Alan Kulwicki

Born: December 14, 1954
Greenfield, Wisconsin

Died: April 1, 1993 (aged 38)
Cause of death: Airplane crash near Blountville, Tennessee

Career Accomplishments:
1992 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion

Five career NASCAR Winston Cup victories

1986 NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year

Five career American Speed Association victories

Two-time track champion at Slinger Speedway and Wisconsin International Raceway

When an independent spirit goes against the grain and tries to do things their own way, they often receive resistance from the status quo. They face doubt, derision, and a lack of acceptance. The independents among us seek to break new ground and find new ways to achieve greatness, and struggle as they might, respect begins to grow. When success comes, the one-time naysayers become followers, warming to innovation, finally realizing what the independent knew all along: my way is the way forward.

For Greenfield, Wisconsin native Alan Kulwicki, this has always been the case. Ever since he began racing on the hotly contested short tracks of Wisconsin, Alan used his engineering degree from UW-Milwaukee to better understand the physics of racing. He worked with setups, shocks, and chassis geometry in ways never before seen in the pits of a race track. Trying to fund his race team, Alan learned early on that business and sponsor relationships were a critical to making his car go fast, a lesson he carried all the way through his career. By 1980, Alan had won two track championships at both Slinger and Kaukauna, and had become one of the drivers to beat in the world of Wisconsin short track racing.

After experiencing success locally, Alan began to travel throughout the United States and Canada with the American Speed Association, the continent’s premier short track stock car racing series. He finished second in the ASA point standings in 1982 and 1985 and won five races, including the coveted Miller 200 in 1983. Never one to linger in one series too long, Alan began to look south, and developed a plan to tackle his challenge: NASCAR. Selling all of his short track equipment, Alan loaded up his truck and trailer and headed to North Carolina in 1985. He ran a handful of races that first year with limited success, but he laid the groundwork for a successful rookie campaign in 1986. Winning the Rookie-of-the-Year with his own team proved to Alan that even with limited resources, his drive, devotion, and talent could take him very far in NASCAR.

1987 saw Alan take a giant step forward in the Winston Cup series, winning his first pole at Richmond, and nearly winning at Pocono until a run-in with Dale Earnhardt cost him the lead with two laps to go. With a new sponsor and a bigger budget, Alan was able to build his team into a weekly contender. By 1988, expectations were high, and despite a few close finishes, he was still winless as the end of the season approached. However, in the next-to-last race at Phoenix, Alan took the lead with a handful of laps remaining and hung on for his first NASCAR victory. To celebrate, Alan turned his car around and drove a “Polish Victory Lap” backwards around the one-mile track. Alan’s success made him a hot commodity in the garage area, and car owners from Junior Johnson to Bud Moore came calling. Alan turned them all down, preferring to stick with his own team. The team had come so far on its own – he had to see it through.

Despite sponsorship woes, Alan won a race in both 1990 and 1991, and by late summer 1992, had collected two additional victories and was in the middle of tight points battle with Bill Elliott and Davey Allison. Despite being in the hunt, Alan and the Hooters Team found themselves 278 points behind the leader after the Dover race in September. The team regrouped, put their heads down, and made a dramatic charge to the front. As their adversaries suffered mechanical issues, Alan’s consistency on the track put him in the position to win the title at the last race of the season in Atlanta. After point leader Davey Allison was knocked out of the race in a frontstretch accident, Alan and Bill Elliott staged a dramatic duel to the finish, with fuel mileage and the five bonus points received for leading the most laps making the difference. Alan stayed out longer than Elliott, leading one additional lap, closing out Elliott and, barring some unforeseen problem, clinching the title. As Alan flashed under the checked flag in second place, the team erupted – the underfunded underdogs had beaten the best in the business and had won the 1992 NASCAR Winston Cup Championship! Alan was the first driver with a college degree, and the first owner-driver since Richard Petty in 1979 to win the championship.

Sadly, the celebration was short-lived as Kulwicki, along with four others, were killed in a small plane crash near Blountville, Tennessee on April 1, 1993. The Winston Cup circuit was at Bristol Motor Speedway, site of two of Kulwicki’s five victories and one of his favorite tracks. After his crew solemnly packed the transporter, it took one final lap around the track as drivers, crew members, and fans stood in tribute to the underdog champion who did it “his way.”

Alan’s life and legacy is defined by the passionate pursuit of a dream, an enthusiastic drive for excellence, an amazing commitment to education and learning, and the application of innovation, inventiveness, and entrepreneurialism to one’s life and career.

Year Rank Points Starts Wins Top 5 Top 10 Avg. Start Avg. Finish Winnings
1985 40 509 5 0 0 0 25.7 20.3 $10,290
1986 21 2705 23 0 1 4 22.1 15.7 $83,450
1987 15 3238 29 0 3 9 14.1 18.2 $284,375
1988 14 3176 29 1 7 9 10.1 19.2 $364,190
1989 14 3236 29 0 5 9 7.3 18.8 $425,500
1990 8 3599 29 1 5 13 11.8 14.5 $403,662
1991 13 3354 29 1 4 11 6.8 17.0 $518,645
1992 1 4078 29 2 11 17 10.6 10.6 $907,510
1993* 41 625 5 0 2 3 15.8 15.0 $153,470
Totals 24,520 207 5 38 75 12.0 16.4 $3,151,092
Photos of Alan Kulwicki More Photos
Photos of Alan Kulwicki Race Cars
Photos of Alan Kulwicki Race Trophies

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Kulwicki Experience Exhibit Elements

  • Kulwicki's Kids
  • Dairyland Demons
  • UNDERBIRD The Life and Legacy of Alan Kulwicki
  • THE UNDERBIRD TOUR
  • NASCAR THE HISTORY

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