Wayne Estes, a spokesman for Ford Motor Co.'s racing division for whom Kulwicki raced, said others scheduled to be on the plane were two unidentified pilots, the marketing director for a restaurant chain that sponsors Kulwicki and a relative of one of the chain's executives.
Sullivan County (Tenn.) Sheriff Keith Carr said that he had seen at least three bodies and that authorities have an idea who the dead might be. But he would not release any identities.
"Everyone on board the plane was killed upon impact," he said. "We do have a belief as to who might be on there."
Ann Eldridge, of the Federal Aviation Administration in Atlanta, said five people were aboard the twin-engine turboprop registered to Kulwicki. Four bodies were located within two hours after the crash, she said.
Joe Minor of the Bristol Lifesaving Crew said the plane went down behind some houses just off a main highway between Bristol and Blountville. He said the airplane was engulfed in flames.
Dale Cannon, air traffic manager at the airport, said air traffic controllers lost radio contact with the Merlin turbo prop about 9:30 p.m. EST.
Several drivers were believed to be flying into the airport to compete in Sunday's Winston Cup race at Bristol International Raceway.
Kulwicki, 38, emerged from a battle with Bill Elliott and Davey Allison last year to win the closest championship in Winston Cup history. By placing second in the season-ending Hooters 500, Kulwicki finished 10 points ahead of Elliott, the race winner, to become the first owner-driver to win stock-car racing's biggest title since 1979, when Richard Petty won by the previous closest margin, 11 points.