Sunday, August 13, 2006

Tim Richmond: Without a doubt, one of NASCAR's best on a road course

Seventeen years ago today, Rusty Wallace won the Winston Cup race here at Watkins Glen International.
Early that morning, from his hospital room in West Palm Beach, Fla., Tim Richmond called his mother, Evelyn.
Evelyn Richmond had spent more than year sitting day by day by the side of her ailing son, whom she loved so dearly. She was sleeping when Tim called and told her that he wanted her to come to the hospital so he could talk to her.
Evelyn hung up the phone and dialed the number back. Tim didn’t answer, but one of his nurses did. Evelyn was told that Tim had gone back to sleep and that when he probably wouldn’t even remember calling his mom when he woke back up.
Evelyn decided that she’d wait until daylight to make her daily trip to the hospital to sit by her son’s bed.
About an hour later, Tim Richmond passed away.
Evelyn was haunted by her decision not to come when Tim asked her to, but nobody who knew how much of her energy, her very life itself, she gave to her son would ever blame her in any way.
By that morning, about 20 months after Richmond first learned that he had AIDS, the family knew the end was coming. It was, in many ways, ironic that the NASCAR world was in upstate New York when the sad day came.
Three years earlier, Tim Richmond had one of the greatest days of his life at Watkins Glen International. On Aug. 10, 1986, the Winston Cup circuit returned to this historic road course to race for the first time since 1965, and Richmond scored a victory during a streak that made him the biggest story in the sport that summer.
In the previous seven races, Richmond had won three times and finished second three more. He and crew chief Harry Hyde had finally figured out how to communicate with each other and their No. 25 Chevrolet was suddenly scary fast.
When Richmond won the pole here, it was the ninth straight time he’d started in the top 10. He’d extend that streak to 20 races by season’s end, and in the final 27 races of that year he started in the first two rows 22 times.
Richmond won The Budweiser at the Glen that year, beating Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt to the finish line. Afterward, he and Hyde and the team retired to the bar at the nearby Seneca Lodge to celebrate, reviving a tradition that had long been part of racing at this historic venue.
When Richmond won the Southern 500 at Darlington and the next race at Richmond later that year, he’d won six times and finished second four times in a remarkable 12-race stretch.
But at the end of that year, after fighting several bouts with what he thought was a bad cold or the flu, Richmond learned he had something far more serious. The world was just beginning to understand AIDS, and the diagnosis at that time was still considered a virtual death sentence.
Richmond missed the first half of the 1987 season, recovering from pneumonia that had led to his actual diagnosis. He won his first two points races back, at Pocono and Riverside, but by August of that year he was fighting the physical, medical and emotional battles that came with his illness.
When he showed up late for the drivers’ meeting at Watkins Glen on the morning of Aug. 9, some of his fellow drivers felt he was in no condition to race. The race was rained out that day, however, and Richmond ran all 90 laps and finished 10th in the race on Monday.
The next weekend at Michigan, Richmond nearly slept through his turn at qualifying and left the race early with a blown engine. He drove the No. 25 car straight to the garage and was gone to his motor home by the time most of his team got there.
He never raced in another NASCAR event.
Tim Richmond would have been 51 years old. He might have won a couple of championships. He almost certainly would have cemented his place in the sport’s history as one of its most talented and most popular drivers. He very well might have moved on to a career in Hollywood, something he always wanted to do. Maybe he would have found a wife and had a son who’d be growing up to be as charismatic and as talented as his famous father.
No one who ever saw Richmond race anywhere will ever forget seeing what he could do with a race car. And for certain, nobody who ever saw him run a road course, here or at Riverside, will ever doubt that they got to see one of the best at that discipline to ever compete in NASCAR.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

What was sad was how NASCAR totally shunned Richmond and his name was never mentioned again until recently. He deserved the same respect from NASCAR as Davey Allison, Neil Bonnett and all the other fallen heros of the sport received.

Chip Guberalski said...

It would have been cool if HMS had put together the retro paint scheme for the #25 that Tim drove and have it on that car today. Thanks David, for taking the time to remember and reflect.

Fran said...

Thank you David. I miss Tim. May he and his mom & dad rest in peace.

Tina Maines said...

...And nobody who was fortunate enough to be friends and neighbors with Tim will EVER forget his love for the sport...his love for the spotlight...his love for people...his love, period. He was bigger than life, and in many ways still is! RACING IS IN OUR BLOOD, BUT TIM IS IN OUR HEART!

Evil twin said...

He may have been a great racer, but you conveniently left out the fact that he asked a nice girl to marry him so she'd sleep with him and then intentionally gave her AIDS.

David Poole said...

Evil twin -- What you wrote is a greatly oversimplified and at the very least one-sided version of what happened of a very complex situation regarding Tim Richmond's illness. People who knew Tim very well and knew far more about the situation you refer to than you or I ever will say that the version of that story that's been told since Tim's death bears very little resemblance to what actually happened.

Justin said...

Come on Poole,
You don't think theres a reason nascar and the talking heads consistently forget to mention Richmond when speaking of the great drivers from the past. As charismatic and open to the media as Richmond may have been, it seems fairly obvious he didn't consider anyone other that himself and nascar would rather forget the tim richmond era..."sweep it under the rug"...

Anonymous said...

Tim Richmond is a magnificent part of the rich NASCAR history!

Jimmy60 said...

Great article , David. Wow, Tim was such an enormous talent. It's too bad folks like Tim, Alan Kulwicki and Davey Allison aren't still around to add lustre to the NASCAR galaxy of stars.

Grant Rader said...

Tim's first two wins were at Riverside California, a road course. Driving for Robert "Boobie" Harrington out of his race shop in Kannapolis, NC, Tim dominated both races. Robert was J.D. Stacy's Vice President of Racing Operations and when Stacy left the sport, Robert took over the operation. Tim went on to drive for Rick Hendrick and "the rest is history" as they say. It truly was tragic that Tim passed away. He could have had an amazing career. I was part of Robert's team at the time so I knew Tim pretty well. He was a character and during the filming of Stroker Ace, met several of the Hollywood crowd who were enticing him to go to Hollywood. In all likelyhood, that is where he contracted the disease that eventually claimed his life. He was a ladies man, it is not likely he had a same sex relationship, certainly he contracted it from an infected female. Unfortunately he had a girlfriend, Gina Luckenbill and passed the disease on to her. She has survived and married. I'm sure Tim and Dale are having a ball chasing each other in race cars in Heaven! GR

Anonymous said...

Justin,

Oh, there MOST CERTAINLY IS a reason why NASCAR consistently fails to mention Tim Richmond. However, this reason is clearly lost on you. And, Tim Richmond only considered himself? That's funny!

With all due respect to Bill Engvall, Justin, "here's your sign..."

educted on this subject said...

lagena lookabill green has had to fight for her life for over fifteen years because of tim and to the moron who discounts these stories as one sided it is well known that 4 count them 4! other women contracted hiv from him also and subsequently now have passed on.Tim cared about tim and no one else....

educted on this subject said...

lagena green has had to fight for her life because tim richmond purposely infected her with aids! she is one of four women ..three who have passed away now...that have all publicly stated that they believe he knew he was infected when he slept with them...sounds like a selfish sob to me!!!Tim only cared about tim and that is what it all boils down to...

Anonymous said...

As a longtime Tim fan, I am disgusted at the people who believe anything about someone they probably never met and then go about dissing him. I confess I don't know Lagena, and I'm in no position to judge her, but I knew Tim, and the woman I remember that he asked to marry him three times, on public radio and television, no less, was not Lagena. It was a lovely woman in Florida by the name of Julie Beckwith. And Tim never deliberately gave AIDS to anyone. You can take that to the bank.

Zyperiris said...

I watched Tim race at Riverside every race he was ever there. However, Tim knew he was infected and failed to use protection. My admiration for him diminished greatly. It was no shame to get aids before we knew what it was. But to pass it on afterwards is unforgivable. I often think of what might have been. Since Tim's death, Bobby Allisons accident, the death of both the Allison boys, and Neil Bonnett I simply cannot watch a race anymore. Makes me sad.

NascarTim said...

Tim Richmond did not discover he had AIDs until he nearly died with it in 1986. And that is the truth beyond a shadow of a doubt. Don't believe the gossip; not the lies told by people who want to "save face." Tim suffered mightily with the disease, and he would never DELIBERATELY give it to anyone. He was a fabulously talented race car driver; a bachelor enjoying life, and life took a bite out of him. I miss him to this day!

Anonymous said...

Being a "fan" of someone can cloud your perception. The facts speak for themselves.
Tim Richmond by all accounts lived a "flamboyant" lifestyle and slept around. After his diagnosis leaked out,the doctor treating him reported receiving calls from across the US from scared women, some of whom he tested and were negative but the majority of which were HIV positive. There are documented relationships with Tim and documemted deaths from HIV of women he had relationships with. I spent 5 minutes researching this and pulled up articles from 1986 and 1987 and its hearbreaking to read the stories of the women who knew he infected them and knew they were going to die. One is still alive, LeGena Lookabill Green. The timeline of his diagnosis when he knew he had AIDS, and then sleeping with women AFTER HE KNEW HE HAD AIDS,including LeGena, is documented.
I think that overshadows his accomplishments.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading about the life and death of Tim Richmond and I am amazed there are people that idolized the man! He was nothing more than a serial killer! It is good that his immortal lifestyle brought his early death. His memory will always being marked by the evils he commented. Hell was made for people like him!

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