An Engineer's Intensity
As Kulwicki started contending for more race wins, more people began to take notice of how he ran AK Racing. While he had to juggle a lot of responsibilities as an owner/driver, Kulwicki always made sure to provide his engineering expertise when setting up his cars. Most NASCAR teams at the time did not employ formally-trained engineers. Kulwicki’s education gave him an advantage over many of his competitors.
Kulwicki’s reputation as a tough, intense, no-nonsense leader followed him to NASCAR. Once again, some of his employees considered him to be a perfectionist who could be demanding and difficult to work with. One such employee was Ray Evernham, who worked at AK Racing before finding success as Jeff Gordon’s crew chief. Evernham and Kulwicki butted heads so often that Evernham left the team after just six weeks.
Kulwicki admitted that his reputation as a demanding boss was probably deserved. In 1990, he explained that being demanding is “good and necessary at least to a point. If you are not demanding of yourself and those around you, you’re not going to get a hundred percent. I’m demanding, but I don’t think I’d ever ask anyone to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself or haven’t already done. I’m demanding but not unreasonable.”
On the other hand, Kulwicki did try to keep his perfectionism in check. “I probably have been a perfectionist in the past, but I’m trying not to be one anymore. I realize that nothing is ever perfect. I’ve got a saying for that: ‘The pursuit of perfection is frustrating and a waste of time. No one is perfect. The pursuit of excellence is commendable and worthwhile. Therefore, strive for excellence and not perfection.”