Honoring Phil Kurze
Whelen would not be where we are today in the Motorsports community without the devoted efforts of Phil Kurze. Phil was a Whelen employee for over 25 years, longtime Vice President of Motorsports and Mass Notification, and short-track and modified racing enthusiast. Phil negotiated Whelen’s first contract with NASCAR many years ago, and was the catalyst for the relationship we have with them today. Phil had a genuine passion for racing and a deep respect for every driver, crew member, official, and race fan he encountered. Inspired by his passion and unwavering dedication to the sport, Phil dreamed of creating a place to highlight each NASCAR champion. He worked with NASCAR to bring his vision to life and in 2014 the Whelen Hall of Champions in the NASCAR Hall of Fame was born. Every national, regional, and international champion from both current and past series is honored in the Whelen Hall of Champions. The Whelen Hall of Champions also recognizes Whelen Everyday Champions, an honor given annually to a first responder in recognition of their heroism and bravery, and a cause dear to Phil’s heart. In addition to his love for motorsports, he had a profound respect for first responders and spent many years serving the community as police Sergeant and Fire Commissioner for his local fire department.
On December 12, 2018, the Whelen Engineering family lost Phil Kurze. It is only fitting that now Phil also shares a place of honor within the Hall of Champions. On November 9, Phil’s family, Whelen colleagues, and NASCAR officials gathered in Charlotte, North Carolina at the NHOF to dedicate a plaque in his memory and to honor his legendary impact on the racing community.
In attendance were Phil’s wife Jo-Ann Kurze, daughter Katie Ahlgren and son-in-law Chris, and three grandchildren, Ryan, Hadley, and Bodie Ahlgren. Also in attendance were Jimmy Wilson, Director of NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, Bob, Duvall, Senior Director Business Development NASCAR, and Kevin Nevalainen. Whelen employees Peter Tiezzi, GM of Motorsport and JC Watson, Creative Director were also present.