Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Fifteen Years Ago Today

Fifteen years ago today, April 1, 1993, Alan Dennis Kulwicki, the 1992 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion, was killed in a light plane crash. He was in one of his sponsor's (Hooters) planes on a publicity trip before a race at Bristol. He also represented the last of an era - the owner driver. Yes, there have been owner drivers in NASCAR since his death, but none of them have won the Cup. His cup victory over Bill Elliot was one of the closest points race ever, and his victory wasn't decided until the end of the Atlanta race.

Alan was the first Cup champion with a college degree. He was the first champion from a Northern state. The Polish Victory Lap is a tradition he started. He would take the checkered flag and drive around the track backwards, in a humorous poke at his Polish heritage. Rusty Wallace insured the Polish Victory Lap wouldn't be forgotten when he won the Bristol race following Kulwicki's death, and ran one in memoriam for his friend. For the remainder of the season, when Rusty or Dale Earnhardt won a race, they ran a Polish Victory Lap for Alan. The entire field had stickers of Kulwicki's #7 on their cars. After Davey Allison's death on July 13, 1993 in a helicopter crash, all the teams had a #28 displayed as well. At the final race of the season, race winner Rusty Wallace and series champion Dale Earnhardt carried flags in memory of Kulwicki and Allison in a Polish Victory Lap.

Now Earnhardt is gone, and Rusty is retired to the broadcast booth. Sometimes, being a NASCAR fan is bittersweet.


ptg said...

Its the same way with bullfighting.

Sezme said...

Nice post. :)

It is kind of hard to "bond" to today's racing personalities.