Neighbors Nottestad, Stenjem Proud to Be 2022 KDDP Finalists

The promising Wisconsin drivers share similar backgrounds and goals, but contrasts are abundant.

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CONCORD, N.C. (May 18, 2022) – Through the six seasons in the books for the Kulwicki Driver Development Program (KDDP), drivers hailing from 16 states and two Canadian provinces have been finalists in the rich and prestigious program. Much has been made over the years about the “coast to coast” impact that the battle for the annual Kulwicki Cup has brought to short track racing.

The widespread representation across North America was extremely visible during the 2018 edition, when 3,470 miles separated the hometowns of finalists Molly Helmuth of Seattle, Washington, from Porters Lake, Nova Scotia’s Cole Butcher. Participation in the program has created many friendships along the way and bonded the finalists to the point that more than 60 percent of the 32 drivers are running “Kulwicki Alumni” decals on their race cars this season.

Enter 2022 KDDP finalists Jacob Nottestad and Riley Stenjem. They illustrate the exact opposite of a broad delegation from a geographical standpoint. But, there’s so much more to the story…

READ MORE: 2022 Kulwicki Driver Development Program Finalists Announced

“We only live about a mile apart, but we don’t see each other much unless we’re at a race track and it’s always been that way,” said the 21-year-old Nottestad, who works with Mashuda Contractors as a heavy equipment operator.

“We live right down the same road from each other, County Road W, but our paths rarely cross unless we’re racing together,” said the 22-year-old Stenjem, who’ll be finishing up his studies at the Milwaukee School of Engineering this November.

Nottestad comes from a family with deep roots in Wisconsin short track racing. His great uncle (Randy) started it all. His dad and uncles have all enjoyed reputable careers in racing, with his father (Scott) winning the 2006 Limited Late Model Championship at Slinger Speedway and Uncle Dale is a six-time and defending Late Model Division Champion at Jefferson Speedway. Uncle Justin worked on Matt Kenseth’s pit crew at Joe Gibbs Racing for 10 years and is now shop foreman for Denny Hamlin’s team at JGR.

Stenjem’s dad raced mini-stocks at Jefferson out of high school and his uncle sponsored multi-time Madison Speedway Late Model Champion Bobby Wilberg. He grew up attending races at Madison regularly and often ventured to Angel Park Speedway with his grandfather to take in dirt midget action.

“We both attended the same high school, Cambridge High, but he was a year ahead of me and we didn’t have any classes together,” said Nottestad.

“Yes, Cambridge High School, about 10 minutes away from where we live…where Matt Kenseth went,” offered Stenjem. “I played on the basketball team and Jacob was on the golf team.”

Through the years, it’s their racing that has been the huge common denominator between these two hard-charging young Wisconsin drivers and former Cambridge High Blue Jay athletes. Both began their promising careers on the go-kart scene, but even then, there were contrasts.

“He started on dirt and I started on asphalt,” explained Stenjem. “It wasn’t until we both raced in oval karts when we first raced together.”

“It wasn’t until we both moved up to Legends, back in 2015 and 2016, when we really competed against one another very much,” added Nottestad.

Both racers saw success in INEX Legends racing and advanced to Late Model competition at Jefferson before again heading off in different directions.

Nottestad ventured into Big 8 Series racing in 2018 and then followed his father’s footsteps to become a regular at Slinger in 2019, where he won the (Pro) Late Model Championship and eight races. He claimed another title the following season. He moved up to Super Late Models last season and has won races at La Crosse and Jefferson. Nottestad is focused on running all the Elite 8 Super Late Model Series races at Slinger this season, gunning for the championship in the top division. He’ll also compete in select races elsewhere across the area.

Stenjen continued to race at Jefferson, before moving up to Supers full-time last season. He scored a podium finish in his first TUNDRA Series race in 2020 at Jefferson. He won the 2021 TUNDRA points championship, winning the race at Marshfield Speedway and finishing in the top five in all the races. Stenjem will run all the TUNDRA races this season, as well as the “Alive For Five” series races at Dells Raceway Park and also in ARCA Midwest Series competition.

While the pair of Badger State racers have different goals for the 2022 season, their paths will cross at race tracks on occasion. They share great appreciation for being finalists in this year’s battle for the rich and prestigious KDDP Kulwicki Cup Championship.

“I had been a semifinalist before, so I had great hopes of being named one of the seven drivers,” said Nottestad. “It was such a thrill to get the call and learn that we were chosen as a finalist. I’ll always remember doing my interview with Alan Dietz and the Racing America crew while on a break at work. It’s an honor to be out there representing Alan and helping keep his memory alive. We’re determined to do all we can to make him and the KDDP proud.”

“Being named a finalist is one of the highlights of my career so far,” said Stenjem. “Alan has always been a big hero of mine and a major reason I wanted to get an engineering degree. I’ve seen what a big boost in their careers that drivers like Ty Majeski, Alex Prunty and Luke Fenhaus received from being KDDP Champions and it’s such an inspiration. We’ve only raced a few times so far this season and we’re looking forward to making our mark before the year is over. We’re so proud to be one of the seven drivers wearing Alan’s colors in 2022.”

“It’s quite interesting that we have two finalists for the 2022 season who are neighbors,” said Tom Roberts, KDDP Executive Director. “What’s great for our organization is that Jacob and Riley have diverse schedules and we’ll have widespread representation up there this year. I think the situation reflects how healthy short track racing continues to be in that region of the country. Some areas are thankful to just have one local track to race on and this illustrates how blessed the competitors and fans are in the Upper Midwest to have so much racing going on.”

-Kulwicki Driver Development Program Press Release