One of short track racing's biggest supporters passed away Wednesday. Phil Kurze, the Vice President of Motorsports for Whelen Engineering Company, died at the age of 69 after a long illness.
As the VP of Motorsports at Whelen, Kurze played a major role in the company's involvement with NASCAR. During his time, Whelen supported a variety of short track programs including the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
It was perhaps the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour where Kurze was known best.
"Phil was a huge support to the short track racing community and especially the Modifieds," George Brunnhoelzl III, four-time champion of the now defunct NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. "He was proud to represent Whelen and it’s commitment, sponsorship, and involvement in racing. But most of all he was a kind hearted family man that loved to talk about his grandkids and took the time to get to know us outside of racing. When our Daughter was born at 30 weeks he would check in and keep up with her progress. Most recently when Heather was diagnosed with Breast Cancer he reached out to her directly. Phil told Heather that they were going to be warrior buddies and they kept up with each others treatments and progress. Phil was a bright light and we will miss him."
Scott Tapley, who currently serves as the race director at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT) and Riverhead Raceway (NY), also chimed in on the impact that Kurze had on the short track racing community.
"What Phil Kurze did for short track racing is immeasurable," Tapley began. "Phil’s love for the sport was completely genuine and with that obvious passion came the respect from our entire community. Not only a great man but in my opinion a future NASCAR Hall of Famer."
Four-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion Lee Pulliam was also saddened to hear the news Wednesday evening.
“It saddens my heart to learn of the passing of Phil Kurze tonight,” Pulliam said. “Phil presented me with three of my four national championship trophies and was too sick for the last one but he still managed to send a video."
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor - Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: George Brunnhoelzl III / Facebook