was able to qualify into the Dixieland 250 and ran up front most of the race. We went back a few weeks later and he picked up his first career Super Late Model win.
“It would be an honor to be associated with the KDDP program,” Braun said. “Recently, I have had the chance to work with Ty Majeski down at New Smyrna Speedway, and now with Steve Apel at Slinger Speedway who both finished first and second in the inaugural KDDP class of 2015. I firmly believe the KDDP program has a ton of positive things to offer and I am looking forward to the opportunity.
“Steve being a past competitor and runner-up in the KDDP brings a different outlook on my approach to the program. I feel strongly Steve can help accelerate my performance on and off the track. If I am selected as 1 of 7, we all plan to work as a team to win the overall KDDP championship. If we can make that happen, I am of a firm believer It could be bittersweet for all parties involved.”
-Story by: Jana Wimmer, Speed51 Midwest Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo