Riley Stenjem is applying his mechanical engineering skillsets to a rather unique extracurricular activity: racecar driving—and it’s paying off. Stenjem recently was selected as a finalist for the Kulwicki Driver Development Program (KDDP). KDDP honors the legacy of Alan Kulwicki, a Greenfield, Wisconsin native who won the 1992 NASCAR Winston Cup championship against long odds, by helping young drivers pursue their racing dreams.

Finalists of the KDDP receive a stipend of $7,777 (a nod to Kulwicki’s car number, 7) used to support the team with race costs, as well as assistance in marketing, publicity, sponsor development and industry networking. Through KDDP, Stenjem will compete against the six other finalists for the grand prize of $54,439 (seven times the original amount). The competition weighs off-track accomplishments and community engagement.

“Being selected as a finalist to the KDDP means a lot to me and our team,” said Stenjem. “Not only does it help our racing program, but it allows us to use our platform to engage with our community and tell Alan’s story. Being a mechanical engineering student here at MSOE like Alan was at UW-Milwaukee makes it feel even more special to follow in those footsteps.”

The Kulwicki Cup competition goes from April 1 to Oct. 31 and is filled with nonstop activity on and off the track for racers like Stenjem. He will compete in approximately 30 races across the Midwest in series such as the ARCA Midwest Tour, TUNDRA Super Late Model Series and Alive for 5 Super Late Model Series. Off the track, he and his team will dedicate their time to helping the community in a variety of ways.

“We are planning to work with the American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison to raise money for the Greatest Need Fund as well as other opportunities that present themselves within the children’s hospital. We are planning to go to local schools and talk about how racing and the technology in the cars translates to the things that they are learning in their STEM classes. Finally, I will be a mentor to two young drivers in a division called Bandoleros as they compete in a Future Legends program this season,” said Stenjem.

While time consuming, the process is a dream come true for Stenjem. Growing up in Stoughton, Wisconsin, Stenjem spent time watching races at the Madison International Speedway and Angell Park Speedway with his parents and grandpa. “I have had the [racing] itch as long as I can remember. I begged my parents to buy me a racing go-kart for years, and finally when I was 12 years old, they caved in. I have been racing competitively ever since.”

Being around racing his whole life inspired Stenjem to pursue a career in mechanical engineering. “I believe having a mechanical engineering background gives me a great edge on the competition. This background allows me to understand not only what certain aspects of the car do, but why they do them from an engineering perspective. Having the knowledge of this kind will help me throughout my racing career.”

Coming from a small town, Stenjem naturally gravitated to MSOE’s small-school feel. “I graduated high school with 58 kids in my class, which made me realize that I probably don’t belong at a school with 300 students in a single lecture. Almost four years here now, I believe I made the right decision.”

Stenjem will graduate in November 2022 and hopes to continue racing as well as work as an engineer in the racing community. You can keep up with his KDDP journey by following him on social media: Stenjem Motorsports on Facebook and @77stenjem77 on Twitter.