On the anniversary of the day we lost Alan Kulwicki in a plane crash heading to Bristol Motor Speedway, I wanted to take a moment and share my memories of him.
During his championship run in 1992, I really respected the way he raced. I was a big Davey Allison fan and my dad was a huge Bill Elliott fan. We had common ground that we both really liked the way Alan Kulwicki did things. He didn’t win a whole lot, he didn’t have the best funded team and he wasn’t dominating the headlines. The one thing you could count on, he was there at the end of the race methodically finding his way into the top-10. When Kulwicki won the title over Elliott and Allison, both Dad and I were happy that if our guy didn’t win the title, Kulwicki did.
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Think about his team in 1992. He had future head wrenches Paul Andrews and Tony Gibson on that team. Kulwicki worked on the car as much as he worked to obtain sponsorship. He truly was an underdog and did something special. I know Tony Stewart won the title as an owner-driver, but it pales in comparison to what Alan Kulwicki did in 1992.
I love the statement from the president of Richard Childress Racing in response to the penalties handed down to Ryan Newman’s team. “We understand the seriousness of the penalty. In fact, RCR has been one of the most outspoken opponents against ‘tire bleeding’ since the rumors began to surface last season. Once NASCAR provides us with the specific details of the infraction we will conduct a further internal investigation, and evaluate our options for an appeal.” In other words show us what you think you have on us. Prediction from the recliner… Childress wins on appeal because how can you prove that someone tampered with the tires. Goodyear passes them out at the track and there are 5 million media, camera phones and other competitors ready to rat someone out if they are cheating. I don’t see how there is more than circumstantial evidence of a possible violation.
Tonight I was thinking of some of my favorite drivers who are not with us anymore. Alan Kulwicki killed in a plane crash. Davey Allison in a helicopter crash. Dale Earnhardt, Adam Petty, Kenny Irwin all died in racing accidents. The saddest to me is still Dick Trickle.
He always made Sportscenter because Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann loved to say his name. He won close to 1,000 races before coming south to drive in the then Winston Cup Series. He loved to race and he loved to drink beer after the race. He was always full of live until he took his own. Trickle’s death was more tragic than any of the other ones because it was preventable.
I know I am drifting away from racing here, but please stay with me. I was a Soldier in the U.S. Army. Many of my friends are veterans or still Soldiers. NASCAR does a great job by recognizing veterans and Soldiers at many of their races like the Folds of Honor 500 in Atlanta. That is great, but it lasted an afternoon. Each day, 22 veterans take their own lives. That is close to 8,000 a year. While we sit comfortably watching a three-hour race, two or three veterans have given up and ended their lives. Please take a moment and if you have a friend, neighbor or relative who is a veteran, ask them if they are alright. Ask them if they need someone to talk to. Suicide is preventable. Someone could have helped Dick Trickle if they asked the right questions. You could possibly help a veteran if you ask them if you need help. If you do that, you have done more than Jimmie Johnson did by winning six championships. You did more than Bill France Sr. by starting NASCAR. You will have saved a life.
Today we remember Alan Kulwicki on the anniversary of the plane crash. It was a tragedy. Today we also have the chance to avoid a tragedy in your neighborhood.
Thanks for indulging me.