Wednesday, April 1, 2009

16 years ago we lost Alan Kulwicki.

He was nicknamed “Special K” and the “Polish Prince”. Alan Kulwicki arrived to NASCAR with no sponsor, a limited budget, and only a racecar and a borrowed pickup truck. Despite the setbacks he still won the 1986 NASCAR Rookie of the Year award. When he won his first race at Phoenix International Raceway, he debuted what we know call the “Polish Victory Lap.” In 1992, he won the Winston Cup championship. However, he was unable to defend his championship because he passed away tragically in 1993.

Kulwicki died in an airplane crash on April 1st, 1993. He was returning from an appearance at a Knoxville Hooters before the Sunday spring race at Bristol Motor Speedway. The NTSB attributed the crash to the pilot’s failure to use the airplane anti-ice system to clear ice from the engine inlet system.

Kulwicki’s racecar transporter was driven from the rainy Bristol Motor Speedway that Friday morning while other teams and media watched it travel slowly around the track with a black wreath on its grille. Kyle Petty described the slow laps as “the saddest thing I’ve ever seen at a racetrack…We just sat and cried”. On Sunday, Alan’s friend Rusty Wallace won, and honored his friend by doing the “Polish Victory Lap.”

Before his death, Alan Kulwicki competed in five NASCAR races that season with three Top 6 finishes, and was ranked 9th in points. In his career he won five NASCAR Winston Cup races, 24 pole positions, 75 Top 10 finishes, and one championship in 207 races. Today we remember Alan Kulwicki. His life was cut too short.