Longtime Whelen Engineering executive and short track racing advocate Phil Kurze died on Wednesday at 69-years-old after a long illness.
Kurze managed Whelen’s motorsports portfolio during a time it partnered with NASCAR’s regional and touring divisions — specifically the All-American Series, Modified Tour and EURO Series.
He was a tremendous supporter of the New England Modified scene, recognized by all corners of the NASCAR community.
“Phil Kurze possessed an undeniable passion for grassroots, short-track racing and NASCAR, and his love for the Modifieds was unrivaled,” NASCAR Chairman and CEO Jim France said. “Phil’s commitment and love for our sport cannot be overstated, as Whelen Engineering supported every level of NASCAR racing — from our local race tracks to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. He was both a valued partner and a cherished friend. On behalf of NASCAR and the France family, I extend our condolences to all of Phil’s friends and family.”
That partnership was especially evident in the New England Modified scene.
“A sad day for racing,” five-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby posted on Facebook. “Phil was a true fan of the Modifieds and did so much to ensure the stability and growth of the Whelen Modified Tour. He was also instrumental in carving out a spot for all of the weekly series and regional series champions in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Hard to explain how much he meant to everyone in our community.”
His contributions were recognized on both sides of the Mason Dixon.
“Simply put, a great guy,” two-time champion of the former Whelen Southern Modified Tour, Andy Seuss, posted on Facebook. “The things he did for our modified and short track racing world was simply unprecedented and always progressive. But what I’ll miss most is the incredible person he was. Yes he was there for the modifieds, yes it was business for him. But that didn’t stop him from asking how your family was, and genuinely caring. This is a huge loss for not just the racing world, but the world.”
But the Late Model Stock community felt the same admiration for Kurze.
“It saddens my heart to learn of the passing of Phil Philip Kurze tonight,” four-time All-American Series champion LeePullianm said in his own social media post. “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.
“Phil and Whelen Engineering have done so much for NASCAR and the short track community. He was a great man whom I had the honor of having multiple dinners with and discussing the state of short tracks and discussing ideas on how to always make it better and stronger for everyone involved. He was more than a sponsor for the sport. He was a advocate and down right cared for all of us who participated. His heart was first and foremost with the Whelen Modified tour but he always took interest in all forms of motorsports.”