CONCORD, N.C. (Nov. 15, 2021) – Rising racing star Luke Fenhaus has claimed the 2021 Kulwicki Driver Development Program (KDDP) Kulwicki Cup Championship. The 17-year-old driving phenom from Wausau, Wisconsin, held off hard-charging Dylan Zampa, a 17-year-old up-and-comer from Napa, California, to win the rich and prestigious annual award which honors NASCAR Champion and Hall of Famer Alan Kulwicki.
The final 2021 KDDP Kulwicki Cup point standings:
1st - Luke Fenhaus - 1,130
2nd - Dylan Zampa - 995
3rd - Wyatt Alexander - 808
4th - Ryan Kuhn - 638
5th - Max Kahler - 478
6th - Kole Raz - 451
7th - Brooke Storer - 186
“Our 2021 battle for the Kulwicki Cup came down to a contest between two of racing’s brightest future stars,” said KDDP Executive Director Tom Roberts. “When you consider how young Luke and Dylan are and what they accomplished this season, we think it’s a statement of how healthy short track racing is across the nation. That’s especially true when you take into account that Luke represented racing in the Midwest and Dylan was honing his skills and turning heads out on the West Coast.
“After our program had to go on hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic, it was so thrilling to bounce back this season with our seven KDDP finalists representing all areas of the country,” said Roberts. “Overall, our 2021 class of drivers was one of the best ever in representing Alan Kulwicki and our organization both on and off the track.
“Luke, our lone second-year finalist (finished fourth in 2019), became only the second driver in our program’s history to lead the point standings from start to finish,” noted Roberts. “We think that’s a true testament to the incredible season that Luke and his team experienced this year. The only other driver to lead all the way was our inaugural champion, Ty Majeski. Everyone can recall the amazing season Ty had back in 2015 in winning the first Kulwicki Cup Award. His hard work led to additional opportunities higher up the racing ladder and we’re hoping that will be the same scenario for Luke.
“Dylan established himself as the brightest young star in years on the West Coast this season,” said Roberts. “It was quite amazing to see his improvement behind the wheel this year. He was a serious threat to win in almost every race he competed in. Witnessing the respect he gained from all the other competitors and his growing fan base was extremely impressive.”
Fenhaus and Zampa coupled strong on-track finishes with diligent community service work and impactful social media activities. Those attributes were key in the KDDP voting board members casting their final ballots.
“Both Luke and Dylan were so incredible this year and our voters considered all factors during their final evaluations,” Roberts said. “All of our voters were quick to recognize the exemplary job both drivers did in representing Alan and our organization in their off-track undertakings.
“I was personally touched by the unique and effective measures Luke and Dylan utilized to educate a new generation about who Alan was and what he stood for, especially during our final month of October,” added Roberts. “Their off-track activities were so impressive and they truly did make a difference in their communities.”
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The KDDP voting board members’ final evaluation of the 2021 class members produced these summaries on each competitor:
On his way to the 2021 KDDP Championship, Luke Fenhaus picked up three victories, including the prestigious Slinger Nationals in July. That victory led to an opportunity to race in the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) the following week on the high-banked quarter-mile Slinger oval. Luke led the majority of the feature race and ended up finishing second to IndyCar veteran Marco Andretti. He drew massive praise from SRX founders Tony Stewart and Ray Evernham, who lauded his poise, professionalism, and car control. Luke won the 2021 Slinger Speedway Super Late Model Championship over the legendary Rich Bickle, Jr., and locked up the Alive for Five series title at Dells Raceway Park in October. Luke was an active member of his community throughout the season, volunteering at a local food bank, taking his race car to different schools and camps around Wausau, and raising money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
California’s Dylan Zampa had a breakthrough season in 2021, finishing a strong second in the KDDP season standings and picking up six wins in 22 races. Zampa traveled the Spears SRL Southwest Tour Pro Late Model Series for the first time, finishing second in the points to 2019 KDDP Champion Jeremy Doss and scoring a popular win at his home track, All American Speedway in Roseville, California. He gained tremendous respect from the other competitors, officials and fans alike. He laid the foundation for future success in 2022 and beyond, while becoming a fan favorite wherever he raced. Dylan volunteered throughout the season for Napa Valley Food Bank and raised a remarkable $12,000 for various charities.
The 2021 season was a big step forward in the racing career of Ellsworth, Maine’s Wyatt Alexander as he picked up a career high three victories in weekly competition at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. Wyatt’s last win of the year came in the final race ever at the venerable Maine speed plant, as he bested more than 30 cars including the best racers in the region. Wyatt finished as the Northeast Region Rookie of the Year in the NASCAR Whelen All American Series (NWAAS) and second in the NWAAS points in the state of Maine. In 22 races this season, Wyatt finished in the top-10 a remarkable 21 times.
Ryan Kuhn was the KDDP program’s “Mr. Consistency,” scoring 15 top-five finishes and 23 top-10s in 26 total races across Pro and Super Late Model competition. Ryan stepped up his traveling, visiting Hickory Motor Speedway in April, and competed on tracks throughout the Northeast. Despite his widespread success this year, Ryan did not visit victory lane, but finished second an impressive seven times. During the final months, Ryan picked up his community service efforts, and became a critical volunteer for the Meals on Wheels program in his hometown of Bridgewater, Massachusetts.
After winning the Big 8 Series championship in 2020, Illinois’ Max Kahler built upon that strong campaign by jumping into Super Late Model competition with the Midwest Tour and other regional series. Despite bad luck and mechanical issues, Max persevered and showed improvement throughout the year. He jumped back into late model competition at his home track, Rockford Speedway, and picked up two victories in weekly competition. Max volunteered all season long at the Rock River Valley Food Pantry and the Compassion Closet in his hometown.
Oregon’s Kole Raz ran the entire Spears SRL Southwest Tour for Super Late Models in 2021. Kole qualified and ran well many nights on the tour, but suffered multiple mechanical failures. His final results do not share the whole story of his season. Several times throughout the season, Kole headed back to his native Pacific Northwest to race with the Northwest Super Late Model tour. He picked up his lone victory of the season on Labor Day Weekend at the Hermiston Raceway in Oregon. Kole worked with Ayden’s Army of Angels, a charity for pediatric cancer research and care.
Incredibly popular Florida driver Brooke Storer continued to see her massive fan base grow during the 2021 season, in spite of facing a myriad of obstacles. She displayed remarkable perseverance in dealing with numerous mechanical issues, several occurring while running up front. Just as her season appeared to be turning around this fall, several of her scheduled races were cancelled due to a tire shortage. She was able to compete in only 10 races carrying the KDDP colors. Brooke and her small family-run team still have a couple of races remaining this season. She was extremely impressive in her involvement with the Pets for Patriots non-profit project.
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The 2021 seven-driver KDDP team combined for 15 wins, 73 top-five finishes and 107 top-10s during the seven months of competition. Here is the final on-track competition points and schematic:
KULWICKI DRIVER DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM – SEASON STANDINGS - FINAL
- DYLAN ZAMPA 114
- LUKE FENHAUS 102
- WYATT ALEXANDER 98
- RYAN KUHN 90
- MAX KAHLER 75
- KOLE RAZ 64
- BROOKE STORER 35
Zampa 6 wins, 15 top 5s, 16 top 10s – 22 races
Fenhaus 3 wins, 15 top 5s, 22 top 10s – 31 races
Alexander 3 wins, 13 top 5s, 20 top 10s – 21 races
Kuhn 0 wins, 15 top 5s, 23 top 10s – 26 races
Kahler 2 wins, 8 top 5s, 11 top 10s – 22 races
Raz 1 win, 4 top 5s, 9 top 10s – 15 races
Storer 0 wins, 3 top 5s, 6 top 10s – 10 races
“Dylan was able to accumulate more on-track competition points than Luke this season and that is a great example of how effective and all-encompassing our KDDP points system is,” Roberts said. “Drivers earn competition points based on their best 15 finishes, but levels of competition, car counts and the like are taken in consideration in the board members’ judging points. With drivers competing in various late model divisions all across the country, our voters are sometimes faced with comparing apples to oranges – or Super Late Models in Wisconsin versus Pro Late Models in California – and our system has proven to be extremely functional through the years. That was certainly the case this season.”
Fenhaus becomes the third KDDP champion hailing from the Badger State. He joins Ty Majeski of Seymour, Wisconsin (2015), Alex Prunty of Lomira, Wisconsin (2016), Cody Haskins of Marietta, Georgia (2017), Brett Yackey of Greeley, Colorado (2018) and Jeremy Doss of Upper Lake, California (2019) as the organization’s sixth title winner.
Fenhaus and the other six members of the 2021 KDDP class will be honored during the KDDP’s annual awards banquet set for Thursday, Dec. 9 in the Speedway Club at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Highlighting the activities for the evening (also celebrating what would have been
Alan Kulwicki’s 67th birthday on December 14) will be the presentation of the winner’s check for $54,439 and the special KDDP “Kulwicki Cup” champion’s trophy to Fenhaus. Official media partner, Racing America, powered by Speed51.TV, will offer a live-streaming broadcast of the event free to subscribers.
While the 2021 season is over, drivers can start applying for the 2022 Kulwicki Driver Development Program beginning on Monday, November 29. Please visit www.kulwickiddp.com on or after that date for the application and additional information. All applications are due on Friday, December 31, 2021.