More Than A Few Got Their NASCAR Starts With Ulrich
D.K. Ulrich was one of the most popular independent car owners in NASCAR stock-car history.
Ulrich devised a plan as to where he would lease or rent race cars to drivers desiring to make it in NASCAR’s Grand National division (now the Sprint Cup Series).
People and drivers who came through Ulrich’s shop, located across the street from Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., went on to better things.
One of the most successful graduates from Ulrich’s school of racing was the late Tim Richmond. Ernie Irvan also started in an Ulrich car.
The first Cup car Richmond drove, after coming to NASCAR from the open-wheel ranks, was a car owned by Ulrich.
At one time, Ulrich, who was born in Woodbury, N.J., and moved to the Concord area in the late 1960s from California to be closer to NASCAR racing, had Sandy Jones, Peter Sospenzo and Jimmy Long working on the same crew. All three have gone on to bigger and better things in NASCAR. Sospenzo’s still a crew chief and Long heads up the research department at Hendrick Motorsports.
“D.K. had a plan, which he put into working order, where he would lease race cars out to drivers who wanted to get a start in NASCAR,” said Jones, a longtime NASCAR crewman/crew chief from Alabama. Tim Richmond was one of those drivers.
“When D.K. started the idea, everybody sort of laughed at him. They said it would never work and a lot of people accused him of taking advantage of those young guys.
“But, at the time, there wasn’t any of the mega-car teams, like today, and there was hardly any place for a young driver, with no experience, to get a start.”
“D.K. treated those drivers as fair and square as he possibly could and most of them went on to continue their racing lives,” said Whitt King, a former NASCAR crewman for several teams, who now works for Jeff Hammond Enterprises.
Although Ulrich never won a Cup race in more than 200 starts, he established a very good living through his NASCAR connections.
Ulrich started a flying service, now headquartered at the Statesville, N.C., airport, transporting crewman from various teams to races on the weekends. He still provides that service.
“It was something that was needed,” said Ulrich, who now spends most of his time in New Mexico. “The work these guys do on the weekend, they don’t need to be spending all their time going through security in airports. We get them to where they’re going and then get them to the track and we’re there when they’re ready to leave after the race.”
Ulrich, 65, has two sons, Skeet, a fledgling actor, and Jeff, who has dabbled in motorsports marketing.
Ulrich even became successful in real estate, purchasing Crooked Island, located in the Bahamas chain of islands which he since has sold.
“It hasn’t been all great, but it hasn’t been that bad either,” Ulrich says of his NASCAR experiences.