Alan Kulwicki Survives
Jeff Gordon began to be a thorn in Alan Kulwicki's side from the start of the season. Gordon beat second place Kulwicki in the Gatorade Twin 125's and continued to compete heavily with Kulwicki throughout the year. However, Kulwicki held his ground in '93, winning 3 races including his first Daytona 500, and also winning at Martinsville and Michigan, finishing 11th in points. The year was marked by tragedy though, as the racing world lost Davey Allison to a helicopter crash. Davey's racecar transporter was driven from the rainy track later that Tuesday morning while other teams and the media watched it travel slowly around the track with a black #28 painted on the grille. In 2008, Alan Kulwicki described the slow laps as "the saddest thing I've ever seen at a racetrack... We just sat and cried."
Kulwicki nearly won the 1994 Daytona 500, but ultimately fell out of contention after getting caught on the high-side in the closing laps. This was also the year Alan brought a rising Busch Series star, David Green, into his race team part-time, planning to have him drive the new No. 96 Ford Thunderbird alongside Kulwicki's No. 7 in 5 races throughout the season; Green won the Busch Series title that year and did qualify for 4 out of his 5 expected raced, finishing the 1994 Miller Genuine Draft 400 3rd behind Terry Labonte and Jeff Gordon; Kulwicki finished that race 8th. Kulwicki finished the 1994 season with 5 wins and 8th in points. Geoff Bodine founded his team, Geoff Bodine Motorsports, fielding his #70 car, starting the team with funding and support from AK Racing.
Kulwicki started the year promisingly, winning his second Daytona 500, but Kulwicki got sidelined after a violent head-on crash into the infield wall at the Goodwrench 500 at North Carolina, causing Kulwicki to chip 2 of his vertebrae in the second race of the season. David Green, who was supposed to be Kulwicki's full time Winston Cup driver alongside himself, substituted for the rest of the 1995 season, winning 3 races in place of his owner and coming in 9th in points.
1996 was a much better year for Alan, with ten wins, including the Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola 600, and the Southern 500, earning him the Winston Million, in addition to his second championship, beating out Terry Labonte. Also, Alan acquired the #27 team from Junior Johnson and picked up Tommy Kendall to drive with a surprise sponsorship from Nintendo, bringing AK Racing to three cars: the #7, #27, and the #96.
Alan had seven wins, including the first race at Texas Motor Speedway and the NASCAR Thunder Special 100 at Suzuka, and finished second in points to Jeff Gordon.
Alan had the best season of his career in 1998, winning 13 races and beating out Jeff Gordon for the championship.
Alan had a mild season in 1999, winning five races and finishing fifth in points. He also bought the #70 Geoff Bodine Motorsports team name, exclusively for the Busch Series, sharing a 75% stake alongside Geoff Bodine himself with a 25% stake.
2000 was another mild season for Alan, winning six races and finishing fourth in points.
Before the season, with Alan at the age of 46, there was speculation that he may be considering retirement. However, those rumors were denied. Alan's age was starting to show as he only had three wins (one of which he ran an all-black car to honor the late Dale Earnhardt) and finished 11th in points.
Alan had a disappointing 2002 as he only had one win (at Homestead) and finished 22nd in points.
Alan's 2003 season was a little better, with two wins (both at Daytona, plus The Winston,) and 18th in points.
While Alan only won the Daytona 500 in a special Hooters scheme resembling his old Zerex car, he remained consistent enough to make the inagural Chase for the Nextel Cup and surprisingly win the championship at age 49. NASCAR decided to fold the Chase after only one season because of this. This would be Alan's final championship.
Alan had only one win in 2005, and 20th in points. Rumors of Alan retiring had begun to creep up again.
Hooters decided to change their sponsorship to the younger and more successful David Green. Jim Beam would sponsor Kulwicki in his last years as a driver. Alan was winless in 2006, for the first time since 1989, and finished 23rd in points. After the NASCAR banquet, Alan announced in a press conference that he would retire after 2010, and that his replacement would be his son Alan Jr.
2007 saw Alan get his final win, at the Food City 500, the first race with the Car of Tomorrow, and finish 20th in the standings.
Before 2008, NASCAR had considered using the Car of Tomorrow for all 36 races, plus the Budweiser Shootout and the All-Star Race. However, Alan was livid, stating "If NASCAR uses that stupid car, I swear I'll boycott." So NASCAR went back to the original plan to run the CoT for 26 races, and the two non-points races, and run the old car for ten races. Alan had an eerily good season, with ten top 5s, and finished 12th in points.
NASCAR saw that fan response for the CoT was negative, and since more fans were siding with Alan, NASCAR had no choice but go back to the old car. Alan had five top 10s, and finished 18th in points.
Alan's final season was a big year, as he had his son, Alan Jr. as his replacement, and also, he ran a paint scheme similar to his 1991-1993 scheme. He had ten top 5s, and in his final race, he ran a silver version of his first scheme. He finished third at Homestead, and was misty-eyed in his post-race interview, saying "I'd like to thank Ford, my crew chief Paul (Andrews) and Jim Beam." Kulwicki finished 20th in points, and was voted NASCAR's Most Popular Driver, unseating Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
For more, read the AK Racing page.
Alan runs his own race team, AK Racing, which has operated since 1986. The team began expansion in the mid '90s, picking up David Green as a second driver, and Tommy Kendall as a third. Today, the cars (#7, #27 and #96) once driven by these drivers are now driven by Alan, Jr. (#7 ((debuted in the Sprint Cup in 2016)), David Green (#27 ((retiring after the 2018 season)) and Kurt Busch (#96).
Alan is married, and has a son, Alan, Jr. (b. 1995) who currently drives the #7 Hooters Ford. His favorite hobby is hunting with his son.