Chase Elliott will pay tribute to the late Alan Kulwicki during the Southern 500 later this season
Chase Elliott revealed his No. 9 paintscheme for this year's Southern 500 on Twitter earlier this week, and the defending Cup Series champion will be sporting the iconic white and orange Hooters colors at Darlington in honor of the late Alan Kulwicki.
"It's weird, right? Because Alan beat Dad that year to win the championship," Chase Elliott told The Associated Press. "But as I've been around and listened to stories about Alan and listened to my dad talk about him, there was a lot of respect there for him. Dad and his team didn't win, but they sure respected Alan greatly."
NASCAR has employed a lot of interesting gimmicks in recent years to solicit fan interest, but the throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway has to be one of their best ideas yet. Not only is that evident by the changes the network makes to its presentation style for this race in an effort to mimic the feel of classic broadcasts from the seventies and eighties, but also by all the retro paint schemes adopted by the teams and sponsors in the spirit of the occasion.
What's interesting about this throwback paint scheme is the fact that it was Chase Elliott's father, Bill Elliott, who battled Kulwicki in the 1992 championship decider at Atlanta Motor Speedway. "Awesome Bill" ended up winning the race that day and going to Victory Lane, but Kulwicki clinched the championship thanks to a narrow points lead.
Unfortunately for the NASCAR community, tragedy struck less than a year later when Kulwicki was involved in a helicopter crash while returning from a sponsorship event. He and four other individuals were announced dead at the scene.
To this day, Alan Kulwicki is one of the few drivers in the modern era to have won a championship as an owner-driver. He was also known for his "Polish" victory lap celebration, which he debuted after winning at Phoenix in 1988 and driving around the track backwards.
Kulwicki is a cornerstone of NASCAR history and he was rightfully inducted into NASCAR's Hall of Fame in 2019. Chase Elliott is the most befitting active driver to race a car with a paintscheme honoring the late Wisconsin native.