|Alan Kulwicki left his mark.|
The significance of the date was not lost on Gibson.
“I thought about (Kulwicki’s death) last night,” he said after Sunday’s race. “And it means a lot. A lot of the reason I'm where I'm at is because of Alan. The fight to never give up and always believe in yourself comes from him.”
As the last of NASCAR’s independent champions, Kulwicki was stubborn, independent and determined to do things his own way. The holder of an engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he tackled the sport with an analytical approach that was decades ahead of its time. You can’t swing a rope in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage these days without hitting an engineer. But in 1992, Kulwicki was an anomaly; an underfunded, often scowling renegade who rallied his underfunded band of helpers to upset heavily favored Bill Elliott and Davey Allison to claim the NASCAR Winston Cup title in a Ford Thunderbird aptly dubbed “Underbird”
“Alan put a lot of that (attitude) in a lot of guys in this garage,” recalled Gibson Sunday. “Not only me.”
|Gibson on Newman: "He's just like Alan."|
Gibson said Newman –a degreed engineer from Purdue University -- is similar to his former boss in many ways. “It's pretty cool to be with Ryan with the engineering background,” he said. “He's wicked smart, and whenever you try to catch him on something, he's got a little bit better answer for you. He's just like Alan… the same type of guy; a guy that all he wants to do is race. All he believes in is racing. It just goes to show you, you can be smart and you can drive, too.”
Ironically, Newman lists Kulwicki near the top of his list of childhood heroes.
“I remember (the day he died), 19 years ago when I was in High School,” said Newman following his win. “He was an inspiration for me. He was part of the reason why I chose to be an engineer and follow through with my racing career at the same time.
“Like Tony said, he's inspirational to a lot of people in the garage. That never-give-up attitude, the underdog mentality that he had (of) `No matter what, we'll do our best and that's all we can do.’ That's what we did today.”