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Max Cookson Wins 2023 Kulwicki Cup Championship

The dynamic 20-year-old Super Late Model driver led the program’s point standings all season long and becomes the first KDDP titlist hailing from the Northeast.


hero image for Max Cookson Wins 2023 Kulwicki Cup Championship

Max Cookson, a promising young multitalented racer from Palmyra, Maine, has won the 2023 Kulwicki Driver Development Program (KDDP) Kulwicki Cup Championship. The dynamic 20-year-old Super Late Model driver led the program’s point standings all season long and becomes the first KDDP titlist hailing from the Northeast.

“Max enjoyed a spectacular history-making season in 2023 while representing Alan and our program,” said KDDP Executive Director Tom Roberts. “He turned heads for all the right reasons during the entire seven months of chasing the Kulwicki Cup and our voting panel certainly rewarded him for his efforts.”

Perhaps this commentary from one of the seven balloters best exemplified the panel’s overall view:

“What an incredible year that Max had in one of the toughest racing areas in the country,” the voter noted. “Oxford Plains Champ, PASS North Champ, PASS National Champ…can’t say enough about this 20-year-old kid. He did it all and was so active with his community and charity work. He used social media to document his season and presented it so well. He exemplifies what the KDDP is all about. There are big things ahead for Max and he will represent Alan and the KDDP very well.”

Cookson put his name in the racing chronicles forever by being the first competitor ever to capture the three points titles, while scoring five wins and 15 top-five finishes in 31 races during the KDDP competition. With the “handicap system” in his races which saw race winners having to start from the rear in regular 30-car starting fields, Cookson passed more than 250 cars while carrying the Kulwicki colors.

“During our Zoom call presentations by the drivers, Max produced an impressive graphic which illustrated how competitive his races were along with the ‘cars passed’ figures,” Roberts said. “That made a huge impact on our voters and reinforced his other striking statistics.

“The community service work that Max did was extraordinary and very touching, especially his season-long work with the Maine Autism Society,” added Roberts. “He was so effective in supporting and reinforcing all of his off-track activities with excellent social media skills.”

Cookson finished the 2023 Kulwicki Cup points battle atop the standings with 1,137 points. Spokane, Washington’s rising racing star Haeden Plybon finished as the runner-up with 843 points. Franklin, Tennessee’s Jackson Boone was third (728 points) and was followed by Stoughton, Wisconsin’s Riley Stenjem (633 points); Coopersville, Michigan’s Evan Shotko (621 points); Elon, North Carolina’s Jacob Borst (521 points); and Merrill, Wisconsin’s Levon Van Der Geest (282 points).

After the third evaluation of the drivers, here are the final 2023 KDDP Kulwicki Cup point standings:

1st - Max Cookson - 1,137
2nd - Haeden Plybon - 843
3rd - Jackson Boone - 728
4th - Riley Stenjem - 633
5th - Evan Shotko - 621
6th - Jacob Borst - 521
7th - Levon Van Der Geest - 282

“While Max accumulated the second-most total points in program history, his 77 bonus points tally (given by voters for ‘exceptional contributions’ to the program) was the most ever and would equate to an additional first-place judging vote,” Roberts noted. “That was a true statement for how powerful Max’s season appeared to our voters.

“We had a program history-making squad this year in that for the first time ever all seven drivers were race winners,” Roberts offered. “During the seven months of competition, they combined to score an eye-catching 27 victories, 86 top-five finishes and 95 top-10s.

At the conclusion of the seven-month Kulwicki Cup competition on November 15, here’s how the on-track competition points looked (points/wins/top-5s/top-10s/number of races & breakdown based on their top 15 races):

2023 KDDP On-Track Competition Points

Total Points, Wins, Top-5s, Top-10s & Total Races

(FINAL – TOP 15 RACES FROM 4/15/23 THROUGH 11/15/23)

1. Haeden Plybon – 114 points, 6 wins, 18 top-5s, 19 top-10s. 22 races
2. Max Cookson – 110 points, 5 wins, 17 top-5s, 26 top-10s, 31 races
3. Jackson Boone – 106 points, 6 wins, 12 top-5s, 14 top-10s, 17 races
4. Riley Stenjem – 98 points, 2 wins, 16 top-5s, 20 top-10s, 29 races
5. Jacob Borst – 94 points, 1 win, 16 top-5s, 19 top-10s, 22 races
6. Evan Shotko – 86 points, 6 wins, 9 top-5s, 10 top-10s, 14 races
7. Levon Van Der Geest -- 63 points, 1 win, 5 top-5s, 11 top-10s, 20 races

“This was the most talented and competitive team of drivers in our program’s history and the statistics certainly back that assessment up,” Roberts said. “With all the drivers participating in the Zoom call presentations to our board members, it was quite fascinating and so heartwarming to witness the camaraderie that grew within this group throughout the season.

“For the first time ever, we had Kulwicki Cup finalists who united in working together on special fund-raising projects,” noted Roberts. “There were some ground-breaking and innovative efforts from this team of drivers that we think will lead to more thinking outside the box by our future classes.

“Our 2023 KDDP team members are all looking forward to attending our banquet in Charlotte next month and getting to know each other even better,” Roberts said. “We’ll have two days of fun and excitement scheduled for them, with kart racing, a NASCAR Cup shop tour, a special function hosted by the W.S. Lee College of Engineering at UNC Charlotte and a visit to the Ford Performance Technical Center all on the itinerary.”

Cookson and the six other drivers representing the 2023 KDDP Class will be recognized during the organization’s annual awards banquet set for Thursday, December 14, in The Speedway Club at Charlotte Motor Speedway. On what would have been Alan Kulwicki’s 69th birthday, Cookson will be presented the coveted Kulwicki Cup Trophy and the champion’s check for $54,439. The evening will also feature a special “roundtable” discussion by members of the 1992 AK Racing/Hooters Championship Team and legendary racer Geoff Bodine, who acquired the team after Kulwicki’s untimely passing. RacingAmerica.TV will offer a live broadcast of the event.

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.

-Kulwicki Driver Development Program Release
-Photo credit: Will Bellamy/Racing America

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