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Brett Bodine ran an Alan Kulwicki memorial paint scheme last month at Bristol. Credit: Autostock
Brett Bodine ran an Alan Kulwicki memorial paint scheme last month at Bristol. Credit: Autostock

Stories provide glimpse of Kulwicki's character

By Ryan Smithson, Turner Sports Interactive April 1, 2003
11:03 AM EST (1603 GMT)

Alan Kulwicki was, by all accounts, a man that was obsessed with making his team succeed.

  Alan Kulwicki knew every detail of his car. Credit: ISC Publications, Inc. Archives
Alan Kulwicki knew every detail of his car. Credit: ISC Publications, Inc. Archives

Certain stories about the man are remarkable, and really show his character. Here are four of them.

The Apology

Bob Gulbranson worked on the No. 7 program for four years -- a year-and-a-half for Alan Kulwicki and two-and-a-half for Geoff Bodine.

But Gulbranson was nearly fired in March 1993, days before Kulwicki's death.

"I guess it was Monday (March 29, 1993)," Gulbranson said. "We were testing at (North) Wilkesboro. Us and Bill Elliott.

"We had a car, and oil line came off and oiled down the whole track. We lost half the day trying to clean the track off.

Kulwicki was named as one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.
Kulwicki was named as one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.

"He (Kulwicki) blew up at me because I was the one who was responsible, so I took the heat for it. He wanted to know who did it. I would not rat anyone out.

"At the time, he couldn't drive (on the street) because he had too many points on his license, and I rode back (to the shop) with him, and he yelled and screamed and threw a fit, told me I was fired, and when I got in the car, he talked like he was my best friend.

"The next day (Tuesday) he didn't talk to anybody and he was trying to find out who left the oil line loose.

"On Thursday morning, he went to church, and he usually did, but he didn't usually during the week. He apologized (to me), which he never did.

"He said, 'You're a good guy, (if) you can keep your nose out of the B.S. you'll go places. And he left for the airport.

"That was something he'd never do is apologize. He was always right."

From the stands to Victory Lane

Randy Clary and Gary Preziozi were engine builders for Kulwicki. One afternoon in Charlotte, they went over to the track to watch qualifying for the 1992 Mello Yello 500.

Kulwicki ended up winning the pole. What happened next surprised the two engine builders.

Randy Clary: "We were in the grandstand at Charlotte. Me and Gary.

"We had built an engine for Alan, and he called us over (the loudspeaker) in the grandstand (to go down into Victory Lane).

"He appreciated the hard work. It showed up when you did something for him."

Gary Preziozi: "We got a kick out of that. He would wear you out, but he always paid you back because he ran as hard as he could. He showed a lot of appreciation."

Where is my medal?

Kulwicki, who was Catholic, always carried a St. Christopher medal with him in his car. One day, before a race in Charlotte, he couldn't find it.

St. Christopher's Medal
St. Christopher's Medal

It was minutes to the green flag. Kulwicki was already strapped into the car. The engine noise was deafening.

Kulwicki did the only thing he could. He yelled at Cal Lawson, his right-hand man, to get him a new one. It was in his briefcase on pit road.

Lawson knew the combination. It was 7-7-7.

Lawson reached into the briefcase, found a medal, threw it into the car, and Kulwicki roared away.

Determined to work

In March 1993, a snowstorm that was unprecedented for Atlanta stormed the track, making it impossible to run the Motorcraft 500.

The garage, covered in a foot of snow, was deserted. Just one man remained -- Kulwicki, who was working on his car. He kept his helmet on to stay warm.

 Alan Kulwicki

Sandy Dries, who was Kulwicki's scorer for five years, remembers vividly.

"We had driven all night. It was raining, we got up the next morning, and it's snowing like crazy.

"So we were like, there are not going to race in the snow, so we went on to the track. And here's Alan, wandering around in his helmet, doing his thing.

"(Husband) Frank thought that was the funniest thing he's ever saw. We'd always raced in Atlanta around my birthday. Two weeks later, Alan was gone."

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