Classic Motorsport: The 1992 Hooters 500 - The Perfect Race #BlogPost

In the history of Motorsport, some races have written paragraphs. Some have written pages. Only a select few, however, have written entire books. In my opinion, one race, and only one, has written an entire series of novels into the world of racing. That race is the 1992 Hooters 500.

Classic Motorsport: The 1992 Hooters 500 - The Perfect Race #BlogPost

In the history of Motorsport, some races have written paragraphs. Some have written pages. Only a select few, however, have written entire books. In my opinion, one race, and only one, has written an entire series of novels into the world of racing. That race is the 1992 Hooters 500.

On November 15th, 1992, the sun christened a bare Atlanta Motor Speedway. 43 Winston Cup cars lay under tarps in garages before the start of the Championship finale of the 1992 NASCAR Winston Cup season. Soon, a crowd 160,000 strong would cheer on the 6 Championship contenders, the Young Rookie, and the Retiring Legend. The stark contrast in personalities in motorsport was brought to the forefront that day. With everything on the line, 6 drivers got the command to start their engines from Richard Petty, who was making his 1,184th, and final, start.

Davey Allison, son of NASCAR Legend Bobby Allison, led the points. The Alabama native had been through a roller coaster of a season. Allison had started off the season by nabbing the biggest victory of his career, the 1992 Daytona 500. Soon though, a pattern started to emerge. After a string of good runs in the next 4 races, Allison suffered a broken shoulder at Bristol Motor Speedway. Allison, broken shoulder and all, went out and won the next race at North Wilkesboro Speedway. The week after that, Allison broke his ribs at Martinsville, then went out and won at Talladega. Once he got to the Winston All-Star race, he figured out how to do both at the same time. Allison was racing Kyle Petty to the finish, when the 2 tangled at the finish line. Allison won by half a car length, but crashed driver’s side into the wall after the finish line. He was able to continue racing with even more injures, but things came to a climax at Pocono in July. Allison had led 119 of the first 150 laps, but coming off of Turn 2 on lap 150, Allison made contact with Darrell Waltrip, and it launched Allison skyward. The car flipped over 10 times, coming to rest over the inside retaining wall, with almost no bodywork left on the car. Allison would sustain a broken arm from the crash, but he would not quit. Allison races the next 6 races with a broken arm. However, the turmoil was not over for Davey Allison. At Michigan in August, his younger brother Clifford crashed during practice for a Busch Series race. Clifford would not be as lucky as Davey had been. Davey took his brothers passing very hard, after some races even telling crew chief Larry McReynolds that maybe racing wasn’t for him. Allison drove on, however, and was leading the points by an equivalent to 6 on-track positions when NASCAR rolled into Atlanta.

Allison's crash at Pocono in 1992
Allison's crash at Pocono in 1992

Bill Elliott, a working class hero from the mountains of North Georgia, was looking for his second NASCAR Championship in 1992. He sent a message to everyone that he was there for one reason, to win the Championship. After a crash in the Daytona 500, Elliott won 4 straight races at the beginning of the season, and led the points for most of the season, but he was lodged in 2nd in points going into Atlanta after having a string of 3 retirements in 4 races, and was 10 points behind leader Davey Allison.

Bill Elliott's car at Atlanta in 1992
Bill Elliott's car at Atlanta in 1992

Alan Kulwicki came from the most unlikely of backgrounds. A Polish-American Mechanical Engineer from Wisconsin, Kulwicki dreamed of racing stock cars from a young age. Kulwicki not only was different in his background, but in his attitude. Alan did not want to have any help in his Championship endeavors. Kulwicki ran his own team, with just 7 employees. Kulwicki won the 6th race of the season at Bristol, and never left the top 5 in points. His passion for work was unmatched by anyone in the Winston Cup garage. Kulwicki was known to get out of his car in the garage area during practice, change the spring settings, and hop back in the car to go back out on track without even taking off his helmet. All seemed well for the #7 Team, but at Dover in September, Alan crashed. There was a 278 Point deficit to make up, and only a handful of races left. Alan became very vocal and depressed about the deficit, even going as far to say that “…our championship is over.” But Kulwicki continued on, and with Bill Elliott’s problems, he was only 15 Points behind Davey Allison at Atlanta.

Classic Motorsport: The 1992 Hooters 500 - The Perfect Race #BlogPost

There were still more storylines to be written that day.

Jeff Gordon, a Sprint Car driver from Indiana, would be making his first start that day in a Rainbow Colored Dupont car, fielded by Rick Hendrick.

Kyle Petty, son of Richard, was also in the Championship hunt. Mark Martin and Harry Gant also were mathematically in contention, but the the top 3 in the Championship would need to “…wreck on the first lap.” according to Kyle himself. On the first lap, the prayers were almost answered.

Classic Motorsport: The 1992 Hooters 500 - The Perfect Race #BlogPost

The race started, Allison in 17th, Elliott in 11th, and Kulwicki in 14th. Rick Mast and Brett Bodine started on the front row, and as they headed into Turn 1 side-by-side on the second lap, contact ensued. Bodine lost control of his Ford underneath Mast’s Oldsmobile. The two cars spun in front of the other 41 cars. Cars ducked and dived their way around the wreck. For a moment, it seemed as if all of the Championship contenders had made it through. But not everyone had. Davey Allison had been hit hard in the rear, bending his left rear fender to act more as a parachute to Davey’s car, but the team persevered, fixing the car’s left rear to almost as good as new. By the first pit stops, he had a comfortable 20 point lead on his fellow Championship contenders. Adversity wouldn’t just strike Allison, however.

Alan Kulwicki came down for his first pit stop on Lap 66. His crew changed 4 tires, filled his tank up with gas, and dropped the jack, but the car didn’t move. The transmission had broken. Kulwicki only had 4th gear for the next 410 miles, but he was up to 2nd position, behind none other than Bill Elliott. The gap to Allison was now down to 10 points for Elliott, and the Championship was in sight. Elliott and Kulwicki stayed up front, but further back in the pack, disaster struck.

Classic Motorsport: The 1992 Hooters 500 - The Perfect Race #BlogPost

On Lap 96, Ken Schrader and Richard Trickle got together off Turn 4, collecting Wally Dallenbach, Darrell Waltrip, Rich Bickle, and, most importantly, Richard Petty. Petty, had not been able to slow for the accident, and ran into it, hard. The driver with the most wins in NASCAR history, was out of his final race. With a wave to the crowd and a smile, Richard Petty’s career was over. When he emerged from the other side of the tow truck, the entire crowd erupted in cheers. 160,000 fans gave a salute to the greatest NASCAR driver ever to step into a race car. The race, however, was not over.

Up front, Alan Kulwicki and Bill Elliott were trading the top spot. Both had earned the 5 bonus points for leading a lap, but only one could gain the 10 point bonus for leading the most laps. Both drivers ran the next 100 Laps as hard as they could, trading the top spot 10 times, but Elliott seemed to always lead the race at the Start/Finish line. After Jeff Gordon, in his first start, spun in Turn 2 on Lap 209, Kulwicki finally seemed to be able to lead. He began to dominate until Lap 243, when Bobby Hillin Jr. had an engine failure. Kulwicki was able to keep the lead when the race restarted, but he was still 2nd in points when he took Lap 253. Davey Allison still held the lead, but his 1992 season was about to come to shambles.

Classic Motorsport: The 1992 Hooters 500 - The Perfect Race #BlogPost

On Lap 254, Ernie Irvan’s right rear tire went flat in Turn 3. Irvan struggled for control. His car shot left, down the track off Turn 4, but Irvan tried to correct. He overcorrected. The Yellow Kodak Oldsmobile shot up the track, right into the path of the #28 Texaco Havoline Ford of Davey Allison. Allison hit Irvan, and his car slid hard into the inside wall. Irvan slid to a halt behind Allison. Allison scrambled for reverse, and, for a moment, it seemed as if he would be able to keep going, but it was to no avail. Allison’s right-front suspension had been damaged, and the car would not longer turn to the right. Davey Allison’s tumultuous 1992 NASCAR Season was over. But Allison was not angry. He came out of the infield care center with one message. “It wasn’t meant to be.” Allison accepted his defeat, and he didn’t blame anyone. Allison looked to 1993 for better luck.

Classic Motorsport: The 1992 Hooters 500 - The Perfect Race #BlogPost

With less than 75 Laps to go, Alan Kulwicki still held the lead, but neither he nor Bill Elliott had enough fuel to make it to the end of the race. Kulwicki drove as hard as he could to stay in front of Elliott until he had to pit. Kulwicki had to stretch his fuel as long as he could to be able to ensure the bonus for leading laps. On the backstretch of lap 309, he ran out. Kulwicki dove down pit lane sputtering, and he came down for his pit stop. A lone soul came over the pit box, his gas man Tony Gibson. The fuel opening struggled to part way for the gas can, and Alan only got 2 of the 3 second of gas that he needed. Elliott came down on Lap 314. His pit stop was flawless, and he extended his lead to a second and a half over Kulwicki, who was saving all the gas he could.

One thing became apparent, and it would decide the Championship. One driver would decide the Championship, and it wasn’t Kulwicki nor Elliott. Terry Labonte had stayed on track for 2 laps after Elliott pitted. Alan Kulwicki had led 103 Laps, and he was running in second position, but Bill Elliott was out in front, but even if he led the rest of the race, it would only be 102 Laps led. Kulwicki just had to bring the car home in 2nd place, but things became tense in Kulwicki’s pit. He seemed to be saving fuel, but Terry Labonte, who was running in 3rd, was catching him. If Kulwicki lost that spot, he would lose the Championship. On Lap 328, a distraught Elliott crossed the finish line in 1st position, and a joyous Hooters team jumped across the pit road wall, hugging each other and crying. Alan Kulwicki, and all 7 employees on his race team, was the Champion for 1992.

Classic Motorsport: The 1992 Hooters 500 - The Perfect Race #BlogPost

When all eyes were supposed to be focused on Kulwicki, they were focused on 1 car. The car had no hood, no front bumper, and no fenders, but it didn’t matter. Richard Petty was cruising around the track at 50 mph. Richard Petty was taking his final lap in NASCAR. He waved to his fans, pulled down pit lane, and it was over. Richard Petty had ended his 1,184th race, and career.

Classic Motorsport: The 1992 Hooters 500 - The Perfect Race #BlogPost

Alan Kulwicki had something planned for his celebration. He loved to do a backwards victory lap, so he could get close to the fans. He’d done it after his first win at Phoenix International Raceway in 1988, and NASCAR had told him he couldn’t do it again. But Alan had other plans, on the front stretch after his Championship, he decided he wanted to see the fans up close. He turned around, and everyone flocked to the catchfence. Kulwicki became a folk hero instantly. He had it all.

Classic Motorsport: The 1992 Hooters 500 - The Perfect Race #BlogPost

Now, if the story ended there, NASCAR would be in a much better spot than it is today. But, the story doesn’t end there. On April 1st, 1993, when flying to the Bristol race for the Winston Cup Series, Alan Kulwicki’s plane went down in heavy fog. That morning, his hauler left a rainy Bristol Motor Speedway. Every team on the Winston Cup circuit came out, took their hats off, and watched the #7 hauler leave the race track for the last time. Rusty Wallace won the 1993 Food City 500, pulled around to the frontstraightaway, and turned around. Wallace ran his victory lap in reverse to salute the late Kulwicki. The 100,000 strong crowd cheered. Alan was lost, but certainly not forgotten.

But the story continues, and the tragedy does as well. On July 12th, 1993, Davey Allison was flying his helicopter to go watch Niel Bonnett’s son David test for the Busch Series race at Talladega. Allison was attempting to land in a fenced off area of the infield, when wind lifted up the front end of the helicopter, it lurched backwards and crashed into the ground. Allison was knocked unconscious, and never regained consciousness. The NASCAR family had endured another unbelievable loss.

Classic Motorsport: The 1992 Hooters 500 - The Perfect Race #BlogPost

At the Championship finale in Atlanta in 1993, race winner Rusty Wallace and Championship winner Dale Earnhardt ran side-by-side, for a backwards victory lap. Earnhardt with a Kulwicki flag in hand, Wallace with a Allison flag. It was something that will never be created again. The race, the emotion, the stars, and the legends. Nothing like it will ever occur again.

#HelpJackThroughTheOffseason #MakeCarThrottleCarsAgain

Here’s the full length no-commercial race:

Remote video URL



This is one of my favorite ct posts so far. Well done man. Loved it

01/19/2017 - 18:13 |
16 | 0
i need to change my name

Enter your comment…

01/19/2017 - 18:27 |
2 | 2

Fantastic post. A real rollercoaster ride, just so much going on all at once. Th part about Kulwicki dying like he did made me shudder. Just amazing Zac, great job.

Matt Robinson

01/19/2017 - 19:22 |
6 | 2
.... 3

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Thank you!

01/19/2017 - 19:28 |
2 | 0
Michael R. T. Jensen

A restaurant focused on breasts, and a beer manufacturer as your lead image. Here’s an upvote.

01/19/2017 - 19:23 |
58 | 4

Exactly! Now that’s a real sport.

01/19/2017 - 19:30 |
12 | 0

Really good. Worthy for an editors pick 😉

01/19/2017 - 19:40 |
4 | 0
Delightful Citizen (Classic Truck Squad)

Amazing post, one of my favorites. I will show this to people when they rag on NASCAR next time.
Is it weird that the final image of Wallace and Sr. makes my eyes a bit misty?

01/19/2017 - 20:07 |
4 | 0

Keep it up, pal.

01/19/2017 - 22:28 |
2 | 0
Jack Leslie

Loving the hashtag at the end 😂😂 very good post

01/19/2017 - 23:24 |
10 | 0
Rise Comics

This is perfect

01/19/2017 - 23:37 |
2 | 0

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