The fathers of both Jacky Ickx and Alan Kulwicki, who are among the six upcoming inductees into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, were instrumental in their sons choosing racing as a career.
Jacques Ickx was a respected racing journalist and technical writer, covering all forms of motorsports and taking young Jacky with him when he was old enough. Despite being aware of racing all his life, Jacky was not really interested in the sport until his Dad bought him a 50cc Zundapp motorcycle. Soon afterwards, Ickx won 8 of 13 races and the European 50cc title.
Gerald Kulwicki was one of the premier engine builders on the USAC circuit, working with six championship teams, three with Norm Nelson and the other three with Roger McCluskey. Because of the constant travel involved with the sport as well as other hardships, Gerald Kulwicki never encouraged his son to go racing.
Kulwicki would reveal later that there were times that he resented his Dad for not helping or encouraging him in the early years. “I always felt he could pull some strings, but he never did,” Kulwicki would say later. “He knew how difficult it was to be successful, and also he didn’t want me to get hurt. Now, he is my biggest fan.”
Gerald Kulwicki will accept the honor in his son’s behalf during the induction ceremony on April 18th.
With both dads now firmly behind them, Ickx and Kulwicki went on to achieve notable success in motor sports. After his motorcycle championship, Ickx turned his attention to fourwheel racing. By the age of 21, he was driving a Formula 2 car for Ken Tyrrell, and two years later he won his first Grand Prix race in a Ferrari. In 1969, driving a Brabham, Ickx won both the German and Canadian Grands Prix, and finished second to Jackie Stewart in championship points.
Back in a Ferrari in 1970, Ickx won the Austrian, Canadian and Mexican GP’s, and again was the runner-up in points, this time behind Jochen Rindt, who won the title despite being fatally injured in a crash at Monza before the end of the season.
Ickx posted wins in eight Grand Prix races during his career. He was even more successful in sports cars and endurance racing, winning the prestigious 24 Hours of LeMans a record six times. He also won at Daytona, Sebring and Watkins Glen, co-driving with such greats as Mario Andretti, Derek Bell, Clay Regazzoni and Brian Redman. Ickx won the Can-Am Championship in 1979, and two World Endurance championships, in 1982 and ’83.
Kulwicki worked his way up from the short tracks to become the first driver/owner to win the Winston Cup championship in more than a decade when he captured the title in 1992. Richard Petty, in 1979, was the last driver to do so before Kulwicki, and no one has done it since.
A successful competitor on the American Speed Association (ASA) circuit, Kulwicki made a total commitment to Winston Cup racing in 1986, selling all of his ASA equipment so he could not go back. He had to make it, and make it he did.
He won Rookie of the Year honors that year, and earned the reputation of a hardworking, no nonsense competitor. His first Winston Cup win came at Phoenix in 1988, and it was there that Kulwicki made his first clock-wise post-race lap, dubbed by the media as the “Polish Victory Lap”. He won again in both 1990 and 1991, but 1992 was his greatest season.
The under-staffed and underfunded Kulwicki team won at Bristol, then at Pocono, but were 278 points behind with just six races left in the season. In one of the greatest charges in racing history, the team had two seconds, a fourth and a fifth in the last six races, and won the title by a mere ten points over Bill Elliott in the season finale at Atlanta.
Kulwicki did not get to realize all of the glory and accolades that accompany being the 1992 Winston Cup champion. He died in a plane crash on his way to the spring race at Bristol in April of 1993.
Ickx and Kulwicki will be inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame on the evening of April 18th, along with Ettore Bugatti, Denis Hulme, Tim Richmond and Glen Wood. Tickets for the evening, which includes a reception, dinner, televised induction ceremony and a post-ceremony reception, are on sale now. Ticket prices are $100 per person, or $760 for a table of eight.
More information may be obtained by calling the International Motorsports Hall of Fame at 256/362-5002, or by visiting the Hall of Fame web site at “www.motorsportshalloffame.com“.