The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season is nine races deep, and Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott has yet to return to Victory Lane. However, the defending Cup champion just hoisted the Bill France Cup once more in order to recreate a classic photo. He channeled Alan Kulwicki for a Hooters Racing photoshoot.
The image posted on Twitter featured Elliott holding the Bill France Cup over his head while his No. 9 Hooters Racing Chevrolet Camaro sat in the background. Three Hooters girls posed with the stock car while another crouched in front of the HMS driver. A lightning storm served as the background to truly add extra effects to the image.
The photo was not a perfect one-to-one recreation, but Elliott came close. Instead of the Bill France Cup, Kulwicki held the Winston Cup Series trophy over his head. The stock car was also different in that the original photo featured a Ford instead of a Chevrolet. Kulwicki famously drove the No. 7 Ford Thunderbird during his 1992 championship season.
Kulwicki earned the honor of one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998
A former short-track racer with a mechanical engineering degree, Kulwicki originally made his NASCAR debut in the Busch Grand National Series — now known as the Xfinity Series. He completed four races in 1984 and two more in 1985 but quickly moved to the top-level Winston Cup Series.
Kulwicki began racing for Bill Terry during the 1986 season, but he purchased the team midway through the schedule. He took over operations and drove the No. 35 Ford to one top-five finish at Martinsville, earning Rookie of the Year honors in the process. Kulwicki added three more top-five finishes in 1987. He ultimately secured the first win of his career in 1988, racing to Victory Lane at Phoenix.
Kulwicki continued to compete in the Winston Cup Series, changing to No. 7 and competing in 207 races and winning five. His best season took place in 1992 when he won twice and posted 11 top-five finishes. Kulwicki ended the year as the Winston Cup Series champion, finishing ahead of Elliott’s father Bill, Davey Allison, Harry Grant, and Kyle Petty. He entered the final race of the season facing a 30-point deficit, but he overcame a broken transmission and finished the Hooters 500 in second place. This performance gave him the necessary points to win the Winston Cup Series.
Kulwicki died at the age of 38 in an airplane crash
Kulwicki never had the opportunity to defend his 1992 title. He died in an airplane crash in Tennessee on Apr. 1, 1993, while returning from an appearance at a Knoxville Hooters. According to the Herald Courier, the twin-engine Fairchild SA227-TT Merlin aircraft lost power, fell from the sky, and slammed into a Sullivan County hillside six miles west of Bristol.
There were four people on the Hooters-owned aircraft: Kulwicki, pilot Charlie Campbell, Mark Brooks, sports marketing manager for Hooter’s America; and Dan Duncan, Hooter’s director of sports management. Kulwicki’s public relations representative Tom Roberts decided to take a commercial flight instead of joining the group on the Hooters aircraft.
26 years after Kulwicki’s death, NASCAR inducted him into the sport’s Hall of Fame. Entrepreneur Felix Sabates, a now-retired partner in Chip Ganassi Racing, gave a speech during the special ceremony. Jeff Gordon, Jack Roush, Roger Penske, and Davey Allison made up the remainder of the class.