CONCORD, N.C. (October 13, 2022) – Heading into the final month of competition in the battle for the 2022 Kulwicki Driver Development Program (KDDP) Kulwicki Cup Championship, Dylan Zampa, an 18-year-old rising racing star from Napa, California, continues to lead the point standings. However, a super successful summer for several of the other 2022 finalists has tightened up the competition and produced considerable movement among the drivers.
Evan Shotko, a hard-charging 19-year-old future star from Coopersville, Michigan, has advanced to the second position in the standings, trailing Zampa by 203 points. Franklin, Tennessee’s promising racer Jackson Boone holds down the third spot (67 points behind Shotko); with Stoughton, Wisconsin’s Jacob Nottestad fourth; Spokane, Washington’s Haeden Plybon fifth; Stoughton, Wisconsin’s Riley Stenjem sixth; and Harrison, Maine’s Kate Re seventh.
At of the end of the second reporting period (through September 25), here’s how the point standings look:
1st - Dylan Zampa - 1,130
2nd - Evan Shotko - 927
3rd - Jackson Boone - 860
4th - Jacob Nottestad - 552
5th - Haeden Plybon - 546
6th - Riley Stenjem - 340
7th - Kate Re - 198
“While Dylan started the 2022 season on such a huge roll, it was Evan, Jackson, Jacob and Haeden who were turning heads and attracting the most attention during our summer stretch,” said KDDP Executive Director Tom Roberts. “It was a regular occurrence seeing our drivers win races and perform Polish Victory Laps from coast to coast.
“Evan won the ‘Battle at Berlin’ for the biggest victory of his career,” said Roberts. “Jackson won at the Nashville Fairgrounds and won his first race at Pensacola. Haeden won the Idaho 200 and really got things going. Jacob has been remarkable in his rookie season driving a Super Late Model. While Riley didn’t have the season he was hoping for, his consistency put him in a position to challenge for the TUNDRA title. Kate displayed such a ‘never-give-up’ attitude and represented the KDDP very well.
“Dylan added four more wins during the second voting period and his off-track activities continued to be so impressive,” Roberts said. “But with our organization’s unique points system that averages the first two votes and adds a final balloting, the contest for the 2022 Kulwicki Cup Championship is far from over. The final few weeks of our competition offers all the drivers an opportunity to make a huge positive impression prior to the last vote in early November.”
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 Luke Fenhaus led from beginning to end last year.
Adverse weather conditions which resulted in many race cancellations have been an issue throughout the season for most of the 2022 KDDP finalists. With the on-track competition based on a driver’s best 15 finishes, only three of the finalists have competed in 15 races as of the cutoff date (September 30). Altogether, the seven racers have competed in 99 races, scoring 27 wins, 53 top-five finishes and 69 top-10s.
Compare that with last year at this point (after six of the seven months of competition was completed) when only one driver had competed in less than 15 races. Collectively, they had competed in 131 races, scoring 15 wins, 71 top-five finishes and 85 top-10s.
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COMPETITION POINTS TABULATED FROM DRIVER’S BEST 15 FINISHES (as of 9/30/22):
1. Dylan Zampa – 134 - 11 wins, 15 top 5s, 15 top 10s - 23 races
2. Evan Shotko – 120 - 8 wins, 14 top 5s, 15 top 10s - 19 races
3. Jackson Boone – 87 - 3 wins, 10 top 5s, 13 top 10s - 17 races
4. Haeden Plybon – 58 - 3 wins, 6 top 5s, 10 top 10s - 11 races
5. Jacob Nottestad – 49 - 2 wins, 4 top 10s, 7 top 10s - 10 races
6. Riley Stenjem – 44 - 0 wins, 3 top 5s, 6 top 10s - 9 races
7. Kate Re – 21 - 0 wins, 0 top 5s, 3 top 10s - 10 races
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With input received from all of the KDDP voting board members, Roberts offered these comments on each of the seven 2022 finalists:
“Dylan had a remarkable first half of the season, winning 7 races and only finishing outside of the top 10 just once. Since July 4th, Dylan has picked up 4 additional victories, continuing his domination of the NASCAR Weekly Series action at All American Speedway. Dylan also made his super late model debut on the SRL Southwest Tour this season. Dylan continues to excel off the track, raising over $11,000 for charity during the season. He still has a couple of big races on his schedule this year and is looking for additional success in finishing a very impressive 2022 campaign.”
“If Dylan was ‘Mr. First Half,’ for our 2022 program, Evan has definitely been ‘Mr. Second Half.’ Evan turned up the wick significantly since July 4th. He picked up 7 victories, including the prestigious ‘Battle at Berlin’ 250-lapper at his home track, beating Bubba Pollard, Derek Griffith, and Ty Majeski. He scored a rain-shortened win at the ‘Motor Mountain Masters’ in Jennerstown, Pennsylvania. Evan proved to be the dominant front-runner at Berlin Raceway as the summer wore on, putting a stranglehold on the season point championship and taking home his first Super Late Model title there.”
READ MORE: Evan Shotko Continues Massive Roll with Battle at Berlin Win
“Running against some of the toughest competition in the country, Jackson has shown that he will be in the mix wherever his No. 7 Late Model shows up. At his home track at the Nashville Fairgrounds, Jackson picked up his second win of the season in September, besting an exceptionally strong 32-car Pro Late Model field. He backed that up the next weekend with his first win at the tricky Five Flags Speedway in Florida, topping the best Pro Late Model racers in the South. Jackson will close out his season with three races at Nashville, hoping the ‘home cooking’ brings him his first All American 400 title on Halloween weekend.”
“Haeden is another driver who has turned it up in the second half of the season. He has scored two huge wins and five top-five finishes since July 4th. Haeden has proven himself to be a threat everywhere he runs, especially in the long-distance races. He scored a monumental win in the prestigious Idaho 200 in his Pro Late Model and then followed that up with his first Super Late Model win at Hermiston Raceway over the Labor Day weekend. Haeden has also been a menace on the stopwatch, scoring several quick time awards this season.”
READ MORE: KDDP Finalist Haeden Plybon Breaks Through at Hermiston
“A quiet guy having a quietly great season, Jacob has shown himself to be a threat every time he shows up in a Super Late Model battle. Jacob picked up a popular win at the Slinger Speedway over the 4th of July weekend and followed that up with a strong run in the Slinger Nationals, leading much of the first half of the race. Bad luck led to a string of subpar results later in the summer, but the car has been consistently fast. Jacob continues to learn how to manage the high-horsepower cars and his transition up to the Super Late Models has been so impressive.”
READ MORE: Nottestad Over Braun in a Barn Burner at Slinger
“The 2021 TUNDRA Super Late Model Series Champion certainly hoped for a repeat season but rain and mechanical issues have held Riley back for much of the year. However, when he has been on the track, he has been very consistent in his finishes. Riley has finished no worse than eighth-place at eight different race tracks, running with three different series. The Milwaukee School of Engineering student continues to improve on the track and off the track. He was impressive in giving back this season with a Bandolero training camp at Jefferson Speedway that he hosted with former KDDP finalist, Max Kahler.”
“Remember the old adage, ‘if it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all?’ Well, Kate has been the poster child for that saying this season. Hoping to build off a breakthrough year in 2021, Kate planned an ambitious schedule that took her family-run team on the road up and down the East Coast running both Super and Pro Late Models. However, mechanical gremlins, handling issues and rainouts and have plagued her all season. When not on the track, Kate has done a tremendous job representing the KDDP. Her efforts in raising money to send home state veterans to Washington, DC on an Honor Flight were very striking. When her team opted out of competing in the Oxford 250, putting two-time KDDP finalist Derek Griffith in her car was a popular turn of events. Kate has kept a great attitude throughout the season, and will definitely bounce back in 2023.”
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.
When the KDDP Advisory Board members reconvene early next month, they will cast their final votes which will award one of these 2022 drivers a check for $54,439 and the unique and prestigious Kulwicki Cup champion’s trophy that goes with it. They will join the illustrious list of KDDP champions which includes Ty Majeski (inaugural 2015 season), Alex Prunty (2016), Cody Haskins (2017), Brett Yackey (2018), Jeremy Doss (2019) and Luke Fenhaus (2021). There was no 2020 program due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our KDDP board members have continued to do such an exemplary job during the voting process,” said Roberts. “They have been totally professional in their evaluations and I have so much personal respect for all of them. As a group, we deliberated as much as possible during this most recent voting period. I appreciate all of their input greatly.
“The final few weeks of our competition this season promise to be very interesting,” Roberts said. “All the drivers are so personally competitive and want to finish as high up in the final standings as possible. They’ve all been outstanding when it comes to representing our program and have been such a pleasure to work with. Several of them have told me how much they’ve enjoyed being on the KDDP team and if they don’t win the Kulwicki Cup this year they hope to return as members of our 2023 class.
“All of the drivers have been so supportive of each other throughout the season and their camaraderie has been very impressive,” added Roberts. “They are all winners on and off the track. We’re really looking forward to getting them all together in Charlotte in December for our annual KDDP awards banquet and celebrate Alan’s birthday and the great season we’ve had.”
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The 2022 season marks the seventh full year for the KDDP as the program was on hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic. 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 Kulwicki Cup competition runs from April 1 through October 31. The final voting is targeted for the first week in November, with the 2022 KDDP “Kulwicki Cup” Champion expected to be announced on Thursday, November 17, exclusively on RacingAmerica.com. The champion and all the other competitors will be honored at the organization’s annual awards banquet, scheduled for Wednesday, December 14, in The Speedway Club at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The celebration will occur on what would have been Alan Kulwicki’s 68th birthday and will feature a live RacingAmerica.TV broadcast.
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.