UNC Charlotte commemorates NASCAR driver, engineer and inspiration Alan D. Kulwicki

Categories: General News

UNC Charlotte celebrated national championship NASCAR driver Alan Kulwicki on December 14, what would have been his 69th birthday. The William States Lee College of Engineering motorsports students hosted “Underbird Rising – Alan D. Kulwicki Legacy Lunch” to commemorate the impact made on Niner Nation.  

Members from Kulwicki’s championship team, emerging NASCAR drivers and motorsports industry insiders joined students for the on-campus event to remember and honor Kulwicki.

During the program, students discussed their motorsports academics and activities, recognizing the high importance of the lab in their educational experience. As he presented his perspective, mechanical engineering student Kayden Hanks remarked, “I even moved here from Utah because of this lab.” 

Currently, 163 students are enrolled in the motorsports concentration and even more from across campus actively engage in the FSAE teams that are housed in the Kulwicki Lab.  

Jim Fox, Research Operations Manager of the Kulwicki Motorsports Laboratory

“So many here at UNC Charlotte are influenced by the late Alan Kulwicki and the generosity of the Foundation,” said Jim Fox, Research Operations Manager of the Kulwicki Motorsports Laboratory. “Our motorsports program produces some of the most highly sought after engineers in the industry, and the Kulwicki Lab plays a huge role in that. For instance, 100% of our 2022 FSAE Internal Combustion team landed a career in motorsports, and more than 22% of Cup Series engineers are our alumni.  We thank the Foundation for helping us prepare these graduates!”  

This emphasis on a formal education is directly traced back to Alan Kulwicki, who was famously NASCAR’s first driver to hold a degree in engineering. The example he created, by leading all facets of designing, building and driving, is the foundation of the motorsports program at UNC Charlotte, where Niner Engineers learn to do the same.

Tom Roberts shares memories of Alan Kulwicki with packed house of motorsports professionals and students.

The students were joined at the podium by other attendees who shared their own tribute to Kulwicki, explaining the impact made on them. In particular, Tom Roberts, veteran motorsports business leader, shared many personal memories of Alan Kulwicki and helped the audience feel a much closer connection to the lab’s namesake. 

Drivers in the Kulwicki Driver Development Program also attended, engaging with the students and providing their own view of how Kulwicki has supported their career.

“UNC Charlotte is grateful for our close connection with the Kulwicki Foundation and the family,” said Rob Keynton, Dean of the William States Lee College of Engineering. “We will be forever grateful to Mr. Kulwicki for his important contributions to the motorsports profession and his inspiration to our students.”

As motorsports has evolved, so has the number of engineers increased in NASCAR. It’s a trend that can be traced to the late Kulwicki, NASCAR’s first driver to hold a bachelor’s degree in engineering.

“Personal and professional interaction is necessary for success in just about everything you do, especially in our sport.  I feel that my education has prepared me to deal with sponsors, the media, officials and the general public in a professional manner.  It has definitely been essential in the success of operating my own team.  It’s an asset that I’m proud of.  And, yes, if I had it all to do over again, I’d still go after the college degree.”

Alan D. Kulwicki

With the family’s generous memorial gifts, the Alan Kulwicki Memorial Scholarship was established in 1994 and the Alan D. Kulwicki Motorsports Laboratory was named in 2009. The building is home to the motorsports academic concentration as well as the UNC Charlotte FSAE competitive student teams. 

UNC Charlotte · Kulwicki discusses his engineering degree
Jackson Boone, emerging NASCAR driver, speaks about his experience in the Kulwicki Driver Development Program.
UNC Charlotte motorsports students present gift of appreciation to Jan Beatty-Hendley of the Kulwicki Foundation.
Five members of Kulwicki’s winning team joined the event, adding invaluable insight about Kulwicki and the championship car.
Event attendees test the student-designed EV simulator, pressing the accelerator pedal to release energy stored in the battery to the electric motor.
Kulwicki 1992 team members and Niner Engineer motorsports students with championship car at Kulwicki Lab
NASCAR drivers in the Kulwicki Driver Development Program visit the Alan D. Kulwicki Motorsports Laboratory on the UNC Charlotte campus.
Ryan Zeck, Alumni Council President of the William States Lee College of Engineering and graduate of the motorsports program, with Kulwicki’s 1992 championship racecar.