This is the 4th in a series of articles leading up to the June 20th "Tim Richmond Memorial ARCA RE/MAX 200" at Mansfield (Ohio) Motorsports Park FANS "BACK HOME" STILL RECALL TIM RICHMOND'S EXPLOITS MANSFIELD, Ohio (May 6th , 2009) - Tim...
This is the 4th in a series of articles leading up to the June 20th "Tim Richmond Memorial ARCA RE/MAX 200" at Mansfield (Ohio) Motorsports Park
FANS "BACK HOME" STILL RECALL TIM RICHMOND'S EXPLOITS
MANSFIELD, Ohio (May 6th , 2009) - Tim Richmond was a friendly guy and a good race car driver even when starting out on a career path that would take him to great heights in open-wheel and stock car racing.
Many of those pit-side friends and fans from the 1970s are planning to attend the inaugural Tim Richmond Memorial ARCA RE/MAX 200 at Mansfield Motorsports Park on June 20. Richmond passed away from complications of AIDS 20 years ago this August.
After making his first attempts at oval track racing in 1976 in a dirt Sprint Car at Lakeville (Ohio) Speedway, Richmond and his father, Al, purchased a Supermodified. The highly specialized open-wheel cars were a weekly division at Sandusky (Ohio) Speedway, a 1/2 mile paved oval configured similarly to Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. The Roadster was originally built by Todd Gibson of Richwood, Ohio, a champion owner/driver/builder. Gibson built the best equipment of its day.
Richmond was an average Joe in the pits, however. "Tim was a clean race car driver, gentlemanly" said Rob Natole, 50, of Sandusky. Natole was an assistant pit steward fresh out of high school at the Sandusky track in 1977. "If you were racing with him, he'd give an inch and sometimes take two. He'd go for it," Natole continued. "He never whined. He had a lot going for him. Everything he touched seemed to turn to gold.
"The biggest thing I remember is how he got to the race track. He flew to Sandusky from Ashland in his dad's helicopter and landed on the infield," Natole continued. "He was flamboyant even then, but he was personable and he'd take time to talk with you. He was an outgoing person. From the time he started winning races at Sandusky, I followed his career. A lot of us did."
Soon after Richmond burst onto the IndyCar scene with his 1980 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year performance, the driver came "home" to Sandusky Speedway where he was feted. The Sandusky City Commission proclaimed "Tim Richmond Day," and the driver had a full day of activities culminating by an evening with his fans at the speedway. With his popularity soaring, Sandusky Speedway's promoter at the time, Larry Boos, said Richmond had no "airs" about him.
"Tim was, simply put, a good old boy. He loved people and he loved being around people," Boos said. "He was very appreciative that the City of Sandusky remembered his accomplishments as track champion. He welcomed his return to Sandusky with open arms, and greeted everyone with that signature Tim Richmond grin."
Natole was at the track that night, as well as the night the news broke that Richmond had passed away on August 13, 1989. "When he died, it was announced at the speedway, and people were crushed," Natole said. "We were very proud of 'our' driver." Natole still displays his Tim Richmond memorabilia. The model cars and autographs that were collected as a friend and fan have remained as a tribute in his home over the past two decades. "Tim was one of us and he never forgot where he came from." Natole said.