Shotko Again Selected for Kulwicki Driver Development Program
Special from Racing America - Officials of the Kulwicki Driver Development Program (KDDP) announced today the seven drivers who will represent the organization during the 2023 racing season. These young racers will be helping keep the memory and legacy of 1992 NASCAR Cup Champion and Hall of Famer Alan Kulwicki alive, while also competing for the rich and prestigious annual Kulwicki Cup Championship.
The drivers range from 18 to 23 years of age and hail from six different states, including Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin (2).
The seven drivers, in alphabetical order with hometown, background and social media information are:
JACKSON BOONE: Franklin, Tennessee – 23 (3/10/2000) – 2019 Nashville Fairgrounds PLM Champion was competitive everywhere he ran in 2022 – Won at Nashville & finished 3rd in 2022 KDDP standings – Plans to run mixture of Pro Late Model & Super Late Model races at Nashville & across Southeast -- Twitter & Instagram: @jacksonboone7
JACOB BORST: Elon, North Carolina – 18 (5/11/2004) – 2022 KDDP Semifinalist --Top rookie & points runner-up at South Boston Speedway in 2021 -- Feature winner & 3rd in 2022 points – Plans on racing NASCAR LMSC events at numerous tracks, plus select CARS Tour LMSC races – Twitter: @borst25 Instagram: @jacobborst25
MAX COOKSON: Palmyra, Maine – 20 (5/5/2003) – 2022 Oxford Plains Speedway Champion won in his SLM debut after much success in modifieds (2021 PASS Modified Champion) – Plans on running the entire Pro All Stars Series, as well as weekly races at Oxford Plains & select GSPSS events – Twitter: @MaxJCookson Instagram: @MaxCookson39
HAEDEN PLYBON: Spokane, Washington – 19 (11/15/2003) – Race winner & points runner-up in 2022 Northwest Super Late Model Series – 2022 Idaho 200 Winner – 4th in 2022 KDDP standings – Plans on running entire NWSLMS, plus special events in the Northwest & return trip to Snowball Derby – Twitter: @HaedenPlybon Instagram: @haeden55
EVAN SHOTKO: Coopersville, Michigan – 19 (7/4/2003) – 2022 Berlin Raceway track champion won the Battle at Berlin 250 & finished as 2022 KDDP runner-up – Plans on running in both PLM & SLM competition with complete schedule to be announced – Twitter: @EvanShotko22 Instagram: @shotko_racing
RILEY STENJEM: Utica, Wisconsin – 23 (12/22/1999) – 2021 TUNDRA Champion & race winner – finished 3rd in 2022 standings – 6th in 2022 KDDP standings -- Mechanical Engineering Degree from Milwaukee School of Engineering – Plans to run entire ASA Midwest Tour, plus selected SLM “big shows” in the Midwest – Twitter & Instagram: @77stenjem77
LEVON VAN DER GEEST: Merrill, Wisconsin – 18 (4/17/04) --Youngest winner ever at Milwaukee Mile (Midwest Trucks at 15) – Made successful transition from trucks to SLM -- Competing in SLM on Midwest Tour and at Slinger – Engineering student at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee – Twitter: @LevonVan Instagram: @levon_vdg
“I think this was the strongest group of semifinalists we’ve had from top to bottom so far,” said KDDP Executive Director Tom Roberts. “After narrowing all the original applications down to a list of 15 drivers, our advisory board had the monumental task of selecting just seven drivers out of that group. I’m convinced that every one of those candidates would have made exemplary representatives for the KDDP, but unfortunately, we are structured to support only seven drivers per year.
“I applaud our board for being so active in selecting our seven drivers for the 2023 season,” said Roberts. “We introduced video conference interviews into the equation this season and all of the drivers were so impressive. Our advisory team spent many hours evaluating and re-evaluating, asking questions about the drivers’ 2023 schedules, tracks, series, and so much more.
“I think that the most important aspect of the process in determining our drivers came in the final ‘open topic’ video meeting our group had,” Roberts said. “It came a week after all the driver interviews had been completed, with our voters having the time to review and formulate key criteria. It was evident that dedication and commitment were very important qualities they were looking for. Beyond just on-track results, they placed a strong emphasis on aspects like community engagement, education and potential effectiveness in honoring the legacy of Alan Kulwicki.
“I am thrilled with all the drivers our board has selected for 2023 and we are eager to get the season going and working with them all,” said Roberts. “It was very interesting to see how the voting produced such widespread representation for the program and it occurred without it being intentional. Drivers will be carrying Alan’s colors from coast to coast, with most every region covered. The obvious missing link would be the Southwest and California, but we’re confident that our reigning Kulwicki Cup Champion, Dylan Zampa, will be exemplary in representing Alan in that area.
“We realize that today’s announcement will make our seven special finalists extremely happy and proud, and they certainly should be,” Roberts said. “We urge them to strive to emulate the personal fortitude and dedication that Alan Kulwicki displayed in becoming a NASCAR Champion and Hall of Famer.
“As I said, we had so many worthy candidates who didn’t make our team this year,” offered Roberts. “We hope they realize how much of an accomplishment it was to have been selected as a KDDP Semifinalist. They are definitely on our radar screen for the future. We’ll be cheering for them to continue to show progress both on and off the track this season and urge them to apply again this fall for the 2024 edition of our program.”
The 2023 season will mark the eighth fully-functioning year for the KDDP, which was established in 2014 by the Kulwicki estate for the purpose of helping worthy drivers toward reaching their dreams while at the same time keeping Alan’s memory and legacy alive.
The seven drivers announced today as members of the 2023 KDDP class will each receive a one-time stipend of $7,777 to cover operational expenses. The organization will 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 “Kulwicki Cup.” That award winner will pick up an additional check worth seven times the initial prize ($7,777 x 7 = $54,439) and a special unique trophy.
This year’s Kulwicki Cup competition will go from April 14 through November 14. The contest’s points system is based on a combination of judging input from members of the advisory board and the drivers’ on-track performance. Drivers are given points for both their success in chasing checkered flags and for community engagement, program representation and social media activities.
The KDDP has a proven track record, assisting a total of 38 different promising young drivers (representing 17 states & two Canadian provinces) entering the 2023 season. The Kulwicki estate has provided $762,146 in combined stipend and championship award funding in addition to all of the immeasurable off-track support provided by the organization. Through 2022 (seven seasons), those 38 KDDP drivers have competed in a total of 1,105 races; recording 178 wins, 554 top-five finishes and 797 top-10 finishes.
“While our organization is currently financially solid, our funding is depleting and we are launching a full-scale effort to unite with a major presenting marketing partner for the future,” Roberts said. “We’re confident that with the foundation we’ve laid over the years, our program can be an extremely effective marketing tool for a corporate partner to utilize.”
The 2023 KDDP Kulwicki Cup Champion will join the distinguished group of former titlists that includes Ty Majeski (2015), Alex Prunty (2016), Cody Haskins (2017), Brett Yackey (2018), Jeremy Doss (2019), Luke Fenhaus (2021) and Dylan Zampa (2022).
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.
Story - Racing America
Photo - Koty Geyer