The NASCAR Hall of Fame Foundation, using funds donated by The Alan D. Kulwicki Donor Advised Fund, has purchased the original 1992 Ford Thunderbird that 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Alan Kulwicki drove in the last race of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway to win the 1992 Cup Series Championship. This historic acquisition marks the first time that the NASCAR Hall of Fame Foundation has received a cash donation for the purchase of an artifact.
“The 1992 Hooters 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway is widely regarded as one of the most significant moments in NASCAR history,” said Winston Kelley, Executive Director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. “The NASCAR Hall of Fame is thankful for the diligence and support of the dedicated group of Kulwicki family, friends and fans who brought this landmark acquisition to fruition. We are honored to receive such a generous donation that enables us to preserve and showcase the winning Ford Thunderbird driven by one of the legends of our sport.”
In addition to champion Alan Kulwicki, the 1992 Hooters 500 featured three more Hall of Famers: Richard Petty (inaugural class of 2010) as he ran his final race, Jeff Gordon (2019) in his first Cup race and Bill Elliot (2015) who was ultimately defeated by a mere 10 points – the tightest championship margin in series history at the time. A legendary five-way battle for the championship cemented both the race and the Ford Thunderbird as iconic pieces of NASCAR history.
The car was previously on public display at the Hooters Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas prior to the sale of the hotel. Once funding is secured, the NASCAR Hall intends to restore the car to its former glory as a key piece of racing history and document the restoration process. In addition to honoring the history and heritage of NASCAR, the preservation of the sport’s history is a core piece of the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s mission.
“The NASCAR Hall of Fame is honored to serve as the permanent home for thousands of artifacts that preserve the history of NASCAR. The addition of Alan Kulwicki’s 1992 Championship car allows the NASCAR Hall of Fame to expand its collection of artifacts that create a tangible record of our inductees’ accomplishments,” said Kevin Schlesier, Director of Exhibits of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. “His car will now be reunited with the NASCAR Hall’s permanent collection of other Kulwicki artifacts donated by Thelma Kulwicki in 2011, including his Championship season Winston Cup, fire suit and gold car trophy.”
Alan Kulwicki began his racing career on short tracks around his hometown of Greenfield, Wisconsin. A mechanical engineer by trade, he moved to Charlotte, North Carolina in 1984 with a self-built race car hoping to compete in NASCAR’s highest series. Despite having no sponsor or budget, Kulwicki burst onto the racing scene and was named the 1986 NASCAR Rookie of the Year with a self-owned team. Following his 1992 championship season, Kulwicki died in a plane crash in 1993. Five years later, he was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers.
Since his passing, a dedicated group of Kulwicki’s family, friends and fans have continued working to preserve his legacy. This team, comprised of Jan Beatty-Hendley; Tom Roberts; Wally McCarty; Kulwicki legal advisors Mark Horn and Matt Kain; Alan Kulwicki Racing, Inc. crew chief Paul Andrews; and the four-member advisory committee of the Alan D. Kulwicki Donor Advised Fund (administered by Foundation For The Carolinas) provided full support for this arrangement. Reliable Carriers, Inc., vehicle transportation specialists, moved the car from Las Vegas to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte.
“From the first time I met Gerry and Thelma Kulwicki, there was never a doubt of the love and respect they held for Alan. Also evident was the deep pain of their loss and of a life gone too soon,” said Beatty-Hendley. “From Alan’s humble beginnings to his iconic 1992 NASCAR Championship and his induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, his life and legacy mattered, not to just Gerry and Thelma but also to his many fans. I made a promise to Thelma before her passing that I would do my best to keep Alan’s legacy alive in ways honorable to the Kulwicki family. I can’t think of a greater honor or tribute to Alan than for the NASCAR Hall of Fame to become the final resting place of this very special No. 7 car. “
Last month, Hendrick Motorsports and Hooters revealed a throwback paint scheme honoring Alan Kulwicki’s 1992 championship car. Chase Elliot will pilot the No.9 Chevrolet Camaro at Darlington’s throwback race weekend in May.