My interest in NASCAR started in a high school English class in November of 1993. We were given an assignment to write and give a presentation to the class about something that interested us.
One of my classmates did his on NASCAR. He was a Rusty Wallace fan, and his huge collection of Wallace collectible cards proved it. Although most of his presentation was focused around Wallace and his career in NASCAR, he also talked about the recent deaths of Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki.
On Apr. 1, 1993, Kulwicki was flying from Knoxville, TN after an appearance at a Hooters restaurant. His plane crashed near Tri-Cities Regional Airport. Kulwicki was killed in the crash. Wallace honored his close friend by doing a "Polish Victory Lap" after winning the Food City 500 that weekend at Bristol.
On July 12, just three months after Kulwicki's death, Allision was killed while attempting to land his Hughes 369HS helicopter in the infield at Talladega Superspeedway. Allison suffered severe head injuries and died the following morning.
The weekend after watching this presentation in school, I watched my first NASCAR race. It was the Hooters 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which was the final race of the 1993 NASCAR Winston Cup season.
Most of the race was focused on Wallace and Dale Earnhardt to see who would be the Winston Cup Champion for 1993. Wallace pretty much had to win the race, lead the most laps, and hope that Earnhardt had some bad luck.
Wallace did his part by winning and leading 189 of 328 laps. But about half way through the race, enough cars were knocked out that Earnhardt was guaranteed a high enough finish to win the championship.
After the race was complete, a crew member brought an Allison flag out to Wallace. At the same time, one of Earnhardt's crew members brought a Kulwicki flag to him. Earnhardt and Wallace then flew the flags out their windows while doing the "Polish Victory Lap" made famous by Kulwicki. It was at that moment that I became a NASCAR fan.
Just a few notes of interest:
If you watch the video of the Atlanta race finish, you'll hear one of the commentators make a comment about how Richard Petty raced 17 more years after winning his last championship. He then asked the viewers to imagine how many championships Earnhardt would win if he raced 17 more years, which would have been into the 2010 season. It's strange how a comment like that meant so little then, but means so much now.
In 2001, Wallace paid tribute to Earnhardt after winning at California by flying one of Earnhardt's flags out his window during his victory lap.
The following sites, articles, and videos helped me in writing this article:
(Video of the final 10 laps of the Hooters 500 on YouTube.)
(Video of Wallace winning at Bristol after Kulwicki's death on YouTube.)