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Tim Richmond To Be Saluted In Home State

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 20 2009
Tim Richmond did it all and did it with a certain style.

Tim Richmond did it all and did it with a certain style.

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer

Tim Richmond’s colorful playboy lifestyle and off-track controversies tended to overshadow his immense talent on the track.

Some believe that Richmond, who died of AIDS on Aug. 13, 1989, was one of the most talented racers ever to compete in NASCAR. One of those believers is acclaimed team-owner Rick Hendrick, for whom Richmond raced during his dazzling glory days – and who helped get fledgling Hendrick Motorsports off the ground and flying high.

“Tim’s never gotten the full credit he should have received,” said Hendrick. “”He would have been one of the all-time greats in our sport.”

Hendrick’s comments are part of a tribute planned in Richmond’s memory on June 20 at Mansfield (Ohio) Motorsports Park. (Richmond would have turned 54 on June 7).

The track is located near Richmond’s hometown of Ashland, Ohio and the inaugural Tim Richmond Memorial ARCA 200 is the idea of track owner Joe Mattioli.

Mattioli has put together a collection of reminisces from people who knew Richmond, and Hendrick was part of that inner-circle.

“I watched Tim drive for (Raymond) Beadle and man he could man-handle that car,” said Hendrick who became a NASCAR team owner in 1984, two years after Richmond’s entry. “I didn’t want to hire Tim away from Beadle but when things looked like they were going to change for Tim, we talked.”

In 1986 Richmond joined Hendrick full-time and promptly reeled off 11 wins (nine in Cup, two in Nationwide) and 14 poles (nine in Cup, five in Nationwide).

“Tim brought legitimacy to our program,” Hendrick recalled. “He was a natural behind the wheel. He showed raw talent and car control while being aggressive. With Tim, we were a threat to win the championship.”

In 1986 Richmond was treated for what was believed a cold, but after a stay at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio he was diagnosed with double pneumonia – and privately, shortly thereafter, with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

Around that period he battled with NASCAR over failed substance-abuse tests and at one point was banned from competition. That ban, combined with his flamboyant lifestyle – he was nicknamed “Hollywood” — no doubt tainted his accomplishments in the minds of some.

Richmond managed a comeback in 1987 and won his 13th – and final – race at Riverside, Calif. His final start came in August at Michigan. He retired from Hendrick Motorsports shortly thereafter.

Richmond was enshrined in the Ashland County (Ohio) Sports Hall of Fame in 1996 and selected as one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers during the sport’s 50th anniversary celebration in 1998. He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2002 and is almost certain to be included in the new NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte.

Richmond, after whom Tom Cruise’s character was pattered in the movie “Days of Thunder” was struck down in the prime of his life and at the peak of his racing career. Hendrick is correct when he says there’s no telling how far Richmond could have gone in the sport.

While we will never know what all he might have accomplished, Mattioli wants to make sure the amazing deeds Tim Richmond did do are never forgotten.

For more information about the Richmond tribute visit www.mansfieldmotorsportsonlilne.com

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 20 2009
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