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Martinsville Winners Pay Tribute To An ‘Inspiration’

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, April 2 2012

Driver Ryan Newman and crew chief Tony Gibson say that the late Alan Kulwicki had big impacts on their careers. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Crew chief Tony Gibson rarely shows his emotions at the race track, but when he and driver Ryan Newman earned their first victory this season in Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway the Florida native admitted it was special due to the date – April 1.

It was the date that 19 years ago 1992 NASCAR Winston Cup champion Alan Kulwicki and three Hooters employees died when the Hooters corporate plane crashed on a mountainside near Bristol Motor Speedway. Gibson was Kulwicki’s gasman and a fabricator on that championship team. A team led by a driver-owner who was the first NASCAR driver with an engineering degree.

Now, on the anniversary of that devastating day, Gibson was in victory lane with another driver who possesses an engineering degree – Newman. It’s a victory that Gibson described as meaning “a lot.”

“I thought about that [Kulwicki’s crash] last night [Saturday], actually,” said Gibson, who finds himself again working for an owner/driver who’s the series champion – Tony Stewart. “Any time you win is important. Any time you can win is gratifying. But today is really cool to be able to win and think about Alan and where we have all come.

“It’s a lot of the reason I’m where I’m at is because of Alan. You know, the fight to never give up and always believe in yourself comes from him, too.”

Gibson believes Kulwicki instilled those attitudes not only in him, but others in the garage as well. Newman, who was in high school 19 years ago, noted he, too, remembered the day, citing Kulwicki as an “inspiration” for him.

“He was part of the reason why I chose to be an engineer and follow through with my racing career at the same time,” Newman said after collecting his 16th career victory and first at Martinsville. “Just like Tony said, he’s inspirational to a lot of people in the garage; that never-give-up attitude, the underdog kind of mentality that he had. It’s no matter what, we’ll do our best and that’s all we can do. That’s what we did today.”

Gibson described it as “pretty cool” to be with Newman and his engineering background.

“He’s just like Alan,” the 47-year-old Gibson said about the Purdue University graduate. “He’s wicked smart and when you ever try to catch him on something, he’s got a little bit better answer for you. So I don’t try that anymore.

“I’m just happy to still be in the sport. I know I’m getting old and I can’t believe I’ve lasted this long, but hopefully, I can dig along for a little longer and get some more wins.”

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, April 2 2012
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • Terry says:

    Alan Kulwicki should be in the H of F….
    Just ask the Wood Bros about that.
    Glen Leonard Eddie Len….all loved the guy.
    And that is good enough for me.

  • Tony Geinzer says:

    Alan Kulwicki should be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame the same way as Richie Evans as I feel even though its harder to climb the ranks a la Kulwicki and not be young, but, we need to know where are heroes came from and for.