|Born||December 14, 1954|
|Died||April 1, 1993 (age 38)|
|Sprint Cup statistics|
|Best pts finish||1st (1992)|
|First race||1985 Wrangler Sanfor-Set 400|
|Last race||1993 TranSouth 500|
|First win||1988 Checker 500|
|Last win||1992 Champion Spark Plug 500|
|Nationwide Series statistics|
|Best pts finish||50th (1984)|
|First race||1984 Red Carpet 200|
|Last race||1985 Milwaukee Sentinel 200|
|Career highlights and awards|
Alan Kulwicki (December 14, 1954 - April 1, 1993) was an American NASCAR driver. He drove the #7 Ford Thunderbird, first sponsored by Zerex and later by Hooters. His first sponsor was Quincy's Steakhouse, and the car number was 35. He was nicknamed "Special K".
Alan Kulwicki was born in Greenfield, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Alan received a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1977. Many attribute his success to his knowledge of engineering, which at the time was consider to be of less value than experience and intuition.
Alan won the 1973 Rookie of the Year award at the now defunct Hales Corners Speedway dirt track in Frankin (another Milwaukee suburb). He won the 1979 and 1980 Late Model track championship on the pavement at the Wisconsin International Raceway.
Winston Cup Career Edit
In 1985 Alan sold most of his belongings (except a pickup truck and a trailer) to move from Wisconsin to the southern United States. An electrical fire two days before he left destroyed his truck and trailer. He was the source of amusement at first to many veteran drivers. He was a mechanical engineer out of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in a sport in which most of his competitors only made it through high school. He could be seen walking the garage in his race uniform and carrying a brief case. He was driver, owner and often times his own crew chief. He had difficulty acquiring and keeping crew members. Notable crew members include Bobby Norfleet and Paul Andrews.
Kulwicki made his first start near the end of the 1985 season for Bill Terry. In 1986, Kulwicki could not find a ride, so he fielded his first Winston Cup racing team as owner and driver. With just two cars, two engines, and two full-time crew members, he won Winston Cup Rookie of the Year.
In 1988 he won his first NASCAR race at Phoenix International Raceway. He turned around his car, and made his now famous "Polish Victory Lap" by driving the wrong way on the track (driver's side toward the fans). He got in trouble with NASCAR officials.
The final race of the 1992 season was one of the most eventful races in NASCAR history. It was the final race for Richard Petty, the first race for Jeff Gordon, and six drivers were capable to win the championship that day. Kulwicki received approval from NASCAR and Ford to change the "Thunderbird" lettering on his bumper for the race to "Underbird" because he felt like the underdog for winning the championship. He finished second in the race (behind winner Bill Elliott). Most of the other five drivers had trouble, and Kulwicki became the 1992 Winston Cup Champion. He spun around his car, and did his only other Polish Victory Lap. He came from 278 points behind in the final six races, and his 10 point margin of victory over Elliott was the closest in NASCAR Cup Series history until the implemtation of the Chase for the Cup 12 years later. Kulwicki won the championship by leading one more lap than Elliott (103 to 102). This championship was a noteworthy accomplishment for several other reasons: he was the last Winston Cup winner who served as both driver and owner of his car/team, the first Winston Cup winner with a college degree, and the first Winston Cup winner not born in a southern state. Elliott gave Kulwicki a golden comb at the awards banquet as a spoof to Kulwicki's habit of combing his hair after leaving his racecar. The song played at the awards banquet was "My Way".
During his six-year Winston Cup career, Kulwicki won five Winston Cup races and earned 24 pole positions.
Tragic Death Edit
Tragically, Kulwicki was killed at age 38 in a plane crash on April 1, 1993, near Blountville, Tennessee, while returning in a Hooters corporate jet from an appearance prior to spring race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Three days after Kulwicki's death, Bristol race winner Rusty Wallace honored his old short track foe by turning Kulwicki's trademark reverse "Polish Victory Lap". Every winner for the remainder of the season honored Kulwicki with a Polish victory lap. Also for the remainder of the 1993 season, all cars entered in Winston Cup and Busch Series races carried stickers of Kulwicki's stylized #7 on their left and right B-posts (the center post between the two side windows). Upon Davey Allison's death, Kulwicki's #7 was joined by the stylized #28 from Allison's car. After the final race of the season, series champion Dale Earnhardt and race winner Wallace drove a side by side Polish victory lap carrying flags for fallen heroes Kulwicki and Allison.
Lasting Impact on NASCAR Edit
Kulwicki's success as an owner/driver sparked a small fad among NASCAR veterans. Geoff Bodine (who purchased Kulwicki's team after his death), his younger brother Brett, Ricky Rudd, and Bill Elliott all began racing teams after Kulwicki's death. However, none of them could reach the same success that Kulwicki did, and slowly but surely those drivers either sold their teams, or let them just fade away. NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Robby Gordon, the only current owner/driver in the sport who runs the full schedule, frequently mentions Alan as an inspiration for him as an owner/driver. Gordon, whose car carries the #7, picked this number as a tribute to Kulwicki.
Kulwicki Subject of Feature Film Edit
On April 1, 2005, the low budget feature film Dare to Dream: The Alan Kulwicki Story was released which chronicled Alan's life. The movie was created by Kulwicki's Wisconsin fans. The film was produced for less than $100,000 and was seen in 14 states and 80 cities, primarily across the NASCAR circuit. The film focuses on the events in Kulwicki's life that fed his desire to become champion... at all costs. The star of the film, Brad Webber, was a big Kulwicki fan and credits the late driver with being his inspiration to become an actor. The theme song for the film is entitled "Heroes Never Die" and was written by the writer/director of the film, David Orgas.
- He wore a custom Mighty Mouse patch on his drivers suit (MM wore an orange and white drivers suit).