New driver development program keeps Alan Kulwicki’s legacy alive

Alan Kulwicki’s legacy is remembered in a new driver development program.

Wednesday marks the 22nd anniversary of Alan Kulwicki’s death in a plane crash near Bristol Motor Speedway, less than five months after his dramatic 1992 Winston Cup championship.

But the legacy of the NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee continues with the launch of the Kulwicki Driver Development Program this season. Seven drivers, including three from Kulwicki’s native Wisconsin, comprise the inaugural class.

The program, put together by Kulwicki’s surviving family members – most notably his stepmother Thelma – and friends, not only helps the seven drivers with on-track instruction and financial support, but also publicity, marketing, sponsorship development, networking and relationship building.

All seven will compete in events across the country. The driver who has the most success in the “Kulwicki Cup” will receive a check for more than $54,000 after the season.

“It’s going to be really cool seeing all these young racers out there with Kulwicki logos on their race cars and driver uniforms,” said Tony Gibson, who served as Kulwicki’s car chief in 1992, in a statement released from the organization. “But what’s really going to be special is witnessing our program out there working to educate new generations about Alan. That is what’s most important.”

The seven participants are learning about Kulwicki’s legacy, not just his driving talent, but also his personality, education and his perseverance.

“A lot of young drivers today take racing for granted – they just show up, get in, and race,” said Ty Majeski, the 20-year-old defending ARCA Midwest Tour champion and an engineering student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in a statement from the organization. “That’s something you never saw Alan Kulwicki do. I see a lot of parallels between Alan and me; beyond being from Wisconsin, being Polish, and majoring in mechanical engineering. Even more than that, he taught me that in order to be the best, you have to do more than drive.”

Another engineering student, and the only female member of the group, is Reagan May, 21. She is the reigning 2014 Tundra Series Rookie of the Year and attends Michigan Tech.

KDDP driver Reagan May has become quite a student of Kulwicki’s success and legacy.

“I think Alan’s perseverance and determination were his greatest attributes,” May said in a release. “He showed how, through hard work and believing in yourself, you really can achieve your goals, including a NASCAR championship. I have that same drive. Like Alan’s early career, it’s been an uphill battle, but we work through it.”

Justin Crider, 18, is racing Late Models on the new CARS Tour this season.

“My parents were big Alan Kulwicki fans,” Crider said in the release. “I’ve had a poster of Alan in my room since I was a kid, and seeing him with that Winston Cup trophy inspired me to run the #7 on my go-kart. His legacy was a contributing factor in my racing career and education and inspired me to major in mechanical engineering at North Carolina State.”

Other members of the inaugural class are 15-year-old Bryce Napier, 18-year-old Cole Williams, 23-year-old Dave Farrington Jr., and 26-year-old Steve Apel.

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Alex Bowman confident as he returns to racing from back injury


CONCORD, N.C. — Alex Bowman watched the rain-filled skies over Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday with more than a touch of disappointment.

As weather threatened to cancel Saturday night’s scheduled NASCAR Cup Series practice at the speedway, Bowman saw his chances to testing his car — and his body — dissolving in the raindrops. NASCAR ultimately cancelled practice and qualifying because of rain.

MORE: Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup practice, qualifying

Bowman suffered a fractured vertebra in a sprint car accident last month and has missed three Cup races while he recovers. Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, the season’s longest race, is scheduled to mark his return to the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet.

“It would have been really nice to kickstart that with practice today,” Bowman said. “I haven’t raced or competitively driven a race car in a month. I’m trying to understand where my rusty areas are going to be and where I’m still good.”

Bowman ran 200 laps in a test season at North Wilkesboro Speedway this week, but, of course, that doesn’t compare with the faster speeds and tougher G-forces he’ll experience over 400 laps Sunday at CMS.

Bowman admitted that he is still experiencing pain from the back injury — his car flipped several times — and that he expects some pain during the race. But he said he is confident he’ll be OK and that the longer race distance won’t be an issue.

“I broke my back a month ago, and there’s definitely things that come along with that for a long time,” he said. “I have some discomfort here and there and there are things I do that don’t feel good. That’s just part of it. It’s stuff I’ll have to deal with. But, for the most part, I’m back to normal.

“I’m easing back into being in the gym. I’m trying to be smart with things. If I twist the wrong way, sometimes it hurts. In the race car at the end of a six-hour race, I’m probably not going to be the best.”

The sprint car crash interrupted what had been a fine seasonal start for Bowman. Although winless, he had three top fives and six top 10s in the first 10 races.

“I’m excited to be back,” Bowman said. “Hopefully, we can pick up where we left off and be strong right out of the gate.”

He said he hopes to return to short-track racing but not in the near future.

“Someday I want to get back in a sprint car or midget,” he said. “I felt like we were just getting rolling in a sprint car. That night we were pretty fast. Definitely a bummer there. That’s something I really want to conquer and be competitive at in the World of Outlaws or High Limits races. Somebody I’ll get back to that. It’s probably smart if I give my day job a little alone time for a bit.”




Charlotte NASCAR Cup Series starting lineup: Rain cancels qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — William Byron and Kevin Harvick will start Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series 600-mile race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the front row after wet weather cancelled Saturday night qualifying.

Rain pelted the CMS area much of the day Saturday, and NASCAR announced at 3:45 p.m. that Cup practice and qualifying, scheduled for Saturday night, had been cancelled.

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

The starting field was set by the NASCAR rulebook.

Following Byron and Harvick in the starting top 10 will be Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The elimination of the practice session was particularly problematic for Alex Bowman, scheduled to return to racing Sunday after missing three weeks with a back injury, and Jimmie Johnson, who will be starting only his third race this year. Johnson will start 37th — last in the field.

Charlotte Cup starting lineup

Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup Series practice, qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR Cup Series drivers will start the longest race of the season with no practice or qualifying.

Wet weather and predictions of more to come led NASCAR to cancel Saturday night’s Cup Series practice and qualifying in mid-afternoon. The field for Sunday’s 600-mile race was set by the NASCAR rulebook, placing William Byron and Kevin Harvick on the front row for the  scheduled 6 p.m. start.

MORE: Charlotte Cup starting lineup

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

Weather also could be an issue Sunday as more rain is predicted for the speedway area.

Drivers were scheduled to practice at 7 p.m. Saturday. That session was to be followed by qualifying at 7:45 p.m. The cancellations were announced at 3:45 p.m.

The time-trial cancellation marked the first time in 64 years that qualifying has been canceled for the 600.

Charlotte Xfinity race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — Persistent rain forced the postponement of Saturday’s scheduled 300-mile NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway to Monday.

The race is scheduled to start at noon ET. It will be televised by FS1 and broadcast by the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Driver introductions and other pre-race activities were held at the track Saturday, but rain that had dampened the track in the morning hours returned. After several attempts at drying the track, the race was postponed after heavier rain returned in mid-afternoon.

Justin Allgaier will start the race from the pole position.