When Kendra Adams was just 13 years old, she received a race car as Christmas gift from her parents. Five years later, she’s laying the rubber down on a solid start to her racing career.

The 18-year-old Innisfil native has been named one of 21 semi-finalists in the chase to represent the Kulwicki Driver Development Program (KDDP). Established in 2015 by the family of Alan Kulwicki to keep the legacy of the 1992 NASCAR Winston Cup champion alive, KDDP is a short track driver development program for pro and super late North American drivers aimed at helping young men and women drivers achieve their racing dreams.

Adams was selected from a number of racers with experience in late model stock, pro late model, super late more or a comparable style of racing. The Innisfil driver and the other semi-finalists will now take part in an interview process with the KDDP advisory board, before a final group of seven drivers are selected to represent the program this season.

A third generation race car driver, Adams would soon begin to learn how to drive after receiving that first car at Christmas. She jumped off the starting line in her rookie year at Sunset Speedway, finishing eighth in the Mini Stock standings and just missing Rookie of the Year honours by one position.

“(The race car) was what I asked for (at Christmas) and I got it,” Adams said. “It was a huge game changer for me.”

Five years later, Adams already has several accomplishments on the track, including being named Ontario’s NASCAR Provincial Rookie of the Year in the late model division. A first-year business marketing student at Fanshawe College, she divides her time between Innisfil and Mooresville, North Carolina where she’s honing her craft and gaining valuable experience in all aspects of short track racing.

Adams, who also helps with causes including Kids Help Phone and Make-a-Wish, will return to Canada this spring to race full-time in the NASCAR Limited Late Model Series. She hopes to be one of seven drivers selected on March 15 to take part in the fourth annual chase for the Kulwicki Cup. Each driver will receive a one-time stipend of $7,777 in U.S. funds to help with expenses during the season-long chase.

KDDP participants will compete for a $54,000 (U.S.) grand prize and will be judged on race results. Drivers must compete in a minimum of 15 races during the season, off-track civic participation, program promotion, fan interaction and stewardship of Kulwicki’s story.

Photo: Innisfil’s Kendra Adams is one of 21 semi-finalists in the Kulwicki Driver Development Program. Special photo.