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Paul Andrews got Alan Kulwicki his first win, then helped two other drivers break into victory lane. Credit: Autostock
Paul Andrews got Alan Kulwicki his first win, then helped two other drivers break into victory lane. Credit: Autostock

A decade later, Kulwicki's crew races on

By Ryan Smithson, Turner Sports Interactive April 1, 2003
2:48 PM EST (1948 GMT)

Underdog operation trained NASCAR elite

When the plane carrying Alan Kulwicki crashed into the frigid Tennessee turf on April 1, 1993, a lot of people assumed that Alan Kulwicki Racing died along with him.

Alan Kulwicki is the last owner-driver to win the championship. Most agree that it will never be done again. Credit: ISC Publications, Inc. Archives
Alan Kulwicki is the last owner-driver to win the championship. Most agree that it will never be done again. Credit: ISC Publications, Inc. Archives

They were wrong. It still lives today.

Kulwicki didn't leave children to carry on his racing legacy like Dale Earnhardt, the man who won the championship the year before (1991) and the year after (1993) Kulwicki.

Kulwicki's legacy isn't carried on with offspring or a huge race shop bearing his name. The race shop he did inhabit is now empty, his team defunct after others took it over.

But Kulwicki left something to his fiercely loyal employees that can't be measured by dollar signs, acreage or square footage. He left a way of doing things, and his method has helped several of his employees rise to the very top of their professions.

Kulwicki was fond of reaching goals, something he undoubtedly left behind in Alan Kulwicki Racing employees.

Most are still working in the sport today, and several have reached heights of which even they never dreamed.

Kulwicki, an outsider from Wisconsin, was able to win the Winston Cup championship in 1992 by believing in himself -- and the people who worked for him.

Even after his death, the men and women who worked under him have continued to succeed, and the people he left continue to carry on the tradition of excellence that he was not able to do himself.

 PHOTO GALLERY
 Alan Kulwicki
 

Because of the demands Kulwicki placed on his employees, it helped them move up the Winston Cup ladder. As a result, it's no surprise that most of them eventually landed with multi-car operations, where they continue to flourish.

To honor the memory of Kulwicki on the 10-year anniversary of his death, NASCAR.com's Ryan Smithson takes a look at the employees he left behind, and how he helped them succeed despite sometimes overwhelming odds.

Note: Almost all of these employees stayed with the No. 7 Ford well after Geoff Bodine bought the team.

Paul Andrews

  Paul Andrews (left) and Jeff Burton Credit: Autostock
Paul Andrews (left) and Jeff Burton Credit: Autostock

Age: 44

Born: Bangor, Maine

Resides: Harrisburg, N.C.

Biography: Veteran crew chief with 12 career wins. He was the crew chief for all five of Kulwicki's victories. Andrews later helped Jeremy Mayfield and Steve Park score their first career win.

Job with Alan Kulwicki Racing: Crew Chief

Joined Alan Kulwicki Racing: May 1989

Left Alan Kulwicki Racing/Geoff Bodine Racing: June 1996

Job Now: Crew Chief, No. 99 Citgo Taurus, Roush Racing

Andrews: "Alan showed us all a good work ethic. I believe it's in most of us still. It was also the reason Alan hired us.

 A man of character
 Certain stories provide insight to what kind of person Alan Kulwicki was.
 

"If you didn't work hard and work smart, you were not going to make it. We had a good group of people. We could do a lot more with a lot less.

"We worked smart and the whole group worked smart. We didn't have a lot of choice. We had to do it right the first time.

"I think the college education part (Kulwicki had an engineering degree) -- if there was something technical of it, he would have the final say. He was the boss, and that was fine. If we were working in chassis, he had a good insight as far as how to do it."

Tony Gibson

  Tony Gibson has worked with Steve Park since the final few races of 2002. Credit: Autostock
Tony Gibson has worked with Steve Park since the final few races of 2002. Credit: Autostock

Age: 38

Born: Daytona Beach, Fla.

Resides: Concord, N.C.

Biography: Rookie crew chief with Steve Park this year. Served as Jeff Gordon's car chief from 1999-2002, helping Gordon win 2001 title.

Job with Alan Kulwicki Racing: Car Chief/Fabricator

Joined Alan Kulwicki Racing: Dec. 1987

Left Alan Kulwicki Racing/Geoff Bodine Racing: March 1994

Job Now: Crew Chief, No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet, Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Gibson: "We won the championship with less money ($1.7 million) than anyone. Earnhardt and them had $4 million. He taught me the value of a dollar and getting the most out of what you dealt with.

Tony Gibson Credit: Autostock
Tony Gibson Credit: Autostock

"People had watched us. We had 5-6 people and they were amazed what we accomplished. Alan worked us hard. He was out to win a championship and he was going to do it this way and if you wanted be a part of it, fine.

"People saw the dedication to stay there and work hard. We work night and day, and people saw that and saw the caliber of people we were. We were racers.

"I think about Alan every day. Every time I am at the track I think about it. We were great friends, went to the movies together, we were his family. He stayed at the shop with us every night.

"We were his family. We lost everything. When you lose a family member, you think about them the rest of your life. A lot of the decisions that I make I think of him every weekend. There is always a situation I can look back and think, 'What would Alan have done here?'

"He was a special person, he was real caring, there's enough of us left to inform people how good a person he really was."

Cal Lawson Credit: Autostock
Cal Lawson Credit: Autostock

Cal Lawson

Age: 44

Born: Bassett, Va.

Resides: Charlotte, N.C.

Biography: Kulwicki's team manager who helped plot strategy during races. In his words, "everything from a tire specialist to spotter."

It was Lawson who floated the team financially for two months after Kulwicki's death. Now works with Todd Bodine as his spotter in both the Busch Series and Winston Cup Series.

During the week, he works as General Manager for Skyward Building in Charlotte.

Job with Alan Kulwicki Racing: Team manager

Joined Alan Kulwicki Racing: Dec. 1988

Left Alan Kulwicki Racing/Geoff Bodine Racing: August 1995

 The "Underbird" lives
 A Florida retiree restores Alan Kulwicki's championship-winning Ford Thunderbird.
 

Job Now: Spotter, No. 54 National Guard Ford, BelCar Racing.

Lawson: "Alan taught me a lot about business of racing. We as employees as race teams can easily be spoiled.

"Even though we work real hard we can be spoiled with the fruits of our labor.

"Alan saw to it that your needs were met, and then we would take something and that was a little special to every individual. He would find things to that were special to that individual.

"Alan had to count on us. The way that he emphasized teamwork and commons goals.

"If he had inclination that you were not meeting common goals, you were out of there. It was a revolving door. It was tough. He was tough."

Peter Jellen

Peter Jellen Credit: Autostock
Peter Jellen Credit: Autostock

Age: 41

Born: Stafford Springs, Conn.

Resides: Harrisburg, N.C.

Biography: As another one of Kulwicki's former men to win a second championship, Peter Jellen is one of the more recognizable hauler drivers in the garage area. He served as Bobby Labonte's gasman when Labonte won the title in 2000.

It was Jellen who had the solemn task to drive the No. 7 hauler away from Bristol, just hours after Kulwicki's death. "Leaving the track was the first thing we ever did," Jellen said. "You don't leave the track until the race is over.

"It didn't seem right. When we pulled out of that gate, I said, 'I'll never come back to this track.' I had no idea if there was going to be a chain on the door (when he returned to the shop)."

Job with Alan Kulwicki Racing: Hauler driver, Catch can man, Fabricator

Joined Alan Kulwicki Racing: May 1989

Left Alan Kulwicki Racing/Geoff Bodine Racing: June 1996

Job Now: Hauler driver and gasman, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet

Jellen: "What was so cool that there was not a guy there was that not an ex-racer, and that is why he hired us. That is the guy kind of guy he wanted, because that is the kind of guy Alan was.

"He loved our families. He didn't have a wife, or kids. It was like being a grandmother. He knew the guys worked their tails off.

"You understood long hours. He didn't want the guys right out of college that didn't have any racetrack savvy."

Brian Whitesell  Credit: AP
Brian Whitesell Credit: AP

Brian Whitesell

Age: 38

Born: Stuarts Draft, Va.

Resides: Davidson, N.C.

Biography: Served as spotter on Kulwicki's championship team, eventually landed with Hendrick Motorsports. Perhaps best known as the man named to replace Ray Evernham after the latter left as Jeff Gordon's crew chief.

Job with Alan Kulwicki Racing: Hauler driver, Catch can man

Joined Alan Kulwicki Racing: Oct. 1991

Left Alan Kulwicki Racing: Sept. 1992

Job Now: Team Manager, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet

Whitesell: "We drove (to the races). If you asked the guys to do it today, they would look at you like you had two heads. That is just an example at how things have changed.

"We broke down the tires and wheels. Each team has a team has a company to do that, and we did it ourselves. We didn't have the resources that are available now."

Tom Roberts

Tom Roberts Credit: Autostock
Tom Roberts Credit: Autostock

Age: 44

Born: Guntersville, Ala.

Resides: Guntersville, Ala.

Biography: Helped Alan Kulwicki with the public relations end of his program from his rookie season until his death. Currently one of the most respected public relations specialists in the garage.

Job with Alan Kulwicki Racing: Public Relations

Joined Alan Kulwicki Racing: Jan. 1986

Left Alan Kulwicki Racing: April 1993

Job Now: Has own public relations firm, TRPR, which handles accounts for Rusty Wallace and Ryan Newman.

Roberts: "He taught us to always look at the big picture and strive for excellence, not perfection, because nobody is perfect.

"Being respected at what you do is much more important than just being liked. Organizational skills are imperative, regardless of what role you play."

Danny Glad

Age: 42

Born: Old Bridge, N.J.

Resides: Stuart, Va.

Biography: Glad was Kulwicki's trusted engine specialist who made sure the powerplants ran smoothly once at the track.

It was Glad who figured the fuel mileage -- with Cal Lawson's help -- that sealed the 1992 championship.

Job with Alan Kulwicki Racing: Assistant Head Engine Builder, later Head Engine Builder

Joined Alan Kulwicki Racing: Jan 1990

Left Alan Kulwicki Racing: Sept. 1995

Job Now: Engine Builder, Arrington Manufacturing. Also self-employed.

Glad: "(Alan) was there all day and all night. It was an era that changed my life. Looking back now, the NASCAR circuit is really intense, and you sacrifice a lot, like Paul (Andrews) does.

"Alan was really involved in the engine building. I've worked with a lot of drivers, and you could talk to him about combinations and he could relate to different tracks what he wanted.

"He was really hands on. I worked with some smart people, but he was hands-down one of the smartest. He could do several things at once. He could figure anything in his head."

Jeff Buice

Age: 37

Born: Atlanta

Resides: Mooresville, N.C.

Biography: One of four future crew chiefs the operation churned out, eventually rising to the title of Director of Competition for Haas Carter Motorsports. Currently trying to get Shaver Motorsports established on the ARCA curcuit.

Job with Alan Kulwicki Racing: Fabricator

Joined Alan Kulwicki Racing: April 1990

Left Alan Kulwicki Racing: July 1995

Job Now: Crew chief, Shaver Motorsports

Buice: "Basically, he taught me that you could do anything you put your mind to. Hard work will get you where you want to be, no matter what. Never quit.

"In a nutshell, that sums it up. Everybody on the team was that way. I have not been involved with anything remotely close since. I would do it all over again the exactly way. I have been striving for what we had ever since, and it does not exist.

"There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about that deal, and Alan."

Tom Mount

Age: 41

Born: Norwalk, Conn.

Resides: Concord, N.C.

Biography: Ironically, Tom Mount joined Kulwicki exactly one year (April 1, 1992) before Kulwicki's death. The experience he gained with Kulwicki serve him well -- he now has his own business building bodies for teams in every major NASCAR series, and as a businessman, he found new respect for what Kulwicki did.

Job with Alan Kulwicki Racing: Fabricator, Jackman

Joined Alan Kulwicki Racing: April 1992

Left Alan Kulwicki Racing: June 1996

Job Now: Owner, Tom Mount Motorsports

Mount: "I learned a lot there. I know racing has grown so much, but we ran 30 races with seven cars.

"We only had three fabricators and we hung our own bodies. It was amazing how he ran the business with so little."

Ron Viccaro

Age: 46

Born: Miami

Resides: Concord, N.C.

Biography: Kulwicki's head engine builder until leaving at the end of the 1992 season. Worked to get Kulwicki started in Winston Cup by assisting him with engine help in his first few seasons, then joined him full-time in 1989.

Job with Alan Kulwicki Racing: Head Engine Builder

Joined Alan Kulwicki Racing: Sept. 1989

Left Alan Kulwicki Racing: Dec. 1992

Job Now: Research and Development, Richard Childress Racing

Viccaro: "You had to get with it, or get out. He taught me to move up to the next level.

"I knew him for a long time. I miss him, and I think the whole sport does. I think he changed a lot things as to how we do it now.

"I remember hearing Richard Petty saying one time that (Alan) really knew how to set up a car better than anyone."

Gary Preziosi

Age: 46

Until recently, Gary Preziosi still worked in Alan Kulwicki's old shop (above) Credit: Sean Jackson, TSI
Until recently, Gary Preziosi still worked in Alan Kulwicki's old shop (above) Credit: Sean Jackson, TSI

Born: Orange, N.J.

Resides: Charlotte, N.C.

Biography: Preziosi never worked for any Winston Cup team except the No. 7 program. He stayed with the program nearly five years after Kulwicki's death, and until this spring, still worked on engines using Kulwicki's old shop.

Job with Alan Kulwicki Racing: Engine Builder

Joined Alan Kulwicki Racing: May 1991

Left Alan Kulwicki Racing: Dec. 1997

Job Now: Owner, GP Racing Engines

Preziosi: "He would always comment on what a good job we were doing, but always insist that we make it better.

"He would wear you out, but he always paid you back because he ran as hard as he could (on the track).

"I worked with a bunch of good, hard-working people, and I learned a bunch. We won a championship with 13 guys, and it'll never happen again."

  Randy Clary's restrictor plate engines have elevated DEI to dominance at Daytona and Talladega. Credit: Autostock
Randy Clary's restrictor plate engines have elevated DEI to dominance at Daytona and Talladega. Credit: Autostock

Randy Clary

Age: 48

Born: Brodnax, Va.

Resides: China Grove, N.C.

Biography: Without question, currently one of the top restrictor-plate engine builders in NASCAR. By his own account, assembled 80 motors in 1992, the year Kulwicki won the title.

Job with Alan Kulwicki Racing: Engine Builder

Joined Alan Kulwicki Racing: Oct. 1991

Left Alan Kulwicki Racing: Nov. 1993

Job Now: Engine Builder, Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Clary: "Mainly, (Alan taught me) to keep at it. Never give up and keep digging. That was all you could really say.

"He was a pusher and a worker. You could not do enough. He was there most of the time, so it made a big difference when he was doing as much as we were.

"When you worked hard, he really cared about you. I was home at Christmas one year, and he called. That was the type of person he was."

Shane Parsnow

  Shane Parsnow went on to work in the massive engine room at Hendrick Motorsports. Credit: Autostock
Shane Parsnow went on to work in the massive engine room at Hendrick Motorsports. Credit: Autostock

Age: 32

Born: Oswego, N.Y.

Resides: Concord, N.C.

Biography: Another one of Kulwicki's employees who eventually landed a job with one of NASCAR's powerhouse teams. Many of Kulwicki's employees were young when hired, and Parsnow was one of the youngest.

Job with Alan Kulwicki Racing: Engine Builder

Joined Alan Kulwicki Racing: Feb. 1991

Left Alan Kulwicki Racing: June 1996

Job Now: Engine Builder, Hendrick Motorsports

Parsnow: "He taught us to always try to find a better way and pay attention to detail. Never assume anything. If you put your mind to anything, you can do it.

"We have a lot of things going for it, and a lot of things against it. These guys (today) complain about flying. We drove to every race, then went to work Monday. We worked until 7 to 8 at night every day of the week."

Ed Lesley

  Ed Lesley now builds engines for Stanton Barrett's Busch program. Credit: Autostock
Ed Lesley now builds engines for Stanton Barrett's Busch program. Credit: Autostock

Age: 49

Born: Miami

Resides: Concord, N.C.

Biography: Another double-duty member of Kulwicki's outfit -- he helped pit the car on Sundays after working in the engine shop during the week. Lesley, a keen mind when it comes to buiding cars, says Kulwicki was ahead of his time when it came to engineering.

Job with Alan Kulwicki Racing: Machinist

Joined Alan Kulwicki Racing: Jan. 1990

Left Alan Kulwicki Racing: Feb. 1995

Job Now: Engine Builder, Roush Racing

Lesley: "We had to do everything. If you needed to take it apart, you took it apart.

"Alan was kind of designing the adjustable suspension pieces back then, and those are in place now. He was definitely one of the first. He had a grasp on the radial tire. He figured that right out.

"We had the Penske adjustable shock coming into play and he figured that out right away.

"Everyone (on Alan's team) has moved on to bigger and better things. The guys know how to race. He taught you that."

Bob Gulbranson

Age: 36

Born: New York City

Resides: Huntersville, N.C.

Biography: Approached Alan Kulwicki in a bar in 1991 after hearing Kulwicki discussing racing with a friend. Kulwicki told him if he ever needed a job to call him, and Gulbranson did.

By his own admission, had run-ins with Kulwicki, but likened him to a father figure, and later, as "his hero." Currently manages Muscle Motor Sports, a used and new racing parts supplier.

Job with Alan Kulwicki Racing: Mechanic

Joined Alan Kulwicki Racing: Nov. 1991

Left Alan Kulwicki Racing: Dec. 1995

Job Now: Partner, Muscle Motor Sports

Gulbranson: "You don't appreciate people when they are here.

"The biggest thing (he taught me) was dedication and determination. It was not about wearing a uniform. It was about winning races.

"He taught me a lot about engineering and race car setup."

Sandy Dries

Age: 53

Born: Greenport, N.Y.

Resides: Clayton, Del.

Biography: Started scoring races for Kulwicki in 1988 at $50 a race, when most scorers commanded at least $100 per race.

Job with Alan Kulwicki Racing: Scorer

Joined Alan Kulwicki Racing: Feb. 1988

Left Alan Kulwicki Racing: Nov. 1994

Job Now: Lead receiver, Client Logic

Dries: "He scared me to death. If I missed (scoring him on the track), I am not doing my job.

 Vacant building, full memories
 Kulwicki's former shop a constant reminder
 

"Everyone on that team gave 110 percent, so I had to also. We got along really well because he did his job and I didn't worry him with anything. He could count on me to be there, I didn't even have to check in with him.

"I was one thing he didn't have to worry about. I found it very interesting that Alan didn't believe in luck.

"Over the years I kind of agree with him. You have to be in the right place at the right time, and luck finds you. I found a quote in the newspaper one time, I think it was from Gregory Hines, he didn't believe in luck either. You had to prepare to be lucky."