2022 Kulwicki Driver Development Program Will Carry Historical Significance
Dec 22, 2021
CONCORD, N.C. (July 28, 2022) – Dylan Zampa, an 18-year-old rising racing star from Napa, California, is the early leader in the 2022 Kulwicki Driver Development Program (KDDP) “Kulwicki Cup” point standings. With four months remaining to determine this year’s champion, Zampa leads 22-year-old Franklin, Tennessee driver Jackson Boone by 139 points (588 for Zampa to Boone’s 449). Positions three through five have been steadily closing in on the leaders, with Evan Shotko, Jacob Nottestad and Haeden Plybon all winning races since the June 30 reporting period ended.
At of the end of the first reporting period (from April 1 through June 30), here’s how the point standings look:
1st - Dylan Zampa - 588
2nd - Jackson Boone - 449
3rd - Evan Shotko - 396
4th - Jacob Nottestad - 338
5th - Haeden Plybon - 232
6th - Riley Stenjem - 136
7th - Kate Re - 98
“When our first reporting period for the 2022 season concluded, it was Dylan Zampa, our lone returning driver from the 2021 class, pacing the competition,” said KDDP Executive Director Tom Roberts. “Dylan learned so much during his running battle with 2021 Kulwicki Cup Champion Luke Fenhaus last year. He has done a remarkable job both on and off the track in representing Alan and our program so far this year and the points certainly reflect that.
“But with our first reporting period ending in June, the drivers behind him in the standings have been winning races since and can rally to challenge the ‘California Kid’ down the stretch,” Roberts said. “They are also realizing the importance that their off-track activities play in our points system and are really ramping it up in that aspect.
Zampa has had the California weather plus being able to participate in twin-feature nights of racing as great assets so far this season. Adverse weather conditions during the spring months curtailed much of the racing scheduled across the eastern half of the country.
“The weather has impacted this year’s edition of our program to a degree that we’ve never experienced before,” offered Roberts. “During our first three months of the 2022 season, Dylan is the only driver who has been able to compete in more than 10 feature events. At this point last season, five of the seven drivers had raced in at least 10 events. From an overall standpoint, our 2021 KDDP team of drivers had competed in 65 total races. Compare that to just 42 events total for this year’s class.”
Only twice during the six-year history of the KDDP has a driver taken the points lead early and held it all the way to win the Kulwicki Cup title. Inaugural champion Ty Majeski accomplished the feat in 2015 and Fenhaus led from beginning to end last year.
“While Dylan is out front in the early going, I wouldn’t count anyone out just yet, especially considering how most of the others have turned their seasons around during the last four weeks,” said Roberts. “You also have to consider that three times during our first six seasons, we’ve had drivers at the bottom of our initial standings bounce back to be podium contenders at the end of our seven months of competition.
“With our unique points system awarding the competitors for both on-track and off-track activities, it will certainly be interesting and intriguing to follow all seven of these promising young racers and cheer them on the remainder of the season.
“During the first 14 weeks of the 2021 KDDP competition, our drivers had won only three races total between them all, with three of them winning one apiece,” said Roberts. “It’s definitely a bright spot to see that five of our drivers had already scored victories during that period this season and there were 11 total wins.
“We’re confident that there are many more wins and celebratory Polish Victory Laps in store for our 2022 team of drivers from now until the end of October.”
As of this period’s cutoff date (June 30), the number of races that each driver competed in varied from only three events up to 11. The current 2022 KDDP competition (on-track) points look like this: (points & number of races/wins/top-5s/top-10s)
Dylan Zampa - 86 (11/7/10/11)
Evan Shotko - 40 (8/1/5/6)
Jackson Boone - 37 (8/1/5/5)
Jacob Nottestad - 28 (5/1/3/4)
Haeden Plybon - 17 (4/1/1/2)
Riley Stenjem - 14 (3/0/1/3)
Kate Re - 3 (3/0/0/1)
With input received from all of the voting KDDP board members, Roberts offered these comments on each of the seven 2022 finalists:
DYLAN ZAMPA: "Dylan has become “The Man” in California Pro Late Model racing this season and has established himself as one of the area’s most promising future stars. Competing against Luke Fenhaus for the 2021 Kulwicki Cup title has paid huge dividends for Dylan. He learned the importance of finding a good balance between his on-track performance and his off-track representation of the program and has done a tremendous job in both aspects so far this year. He didn’t take for granted that he was voted in as a finalist again this season and he’s certainly making the best of the opportunity. He is splitting his time between competing on the SPEARS SRL Pro Late Model Series and the weekly competition at All American Speedway. We loved seeing Dylan race a Super Late Model earlier this year and we’re hoping to see him get more of those opportunities. We are so glad that he has continued to foster many relationships he built last year with his local food bank and the Ronald McDonald House.”
JACKSON BOONE: “Jackson’s representation of the KDDP in both Super Late Models and Pro Late Models has certainly gotten much attention. His venturing out to tracks all across the Southeast has been appreciated so much and it’s reflected in the points. Winning the big race at the Nashville Fairgrounds in front of a live national audience watching on RacingAmerica.TV was impressive. The victories haven’t come as easy as he would have hoped, but in most of the races where he hasn’t suffered bad luck, he’s finished in the top 10. That’s quite a testament to his ability and his team’s preparation. Jackson has several special things planned for the next couple of months, both on and off the track, that are sure to turn heads. We look forward to seeing that No. 7 car doing those Polish Victory Laps.”
EVAN SHOTKO: “If there is one driver who has really turned things around since the beginning of the season, it has to be Evan. Weather and mechanical issues kept him from showing his full potential until recently and our board members noted that. A big example was in the early June ‘Money in the Bank 150’ at Berlin Raceway where he showed winning potential, but got taken out after only two laps. He’s really come on strong since then and is a threat to win every race he’s in. Evan has the right combination of aggressiveness, skill, and on-track smarts to win a lot of races this year. He really has a chance to be the next big name to come out of the fertile racing lineage of Western Michigan, following the likes of Johnny Benson, Jr. to Erik Jones. We can’t wait to see how he runs at the ‘Battle of Berlin’ in August. We’re hearing he has huge plans to ramp up his off-track activities moving forward.”
JACOB NOTTESTAD: “Jacob may be the biggest surprise of all the drivers in the 2022 KDDP class to many. Moving up to the Super Late Models from the Pros was a monumental task, especially considering the stiff competition he’s up against on a regular basis. But he has surpassed all expectations in making the transition. In retrospect, he gave us a ‘sneak preview’ when he jumped into John DeAngelis’ car at Oktoberfest and won in first SLM start two years ago. When he won the ARCA Midwest Tour race at Jefferson Speedway back in May, it really put everyone on notice that Jacob was for real in the Supers. He’s already added to that, scoring a victory at Slinger after our June 30 cutoff, which will be reflected in our next points. His day job doesn’t allow much off time, but he now realizes the importance of his off-track activities in the overall KDDP competition.”
HAEDEN PLYBON: “Keep your eyes on this talented young driver during the second half of the season. He had competed in only four races at the end of our first judging period and had been faced with weather conditions wiping out several events on his schedule. He still was able to show flashes of what he’s capable of. Haeden has had his share of bad luck, but has been bad fast, too. He’s been a great qualifier and is now displaying the consistency to win more races. With high-profile events coming up like the ‘Idaho 200’ and others, he’ll have the opportunity to shine and add to the admirable job he has been doing with his off-track and social media activities. Haeden could be the biggest ‘man on the move’ during the next few months. He is going to be so much fun to follow and see his progress.”
RILEY STENJEM: “Riley was hit with such hard luck during the beginning of the season and has been extremely impressive in getting things turned around. Mechanical issues sidelined him in his first scheduled event for 2022, but he has handled all the adversity so well. Completing his mechanical engineering studies this spring will now give him additional time to focus on both his racing and off-track activities. When he has been able to race, he has posted some very solid performances. He has banked additional clout (and points) with his impressive runner-up finish in the recent TUNDRA race at Norway Speedway that isn’t reflected in the current standings. It’s awesome to learn that he plans on adding some Pro Late Model races later this season to meet our 15-race minimum race requirement. We also know Riley has some special ‘attention-getters’ up his sleeve and we can’t wait to see them play out.”
KATE RE: “Kate has done a tremendous job representing the KDDP with her off-track activities and through her social media skills, but at our cutoff date she had been able to compete in only three races so far this year. She has displayed such an incredible positive attitude through all the adversity she has faced this season, especially considering how many rainouts her team has encountered. We admire Kate’s desire and her family-owned teams’ determination, which have been so inspirational. Kate’s social media postings have been some of the best in our program’s history. With big events such as the Oxford 250 on tap – and with two-time KDDP finalist Derek Griffith offering advice and support – we’re confident that the best is yet to come for Kate and her No. 10 team this season.”
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The KDDP points system is based on a combination of judging input from members of the advisory board and the drivers’ on-track performance. Voters are asked to rank the drivers from first to seventh in their job of representing the organization and points (from 70 for first to 10 for seventh) are awarded for those rankings. Each voter is given 10 discretionary “bonus” points to award the drivers for “exceptional contributions” to the program. Community engagement, program representation and social media activities account for much of those points. The remainder of the points come from actual racing statistics (based on each driver’s best 15 race finishes. Race wins award 10 points, with 2nd-5th-place finishes getting 6 points, 6th-10th 4 points, 11th-15th 2 points and 15th-plus 1 point.
During the annual competition, two regular season rounds of judging points are averaged (however, bonus points continue to accrue) and added to a final round of voters’ judging points. The overall competition points (maximum 150 points for 15 wins) are applied and the driver with the largest points total will be the Kulwicki Cup Champion.
The 2022 season marks the seventh full year for the KDDP. The seven drivers receive a one-time stipend of $7,777 to cover operational expenses. The organization works to provide the drivers assistance in important aspects such as publicity, marketing, sponsorship development and industry networking during the season as they compete for the “grand prize.” The Kulwicki Cup winner will pick up an additional check worth seven times the initial award ($7,777 x 7 = $54,439) and a special unique trophy.
The next points update for this year’s edition of the KDDP is scheduled for the first week of October. The KDDP urges you to keep up with all of its news and activities by regularly visiting RacingAmerica.com, the organization’s official media partner.