Tim Richmond is NASCAR's forgotten legend, losing his battle with AIDS in 1989.
He walked with the swagger of James Hunt, drove with the ferocity of Dale Earnhardt, partied like a rock star, and had all the makings of a champion. He was Hollywood's version of Earnhardt and obliterated the southern cowboy stereotype surrounding NASCAR drivers of the time.
He was loved, he was despised, but no one could deny, the guy knew how to drive. He was what NASCAR needed, but not what the powers that be wanted at the time. They told him to cut his hair, he told them something that no other driver would dare.
He was a superstar, a champion to be, everything this sport needed to become mainstream and be pushed into a new era, and then he was gone. Like a whisper in the wind, a tear in the rain, lost to time. However, his evanescent presence was more than enough to solidify his place in stock car racing immortality.
His racing prowess was enviable, his personality captivating, and his intensity behind the wheel unmistakable. My father once worked in NASCAR and said that when he first saw Richmond, he stopped in his tracks. He turned his head, not knowing who he was looking at, but was immediately struck by this very different looking guy strutting through the garage. He wasn't alone in those who stared.
Some stared because they admired him, others because they hated him. He was certainly a very polarizing figure and one Dale Earnhardt liked to associate himself with.
His name was Tim Richmond
I would tell you his story, but words just don't do him justice. His name was Tim Richmond, and he was one of the greatest NASCAR drivers that's ever been, yet, few today mention his name. Going through the NASCAR Hall of Fame, you will be lucky to see anything with his name on it.
On the track, he amassed 13 wins in just 185 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts including seven in a single season (his final full season). Before switching to stock cars, he earned the 1980 Indianapolis 500 ROTY honors
His final months were full of pain and hate, when they should have been filled with trophies and glory, but a disease robbed him of that destiny. Even as he slowly drifted closer to death, he wouldn't stop talking about how he would one day stand up, pick up that helmet, and live to race another day. He refused to give up and fought to the bitter end.
He is somewhat of a forgotten legend, especially among newer fans. He's a racer everyone should know of but only a small contingent really do. Yeah, you may have heard the name, but do you actually know the man behind it?