Truth Will Always Serve Better than a Good Story
I bid you welcome, gentle readers. This is the week when I’m prone to offering up the newest version of “Tales of the Talladega Curse” but there isn’t one. After seeing the “crowds” at Richmond and the overnight ratings of 2.7, those figures for Talladega might well become a part of the curse tale this year.
I know it’s a long time back to Bristol now, but before we do another thing, something at the end of that race just annoyed this old fan to the nevermore! I’ve been called a “historian” by some, but that’s not accurate. I’m no student of history; I’ve just lived through a whole lot of it.
At the end of the race, I heard something from FOX… Mike Joy to be precise, that I just couldn’t believe. Jimmie Johnson, after winning the Bristol race, opted to do a “Polish Victory Lap” to salute the fans in the stands… such as they were. According to Mike, in 1992, Alan Kulwicki performed it there for the first time, and this year made it the 25th anniversary of the PVL. Not even close!
Below is the YouTube video of the race, as posted by NASCAR. Because it’s from NASCAR, it won’t play here on site. You have to opt to view it on YouTube. They get brownie points for that. You don’t have to watch the whole race over. If you skip over to 2:46:40, you’ll find it very plainly stated there.
For the record, Alan’s very first win came in 1988 at the inaugural NASCAR race at Phoenix Raceway, and it was there he performed the Polish Victory Lap… 29 years ago. At that time, NASCAR took a dim view of that, as it wasn’t “policy.” If you’ve been around these parts for any length of time, then you know they had some sort of allergy to not doing things “The way we’ve always done it.” Alan promised not to do it again… until (not unless) he won a Championship, and he did it again at the 1992 finale at Atlanta, to the cheers of the sellout crowd there for the race that signified so very much… Jeff Gordon’s first race, Richard Petty’s last race, a Championship won (or lost) by the timing of a pit stop.
And the proof is
in the pudding!
This is the video from the 1992 Food City 500. If you run it up to about 2:34:30, you'll see a short shot of Alan's Victory lap... with the outside wall on the right side of the car, as it is throughout the race. Nope, NO Polish Victory Lap here!
Sadly, it was at Bristol the following year, 1993 that Alan’s plane crashed coming into Bristol. There were no survivors. I’m not at all sure how anyone could possibly mix up the two races. Alan’s win in 1992 was a joyous affair, as the video above clearly shows. The entire 1993 race was done with an atmosphere of mourning for our lost Champion. Rusty Wallace won the race, and comfortingly so. He and Alan were good friends. It was Rusty that hooked Alan up with Paul Andrews as his crew chief, and together they won a Championship as a totally independent team… probably the last time we’ll ever see that. At the conclusion of that race, Rusty performed the Polish Victory Lap as a tribute to his fallen friend… and there wasn’t a dry eye in the racing world. You can see that and more on this video of the race. Skip to circa 2:40:00 to see the PVL from that day.
That was a race
from Hell in our house. I well remember Rusty doing the Polish lap, but what I
kind of wish I could forget was Alan's hauler, taking a couple of slow laps
around Bristol before pulling out and leaving the track. We had tickets and
reservations for North Wilkesboro and Martinsville, but fortunately, not for
Bristol. Alan was my husband's driver… no question about that. Ours was not a
happy home. I know I have the race on tape, but I've never replayed it. It was
enough to be awakened by the phone that April 1, and hearing Don on the other
end saying, "We've lost Kulwicki." It was still shy of 7:30 in the
morning and I was very much asleep. For a minute, I couldn't make sense of what
he was saying, but his voice was broken and cracked and I knew it was no April
He finally explained about the plane crash, and my heart broke. It broke several times that weekend, and several more in the next two weeks, where everyone at both tracks was in obvious mourning for our Winston Cup Champion. We thought nothing could make it worse… until July, when word came, on my birthday that Davey Allison had crashed his helicopter at Talladega and was unresponsive and hospitalized. Ironically, Red Farmer, who wasn't young even then, would recover, but Davey left us the next morning without awakening.
Memories of those tragedies and so much that surrounded them are etched in this aging mind like the logo on the Statue of Liberty. Mike Joy, I’ve always respected you and your knowledge of racing and cars in general, but you let me down… way down… with this one. I’ve no idea where or why you concocted that totally untrue bit of revisionist history, but that’s the kind of thing so many of us “old geezers” try to fight and correct. If our sport has no accurate history, then it has no roots, and things without roots soon wither and die. It’s also hard to understand why no one else on the air corrected you. Surely, with something that big in our history, someone else should have known better. Maybe you folks at FOX think no one knows… or cares. Well, this no one does know and she cares too!
Your broadcasts supposedly come from a position of authority and “should” be based in fact, not fiction. I think you owe what’s left of your viewership a sincere apology for this fairytale. Yes, this is late, but I purposely waited until I had the video in hand to be 100% sure of exactly what was said and by whom. To do otherwise would be a disservice to truth and honesty.
When speaking of Alan aka “Special K”, there will always be one song associated with him and his stellar but far too short career. I posted this song once, years back and referred to it as “Paul Anka’s My Way.” I was immediately swamped by emails telling me it was Frank Sinatra, not Paul Anka, who had the hit. Yes, but what the detractors failed to understand is that Paul Anka WROTE it. A guy named Presley had a pretty good rendition of it also, but here is Paul, presenting his song in his own style. It’s not Country, but it’s good. Please enjoy!
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!