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Cookson, KDDP Class of 2023 Honored at Awards Banquet

The 2023 Kulwicki Driver Development Program honored its finalists at the Speedway Club at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday, which would have been Alan Kulwicki's 69th birthday.


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Before Max Cookson officially accepted the Kulwicki Cup as the 2023 Kulwicki Driver Development Program champion at the Speedway Club at Charlotte Motor Speedway Thursday night, he had to fulfill his side of a promise.

“I first found out about this program from a good friend of mine, Riley Stenjem,” explained Cookson. “He was in the program last year and we’ve been friends for a lot of years on iRacing. We really spent a lot of time this year, as he mentioned, late nights on the phone in the shop.

“Me and Riley had a little bet going into this year. If one of us won the program, the other one had to buy a set of tires. Riley, there’s an envelope on your table with a thousand bucks in it for a set of tires. Thank you for talking me into applying for the program.”

Despite the wager, it was still a profitable weekend for Cookson. The Kulwicki Driver Development Program champion is awarded $54,439 each year, a total of $7,777 multiplied by seven, one of many tributes to Alan Kulwicki and his legacy.

However, the true victory for Cookson and his fellow members of the 2023 Kulwicki Driver Development Program is the mentorship provided by the program.

“I can’t put into words how grateful I am to have been selected for this year’s program. It really has changed life forever. The amount of work TR and Ryan and the board members put into the program to better young racers like myself is so appreciated.

“It’s so awesome to see that the program is there to help us. There’s the gain for them of carrying on the legacy of Alan, but they’re really there to help us in so many areas, on the race track and off the race track.”

In a class that proved to be one of the most successful on the track in KDDP history, Cookson knew he would have to raise the bar this year. He pursued the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) National championship, the PASS North championship and the Oxford Plains Speedway Super Late Model track championship, and successfully claimed all three.

“We knew we had to set the bar high this season, and that’s what we did. We planned on chasing three championships with a two-car operation. With 34 races on the schedule, it wasn’t going to be an easy task.”


Max Cookson joins Ty Majeski (2015), Alex Prunty (2016), Cody Haskins (2017), Brett Yackey (2018), Jeremy Doss (2019), Luke Fenhaus (2021) and Dylan Zampa (2022) on the list of Kulwicki Cup champions.

Click here to watch an on-demand replay of the 2023 Kulwicki Driver Development Program Awards Banquet. Along with the presentation of awards to all seven KDDP finalists, there was a roundtable discussion led by Larry McReynolds featuring members of Alan Kulwicki’s 1992 NASCAR Cup Series championship team as well as NASCAR legend Geoff Bodine, who acquired Kulwicki’s team following his passing in 1993.

-Photo credit: Will Bellamy/Racing America


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