As Kulwicki chased the 1992 championship, his legend as an owner/driver continued to grow. By staying committed to the management of his own team, he took on the role of NASCAR’s underdog, an independent racer determined to beat the powerhouse teams of professional stock car racing by relying on his own abilities. His path to a successful racing career made him an inspiration to other racers who hoped to reach the big leagues of NASCAR.
Kulwicki himself did not consider his team to be underfunded, and he expressed gratitude for the support that Hooters and Ford had given him. But he did see several benefits to running a small team. He said in 1989, “I don’t agree that having the most employees, the biggest and most elaborate race shop and the most race cars are the most important factors in this sport. None of that spells success on the race track. You don’t race the race shop. You can only race one car and engine at a time. And, it isn’t the sheer number of people employed in a business that makes it successful. It’s the number who are actually working and achieving that counts.”
Kulwicki also realized that he was taking a non-conventional approach to NASCAR and accepted his reputation as an underdog. He often wore a patch of the Mighty Mouse character on his driver’s suit. No matter what success he earned in his career, Kulwicki expressed hope that “I’ll always be an inspiration to some of the short track racers around the country, people trying to work their way up, aspiring to do this. It’s tough to make it on the Winston Cup circuit. The odds of making it are slim. But the fact that I did it and did it without being independently wealthy or anything like that might be a bit of an inspiration to other guys out there.”
Unfortunately for Kulwicki, his underdog role took on an unwelcome aspect as the 1992 season wrapped up. After qualifying on the pole, Kulwicki crashed out early in a race at Dover. The resulting 34th place finish caused him to lose lots of points to Bill Elliott, Davey Allison, and Harry Gant, who all got top six finishes. With only six races to go, Kulwicki trailed Elliott by 278 points. His championship hopes were seemingly over.