Kulwicki charts his own course Performs 3 jobs on way to title AUTO RACING

December 04, 1992|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

The most successful men in Winston Cup stock car racing -- Junior Johnson and Bobby Allison among them -- told Alan Kulwicki he couldn't do it.

But Alan Kulwicki did do it. Tonight, at the annual Winston Cup Awards banquet in New York, Kulwicki will pick up the $1 million bonus check that goes to NASCAR's Winston Cup champion.

Instead of taking the road most traveled -- that of driver only -- Kulwicki drove his own route -- as car owner, chief mechanic and driver -- to the top.

"Everyone, and I mean everyone, told me 'It's too tough. There are too many obstacles,' " Kulwicki says. "But to me, obstacles are the things you see when you take your eyes off the goal line."

Kulwicki's gaze never wavered.

He grew up in Wisconsin, a son of Gerald Kulwicki, an engine builder on the United States Auto Club circuit who worked with six championship teams. But Kulwicki's father never once went out of his way to provide his son with a break.

"At times, I resented the fact that Dad didn't want me to race and did little to promote my career," said Kulwicki, who was hugged and kissed by his father in victory lane in Atlanta after winning the championship last month.

Almost from the beginning, Kulwicki has been on his own. His mother died when he was in second grade and he, his father and brother lived with his grandmother for the next five years. Then his grandmother died. His brother, a hemophiliac, died a year later. Gerald Kulwicki, who spent most of his days on the road away from his family, did not particularly want his only surviving son to enter the sport.

"I don't want to paint a picture that my dad did a bad job of raising me," says NASCAR's newest champion. "It would have been nice at times to have had a pat on the back or someone giving me moral support, but I had to find that within myself."

After high school, he chose college and the pursuit of an engineering degree over full-time racing.

"Being a racer was a consuming ambition, but you can't just come out of high school and say you're going to be a race car DTC driver," Kulwicki says. "It takes a couple million dollars a year to run a team at this level. How are you going to get it?"

There was another question. What if racing doesn't work out? Kulwicki always tries to have options, and getting his mechanical engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee provided some.

"Having that engineering education has helped me understand my car better," he says. "It has made me better able to run my team."

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