DOORS OPENED FOR RICHMOND AT POCONO; ULRICH PROVIDED THE SEAT MANSFIELD, Ohio (July11th, 2010) - Jim Yates, now 73, of Sarasota, FL, served the fledgling CART IndyCar Series as assistant starter in 1980. He was a witness to the adoration Tim ...
DOORS OPENED FOR RICHMOND AT POCONO; ULRICH PROVIDED THE SEAT
MANSFIELD, Ohio (July11th, 2010) - Jim Yates, now 73, of Sarasota, FL, served the fledgling CART IndyCar Series as assistant starter in 1980. He was a witness to the adoration Tim Richmond received from fans and the media during the "Month of May" at Indianapolis Motor Speedway when the 27-year-old Richmond finished ninth and was named the race's Rookie of the Year. Richmond's spectacular 1980 Indy performance and his transition to NASCAR racing and all accomplishments will be celebrated with the 2nd annual Tim Richmond Memorial ARCA 200 at Mansfield (Ohio) Motorsports Park July 17th.
It was Yates who, in the months following the Indianapolis race, introduced Richmond to Pocono Raceway and NASCAR.
"Tim didn't get the best rides," Yates said of the equipment the Richmond team could afford. "They were running an Offenhauser when everyone for the most part had Ford engines. But Tim hung in there and got the most out of whatever he had to drive."
Racing talent wasn't the only thing Yates noticed about the young driver.
"Tim was a social guy. He was nice to everyone. And he was a real character," Yates said. The staff at Pocono knew getting Richmond in a NASCAR stock car would help them sell tickets for Pocono's upcoming NASCAR race. They put Richmond and his sponsor UNO, a card game, together with Ceasers Pocono Resorts, a local sponsor and a car owner, and Richmond had his first NASCAR ride.
The owner was veteran D.K. Ulrich who, by the time he sold his operation of Jasper/Penske Racing in 1996, had made 274 starts as an owner/driver, and was owner for 274 starts made by a large number of other drivers. His experience and equipment was a good match for the rookie, Richmond.
"I had seen Tim at Indy and thought he was a good prospect. We had a lot of conversations at Pocono. He was outgoing, educated, and could generate sponsorship. He had the talent to make the transition to NASCAR." Ulrich said. "Tim was a good learner. He was all over it. He wanted to race in NASCAR. You could see it in his face. He was quick to learn and always fast. We had an upper level independent team. With Tim, he brought the talent and the sponsorship that let us step up our performance as a whole," Ulrich said.
He also noted that the team had five cars at the most: a superspeedway car, one for intermediate track, one for short tracks, one for road courses, and maybe one backup car. Today's engineering and geometry was non-existent.
"We'd practice for a full day, feeling out the car and tuning it. With sponsorship, we could buy the new tires and the parts we needed. Tim had the talent and with the sponsorship money, we could give him what he needed to go fast."
Richmond qualified 23rd and finished 12th in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut at Pocono, and posted two more 12th place finishes in four more 1980 starts.
Richmond and Ulrich re-teamed for a full-season campaign in 1981. Their deal called for Richmond to miss the May races at Dover and Charlotte so he could enter and compete in the Indianapolis 500. Despite top 10 finishes at Bristol (10th) and Talladega (6th), their relationship work-wise was to come to a pre-mature end.
While Richmond was qualifying at Indianapolis in May, Ulrich drove the UNO NASCAR stock car at Dover and posted his career best finish of fourth, outshining his hired driver. According to Ulrich, Richmond was incensed that the team picked up its performance without him. Richmond returned to the Ulrich car for two more races that produced a seventh-place finish at Texas World Speedway, and a 33rd at Riverside, Calif., before splitting permanently. Later, when Richmond scored his first NASCAR win a year later at Riverside, Ulrich was among the first to congratulate Richmond, and the two renewed a friendship that did not end again.
Richmond finished the 1981 season driving for Kenny Childers and then Bob Rogers. He didn't return to the series until the 5th race of 1982. Still, it would be a season that saw him score his first two career NASCAR wins, and his first pole award.
$15 adult tickets for the 2nd annual Tim Richmond Memorial ARCA 200 are available until July 14th at Menards Ohio locations in Marion, Massillon, Ontario, Findlay and Sandusky. Children 10 and under are free. All tickets include access to the ARCA Garage Area on July 17th until 2pm and again after 4pm (no shorts, open toed shoes or sleeveless shirts) and free camping starting Friday, July 16th.
Tickets are also available by calling Mansfield Motorsports Park at (419) 524-0183 or by visiting www.mansfield-speedway.com.
Mansfield Motorsports Park is located just north of Mansfield off Route 13 on Crall Road. The Tim Richmond Memorial ARCA 200 is a single-day event on July 17. Menards pole qualifying is scheduled for 5 p.m. and the race is scheduled for 8:00 p.m.