Tim Richmond, who passed away on Aug. 13, 1989, was one of the most colorful drivers to come through the Cup Series. At just 34, his life and career ended far too early. After starting in open-wheel racing, Richmond won 13 Cup races, as well as the hearts of fans. Twenty years to the day after his death, he is remembered for his talent, as well as his charisma.
5. Daytona Speedweeks 1986. This marked the start of Richmond’s brief-but-bright tenure with Hendrick Motorsports. Richmond left Raymond Beadle’s Blue Max racing team and moved to Rick Hendrick’s new second car. Folgers Coffee was the first sponsor of the 25 car and veteran Harry Hyde was moved over from Geoff Bodine’s established 5 car to crew chief the new team. The relationship between Hyde and Richmond became a historical combination. The old, nuts-and-bolts head wrench was teamed up with a flashy, young, cocky driver. They won races and set records. They also earned a place in history as a potent combination that still makes people wonder what could have been.
4. North Wilkesboro ESPN broadcast on April 21, 1985. During the 1980s the quality of television coverage improved. In-car cameras were common and radio contact with drivers was relatively new. Broadcasters would get permission from crew chiefs to talk to drivers, usually during caution periods. The drivers would usually answer a few questions and quickly return to driving. That is, unless they were Tim Richmond. At North Wilkesboro, Richmond was interviewed during a slowdown by ESPN’s Larry Nuber and Bob Jenkins. The field fell into restart formation and Richmond kept talking. The pace car pulled off, the green flag waved and Richmond, not yet finished with his story, kept the push-to-talk button on and the conversation continued under green. At one point his Pontiac was very loose and sideways in turn one and his voice never wavered as he fought through traffic. With the announcers a little flabbergasted and the audience in wonder, North Wilkesboro epitomized his style and coolness.
3. First Cup victory June 13, 1982. Driving for J. D. Stacy, Richmond showed his road course prowess by capturing Riverside’s 400-kilometer showdown. Having spent time in Indy cars, he had the talent to handle left and right turn tracks. Coincidentally, the guy with the Hollywood style broke into victory lane in Southern California.
2. Johnny Rutherford sidepod ride May 1980. Richmond, a rookie, ran out of fuel on the final lap of the Indianapolis 500 and was unable to drive back to the pit area. On the cool-down lap he hitched a ride to pit road from none other than winner Johnny Rutherford. It was another example of Richmond’s brash and likeable personality. Sports pages nationwide carried photos of the famous ride on Rutherford’s sidepod.
1. Pocono win June 1987. Richmond fought health problems during the last few years of his life and career. His 1986 Cup campaign was strong but his 1987 season was delayed while he received medical treatment. His first full-distance race event took place on June 14. In a storybook return, Richmond scored his 12th career win in Pocono’s early summer 500-miler. It wound up being his next-to-last career win. Movie scriptwriters could not have come up with a better ending to this day.
(Patrick Reynolds is a professional racing mechanic who has worked for several NASCAR teams.)