Tim Richmond 6/7/1955-8/13/1989
I love Nascar racing. I hate Nascar the organization. I remember watching drivers arrive at a race. The Petty's in their limos. Ford drivers showing up in Fords. Then here comes a Harley ridden by a man in chaps, with a leggy blond on the back. Tim Richmond was his name. Here is just a part of his story.
Tim signed with Hendrick in 1986 to drive the #25 Folgers Coffee car. After a slow start to the season, Tim came on strong and was a serious contender for the Winston Cup championship that year. Richmond won both Pocono races in 1986, a track where he was clearly dominant. Tim went on to win a total of 7 races and had 8 polls in 1986, more that any other driver. Even though Tim had 13 top 5’s and 17 top 10’s in 1986, a series of mechanical mishaps near the end of the season placed Tim a disappointing 3rd in the points that year, only a mere 6 points behind 2nd place Darrell Waltrip. Dale Earnhardt won the championship that year. It was the only championship that Earnhardt won while Richmond was on the track for a full season.
Just as Tim’s future seemed so bright, the 1987 season brought disaster. He was diagnosed with HIV during the winter of 1986, but the racing world was told that he had double pneumonia. Tim was so sick that he missed most of the early part of the season. During a spring test session, he was too weak to run the outlined distance. His first full length race of 1987 came at Pocono in June. In triumphant style, Tim held off a hard charging Bill Elliot for the win and admitted to reporters that he never even saw the checkered flag with all the tears in his eyes. In victory lane, Tim was so emotional that he was reduced to speechlessness for one of the very few times in his life. Little did anyone know at the time that Tim was a dying man. The very next week Tim Richmond fought off Ricky Rudd for his last Winston Cup win, at Riverside. Tim dedicated the Father’s Day victory to his Dad. However, the effects of the illness began to take its toll on him. By August, NASCAR said that he "was in no shape to drive a car." Richmond resigned from Hendrick Motorsports in the fall of 1987.
Tim tried one more comeback in February 1988, at the Busch Clash in Daytona. But rumors were flying around the garage that Tim was a drug user. NASCAR then developed its first drug testing policy, which some felt was designed to oust Tim from the sport. He stopped taking his medication in order to be clean for the test. NASCAR suspended him two days later for testing positive for a banned "substance." Days later, NASCAR announced that the first test detected nothing more that an over the counter cold medicine, Tim’s second test was clean. But the damage to Tim’s character had already been done. NASCAR would not let Tim race until he turned over his medical records. To this date, it seems that Tim Richmond has been the only driver to have ever taken a NASCAR drug test.
Tim tried desperately to find a ride for the Clash and several car owners wanted to help him. However, NASCAR didn’t want to see Tim in a car. Tim never did get a ride for the Busch Clash in 1988, instead he hired a plane to fly over Daytona displaying a banner that read "Fans, I miss you -Tim Richmond." Tim died on August 13, 1989 in south Florida. Few from the NASCAR world wanted anything to do with him that final year, because of the stigma and ignorance of AIDS. Kyle Petty said, "It all boils down to AIDS. I don’t care what anybody tells you. Nobody knows how to handle AIDS, especially in a sport as backward-thinking on so many things as this sport is."
As for NASCAR Inc, they’re a rotten crowd. Tim Richmond was, to paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, worth the whole damn bunch of them put together. Tim, we the fans of NASCAR, miss you.(LINK)
Today is his birthday. I hate Nascar. They don't remember Tim Richmond. I will never forget.