Hooters exits as primary sponsor

Monday, April 12, 1993 – Hooters officials announce the restaurant chain is withdrawing its primary sponsorship of the No. 7 Ford for Alan Kulwicki Racing effective immediately. The decision comes 11 days after a plane crash claimed the lives of owner/driver Alan Kulwicki, Mark Brooks (son of Hooters CEO Bob Brooks) and two others. “The relationship between Hooters and Alan Kulwicki was unique,” Bob Brooks said. “… It is unrealistic to think that such a relationship could be formed with a new owner and driver in so short of a time.”

The crash occurred Thur., April 1 approximately six miles from Tri-Cities Airport in Blountville, Tenn. The Food City 500 NASCAR Cup Series race was scheduled for Bristol Motor Speedway that weekend. Kulwicki was the defending series champion as well as the defending race champion.

Bojangle’s, sponsor for Cale Yarborough Motorsports and driver Derrike Cope, also sponsored the No. 7 at North Wilkesboro (April 16-18) along with Easter Seals Foundation and Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children. It was the first appearance by the team since the plane crash, following an off-weekend after the Bristol race. Jimmy Hensley drove the car to a 12th-place finish.

Team owner Felix Sabates oversaw the operations of the Kulwicki team until a buyer could be found. NASCAR competitor Geoff Bodine announced on May 11 that he had purchased the team.

Sabates said the Hooters decision to withdraw its sponsorship was due to his refusal to name ARCA driver Loy Allen driver of the No. 7 entry instead of Hensley. The company sponsored Allen in seven ARCA races in ’93 and eventually seven Cup races (through Naturally Fresh) during the second half of the ’93 season. Allen qualified for four of the seven Cup races.

According to reports, Sabates stated that he “was empowered to do what is best for the team.”

“I am not going to put a nobody in the car,” he said.

Kulwicki among four killed in crash

Thursday, April 1, 1993 – Defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Alan Kulwicki was one of four persons aboard a private plane that crashed while en route to Tri-Cities Airport in Blountville, Tenn. There were no survivors. Others aboard the Merlin twin-engine plane were pilot Charlie Campbell; Mark Brooks, son of Hooters of America CEO Robert Brooks; and Dan Duncan, director of sports marketing for the Hooters restaurant chain.

Kulwicki’s No. 7 NASCAR Cup team was sponsored by Hooters and the group had departed Knoxville earlier that evening after Kulwicki wrapped up a sponsor appearance. They were traveling to Bristol for the upcoming weekend’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation, probably cause of the fatal crash was failure of the pilot to follow proper procedures for icing conditions.

Kulwicki had five wins in 208 career starts in the Cup Series. He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2019.