Richard "Dick" King, President and Chief Executive Officer of the United States Auto Club between 1976 and 1997, passed away unexpectedly on November 8, 2004. Mr. King, who was due to retire as President of USAC Properties, Inc. at the end of...
Richard "Dick" King, President and Chief Executive Officer of the United States Auto Club between 1976 and 1997, passed away unexpectedly on November 8, 2004.
Mr. King, who was due to retire as President of USAC Properties, Inc. at the end of the year, was vacationing in Mexico. He was 73.
A native of Niagara Falls, New York, King had a lifelong interest in motor racing and traveled by train to witness his first Indianapolis 500 in 1956. In 1966, after having attended several recent USAC Championship events at Trenton, New Jersey and Langhorne, Pennsylvania, he was befriended by Harry McQuinn, then USAC's Championship Division coordinator and Chief Steward. The owner and operator of an ambulance service in Niagara Falls by this time, King began working on the safety crew at selected events and in 1967 was named Safety Director for the entire series with the exception of the Indianapolis "500." In 1970, one year after McQuinn's retirement, King became the Championship series' Chief Steward.
In early 1972, when Executive Director Bill Smyth was hospitalized with a heart attack, King relocated to Indianapolis and became the full-time Assistant to the Executive Director. Shortly thereafter he became USAC's Director of Competition and was soon made responsible for the day-to-day operation of the organization.
These years were not without their challenges and the angular and deep-thinking King frequently found himself leading USAC through turbulent situations. There were two separate chapters of the so-called "energy crunch," the first being so threatening to the sport that King even secretively drew up a multi-stage plan for the temporary closing down of USAC should federal mandates have made that necessary.
There was at least one major financial crisis in the mid-1970s which the fiscally-minded King was able to resolve over a period of several months of sound planning.
There was the disaster of April 24, 1978 when a small chartered aircraft, returning from a Championship race at Trenton, went down near Indianapolis, claiming the lives of the pilot, plus eight USAC officials---five of them heads of departments---the majority of whom had been handpicked by King. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was due to open for practice just days later, and did so with emergency replacements recruited by King. Even as this occurred, USAC was already preparing to present two events in England, at Silverstone and Brands Hatch, which it did near the end of the season. And while this was taking place, King had to deal with the impending formation of Championship Auto Racing Teams, a break-away organization of USAC car owners.
Between 1979 and 1981, King was named Chairman of the Board, and in 1984, he took on the additional responsibilities of President of USAC Properties, Inc., a position he still held at the time of his passing.
He is survived by his wife, Nancy, three adult children, David, Donald and Susan, and several grandchildren.
Arrangements are pending.