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Tim Richmond

Full Name:
Timothy Lee Richmond
7th June 1955
Ashland, Ohio
9th August 1989 (Aged 34)
West Palm Beach, Florida, AIDS
Most recent race (in database):

An extroverted, flamboyant and genuinely funny character, Tim Richmond attracted interest and a following outside NASCAR’s heartland. So much so that Hollywood producers based the film Days of Thunder on Richmond and his relationship with team owner Rick Hendrick. That Richmond would die young, of complications due to AIDS, was not in the script.

Champ Car World Series

Hailing from Ohio, American open-wheel racing was Richmond’s natural path and he emerged from sprint cars to start five races during CART’s inaugural Champ Car World Series in 1979. He enjoyed a strong run in the 1980 Indianapolis 500 to win the Rookie of the Year award. His private Penske PC7-Cosworth was a top-five contender until it ran out of fuel with three laps to go. Richmond was classified ninth and hitched a ride back to Victory Lane on winner Johnny Rutherford’s car.

NASCAR switch

However, he defected to NASCAR’s Winston Cup by the end of the year and was a winner within two seasons – taking Jim Stacy Racing’s Buick Regal to victory in both Riverside road races of 1982. He won again in 1983 and 1984 with Raymond Beadle’s Pontiac Grand Prix but it was when he teamed up with Hendrick and Chevrolet that Richmond turned popularity into true stardom.

On pole position eight times during 1986 with the Folger’s coffee-sponsored car, his seven wins were rewarded with third in the Winston Cup and almost $1,000,000 in prize money.

Illness and winning return

He should have been a favourite for the 1987 title but illness forced him to miss the start of the season. Those symptoms were later described as pneumonia but he had lost an alarming amount of weight when he returned. That he won his first two races back at Pocono and Riverside was a remarkable feat and emotional for all concerned for it was obvious that all was not well. He qualified on pole position for Pocono’s Summer 500 but he was not fit enough to continue and Richmond raced for a final time at Michigan in August 1987.

He tried to return in the 1988 Daytona 500 but initially failed a drugs test. Although he passed second time around that only compounded previous rumours of substance abuse and he was seriously ill as well.

Richmond died alone in a hospital room a year later from complications brought on by AIDS. A hero was gone – not from the dangerous sport he had chosen but from a little-understood disease. Larger than life, Tim Richmond bridged the gap between stock car and open-wheel race fans.

Championship seasons