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The Frontstretch
AK Fans Honor Their Hero “Their Way”
Dennis Michelsen
April 3, 2003
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Ten years after fate took away our reigning Winston Cup champion the fans still remember with a passion that is addictive! A full house at the Greenfield Wisconsin Hooter’s Restaurant sure reminds us that as the time goes by the pain of loss might weaken, but thankfully the memories of his greatness grow! Even the folks that just stumbled across the festivities during their regular Hooter’s run got in the spirit!

I want to take a moment to thank everyone that took time from their busy lives to honor Alan Kulwicki.

I want to thank Dennis Mielcarek for letting us join him at the cemetery and for doing all the heavy lifting to get things set up for the get together.

I want to thank Sarah and the folks at Hooter’s for their hospitality.

I want to thank Alan’s cousin that shared a table with me; and an old friend that shared her photographs and memories with me too.

I want to thank everyone there for making this “FIB” feel welcome; I didn’t even tell them I hate the Bears! (Go Packers!) “FIB” does mean “Friendly Illinois Buddy,” right?

The evening started with one of Dennis Mielcarek’s AK videos, the interview Benny Parson did with Alan after his Championship. Listening to AK’s words about the future was very spooky. I started pondering what would the future have been like if Alan was still alive today. A few times I had to choke back a few tears, but looking around I saw I wasn’t alone!

It was then my turn to share a few thoughts with the audience. I admit I felt out of place speaking in front of so many people that knew Alan a whole lot better than I did. I received so many E-mails from people from all over the country that wished they could be there with us, that was my way of bringing them along in spirit. There was a lady named Stacy that named her daughter Bristol Allyn in honor of AK. Larry and Pam Bean who restored Alan’s famous “Underbird” to its original condition sent their thoughts. But the most poignant words came from Alan himself. “Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal.”

The second of Dennis Mielcarek’s memorable videotapes was one I had not seen before. It was a tribute to AK done by the local media in Milwaukee. Such great scenes of Alan doing things “His Way.” When Garth Brooks “The Dance” played along with the scenes of AK and his family it was a moving moment. All these pictures moving past reminding us once again how fleeting life can be. Once again I reflected back on his life and how he got robbed of his chance to bask in the glory of being the reigning champion.

A caravan of cars and trucks left for the cemetery for the candle light vigil. Many of the vehicles had “AK 7” all over them! It was a bit spooky being at the gravesite at the exact time ten years after the time of his death. While a bit chilly it was decent weather by early April standards in Milwaukee. So many fans came up to me to share a thought, thank me, and just let me know they were glad to have company to share their memories of their hero! Thanks also to the fan that led us in prayer.

The question remains, what made Alan Kulwicki so special to so many people?

Here was a driver that avoided the glare of the spotlight. A work-a-holic that made money go farther than his competitors with a good old-fashioned work ethic. Here was an educated man that never forgot his common sense values and who helped get him to the top. But most of all, a man serves as an inspiration to many people; whether they loved him or just watched him race! Alan you sure did it your way…and we thank you for the memories!

Copyright, 2003, Frontstretch Enterprises, LLC

Dennis has followed NASCAR since the days when you were lucky to get a snippet of a race on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. His all time favorite drivers in the old days were Buddy Baker, Donnie Allison, and the “Silver Fox” David Pearson. A certifiable racing junky, he can be found on many summer evenings at Rockford Speedway.

Dennis is a fan of the sport more than any particular driver. But a race season is not complete unless Mark Martin, the Labontes, Dale Earnhardt JR, Kevin Harvick, and Tony Stewart find their way to Victory Lane!

You can find his coverage every week on Tuesdays (Odds and Ends) and Thursdays (Fantasy Insight) with occasional feature stories tossed in from time to time. you can E-mail Dennis at dennis@frontstretch.com

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