Alan Kulwicki And Fred Lorenzen Museum Exhibits Open

Race fans in the Wisconsin-Illinois area are in for a treat this spring as two museum exhibits will offer historical looks at a pair of the best drivers to come from the Midwest area.

Fred Lorenzen began his career on Chicago-area short tracks in the 1950’s and won two USAC Stock Car Series championships in 1959 and 1960 before a call from Ralph Moody drove him south to NASCAR and a seat in the famous Holman-Moody Ford.

His story, that includes 26 NASCAR wins highlighted by the 1965 Daytona 500, an early retirement and a much anticipated comeback, is being told until May 19th by Lorenzen’s hometown Elmhurst Historical Museum.

Located a few miles south of O’Hare Field airport, the museum has gathered many items that tell the story of “Fearless Freddie’s” rise to stock car fame in an era that included Richard Petty, Fireball Roberts, Curtis Turner and Ned Jarrett.

On April 4th a special evening event will see former NASCAR star Bobby Allison make an appearance from 5-7:00pm to meet his fans, pose for pictures and sign autograph cards provided by the museum for a $5 donation. No other items will be signed that night.

• Address: 120 E. Park Av., Elmhurst, Ill.
• Located just west of the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), take I-290 west to York Rd. See Elmhurst Historical Museum site for directions to the museum from York Rd.
• Phone: 630.833.1457, email:
• Open Tuesday-Sunday, 1-5:00 pm. Special hours for Allison appearance.
• Free admission

Alan Kulwicki died on April 1, 1993 in a tragic airplane crash, just months after winning the 1992 NASCAR Winston Cup championship.

The Greenfield, WI racer was a rarity in big-time racing as he owned his own team and directed its day-to-day operation.

Alan started on short tracks in south-eastern Wisconsin; first on the dirt and later on asphalt. He moved quickly from Hales Corners, to Slinger, to ARTGO and ASA, to NASCAR’s Busch Series and finally to Winston Cup; never staying very long on any level.

His rise to prominence, his Cup championship and his tragic death are chronicled in a high-tech presentation that is scheduled to open at the Milwaukee County Historical Society in downtown Milwaukee on Friday, April 5th at 1:34 pm (notice that 3+4 = 7, Alan’s Cup series number). The display promises “traditional and cutting-edge interactive technology”.

• Address: 910 N. Old World Third St.
• Phone: 414.273.7257
• Museum is open Monday-Saturday 9:30 am-5:00 pm. There is an admission fee.
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• Please read on for a reprise of a March, 2011 article that appeared on this website honoring our friend Alan Kulwicki.

Remembering Alan Kulwicki

The story was told a hundred times by a hundred different racing people, but the ending was always the same. “I was in the pits at (fill in the blank track) last night and wandered over to Alan Kulwicki’s pits before time trials. Said ‘Hi’ to Alan but he seemed busy and didn’t answer. Went back down there after the feature and he seemed more talkative. He asked me where I was all night and why didn’t I come down and talk to him earlier.” Of course Alan was concentrating so hard on the night’s work, that a bomb could have gone off and he wouldn’t have noticed.

You’re probably smiling now because the same thing happened to you, too. And smiling is what we should all be doing as our memories turn back to those heady days when Wisconsin basked in the glow of our home-state boy who just a few months prior had been crowned the 1992 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion.

It had been a less than normal route to the championship, but anything that Alan did was just a little different. A graduate of Pius XI High School, the Greenfield, WI native earned a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1977. He had raced go karts as a youngster and grew up in the pits of the USAC stock car circuit where his father Gerry served as the crew chief for Norm Nelson’s team. Alan began racing at Hales Corners and Cedarburg in 1973 while still working toward his degree.

Alan was not one to stay in one place long and he quickly left the dirt track circuit in 1977 for the pavement of Slinger Super Speedway and the half-mile at Wisconsin International Raceway. He didn’t need great success at any one level, he just wanted to learn and then move on.

By 1979 he began competing in USAC and ASA regional and national events and by 1984 he made four starts in NASCAR’s Busch Grand National (now Nationwide) series.

One memory of Alan that tells you of his ability to plan ahead and be organized took place about this time at Serb Hall on Milwaukee’s south side while this writer was buying and selling racing memorabilia at a collectors show. Alan quietly stood at the booth for a long time going over press kits from Indy and NASCAR that are used to supply information to the media. He said that he wanted to know how they looked and what they contained. Short track drivers didn’t need to know that, but he thought that drivers planning to compete in NASCAR did.

Shortly after that Kulwicki packed his pickup truck and headed south to drive for owner Bill Terry in five races on the prestigious Winston Cup circuit against the likes of Petty, Pearson, Yarborough and Allison. The college graduate from the Midwest would soon make his mark by winning NASCAR Rookie of the Year honors in 1986, in Terry’s car at first, and later in the year for his own team as Terry left the sport.

Sponsorship from Quincy Steakhouse, Zerex, the U.S. Army and finally Hooters supported his efforts over the years as he made a mark in the sport as one of a vanishing breed of owner/drivers in NASCAR. Robby Gordon carries on that tradition today, but not with Kulwicki’s success.

His first series win at Phoenix in 1988 produced the now famous “Polish Victory lap”, a post race trip around the track in a clockwise direction so that the fans could see him on the driver’s side of the car. Owner/drivers do have to self- promote.

Continuing to employ the work ethic taught to him by his father, Alan’s team, now with Paul Andrews as Crew Chief, became serious challengers to the NASCAR elite, and by 1992 Alan secured the Cup crown at Atlanta’s season-ending Hooters 500, in a nail biting finish that saw him win the championship by just 10 points, having overcome a 278 point deficit as late as the end of September.

The last time we talked to Alan was during the annual Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour in January, 1993. An annual stop during that event is at the shop of the previous season’s champion. As we settled into our seats in his shop, the gathering could hear the champ telling his crew to keep the noise down because he had to come out and talk to the press, BUT, “Keep working.”

After the conference some hung around to talk to the champ and to reminisce about his early racing days. I reminded him of the Friday in April, 1982, when we were to meet him for a photo shoot at Milwaukee’s Frank Lloyd Wright Greek Orthodox Church; the results of which were to appear in an upcoming issue of Stock Car Racing magazine. Alan was late as usual. And with my three kids in tow, we waited until almost dark before the hauler appeared in the parking lot. Pictures were taken that were not able to be used of the yellow #97 WLPX Pontiac Firebird. The Dennis Frings-built car hadn’t been ready to Alan’s liking, and they had to drive all night to get to the season-opening ASA race that weekend. The pictures got taken later in the year at the Milwaukee Mile, but the episode was typical of Alan: Work and preparation came before anything else. That day in Charlotte he asked if he had apologized for keeping us waiting on that cold afternoon. I said yes, not really remembering, but he was happy at my response.

April 1 is coming up soon, and the point of this column is to remind all of us to think about what Alan did during his short time with us. He could be notoriously hard to work for and demanded near perfection from his crew as they prepared his car. But an independent owner doesn’t win a championship without the hard work that he demanded of himself and his crew.

The news was on at 10:00pm that April Fools night and my daughter came downstairs to tell me that a report on TV said that a private plane had crashed in Tennessee and that initial reports said that Alan might have been aboard. I told her that was a terrible April Fools joke, but a hurried call to a Charlotte friend confirmed that the Hooters plane had gone down as it was returning to Bristol after a public appearance. The funeral back in Milwaukee was one of the biggest in recent memory. NASCAR was a growing national sport then and one of our own had reached the top.

We’re always sad when someone is taken from us so suddenly. But in Alan’s case the sadness also came from the fact that he had such a short time to enjoy what he had worked so hard for. He died after enjoying just five races as the defending Champion. Eighteen years later many still remember.

Interested in purchasing Alan Kulwicki Photos – contact Russ Lake at 262-392-2386 or russlake @

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