- June 07, 1955
- August 13, 1989
- United States
- Not Active
Tim Richmond (1955-1989), nicknamed Hollywood, was an American racing driver who achieved the most in stock car racing, recording 185 starts and thirteen victories in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series between 1980 and 1987. He also won two times in the NASCAR Busch Series.
Before switching to stock car racing, Richmond had a career in open-wheel racing and he became one of the first drivers to change from open-wheel racing to stock cars, what later became a trend. His greatest success in the Indy Car Series was the 1980 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year award.
Tim Richmond died in August 1989 from complications caused by AIDS. In 1998, NASCAR named him as one of its 50 greatest drivers of all time. In 2002, he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
A spoiled kid from wealthy family became a racer
Born in June 1955, Tim Richmond grew up in Ashland, Ohio, in a wealthy family of Al Richmond, a founder of the Richmond Manufacturing. Tim was driving go-karts as a kid but he was then sent to the Miami Military Academy, moving to Florida with his mother. He was a spoiled kid, receiving everything he wanted. For his 16th birthday, his parents gave him a Pontiac Trans Am, speedboat and a Piper Cherokee airplane. In that time, Tim already had a pilot license.
Tim made his first attempts in a race car in 1976. He worked as a crew member of sprint car racer Dave Shoemaker and did some practice laps at Lakeville Speedway. Soon he became a regular entrant in sprint car races, also participating in SuperModified races.
Indy Car Series debut in 1979
In 1978, Tim attended Jim Russell's racing school and competed in the USAC National Sprint Car Series and USAC Silver Crown Series. He also raced in the Mini-Indy Series and then made a debut in the SCCA/CART Indy Car Series in 1979.
In his Indy Car debut, Richmond was driving his own #69 Eagle-Offenhauser at Michigan International Speedway, retiring with a broken engine after just four laps. His next race was in Larry Rice's #35 Lightning-Offenhauser. He finished 8th at Watkins Glen, what remained his best result in Indy Car career. Until the end of the season, he recorded three more DNFs in the #35 car.
Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year in 1980
In 1980, Richmond recorded three starts in the CART PPG Indy Car World Series. The most notable was his debut at Indianapolis 500 in the #21 Penske-Cosworth of Mach 1 Enterprises. He was in the race for 197 laps, even leading for one lap, staying out of fuel and being classified in the ninth place. For that result, he received the Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year award.
Later in the season, he recorded two more starts in the #21 car, crashing out both at Mid-Ohio and Michigan.
Switching to NASCAR in the mid-season 1980
Because of several accidents in Indy Car races, Richmond was in a doubt about his future and he made a decision to switch to stock car racing, convinced by Pocono Raceway President Joseph Mattioli III.
Richmond made his NASCAR Winston Cup Series debut at Pocono Raceway's Coca-Cola 500 race on July 27, driving the #40 Chevrolet for D.K. Ulrich. He finished in 12th place. Later in the season, he recorded two more 12th-place finishes and two DNFs.
In 1981, Richmond spent his first full season in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, driving for three different owners – D.K. Ulrich, Kennie Childers and Bob Rogers. His best result was sixth place at Talladega's Winston 500 race in D.K. Ulrich's #99 Buick.
Two victories at Riverside in 1982 NASCAR season
Richmond started 1982 without a ride, driving Fast Company's #29 Ford in the fifth round at Rockingham and then joining Jim Stacy's team in the #2 Buick for the rest of the season. In the first race with #2 car, Richmond scored his first top 5 result.
The maiden victory came soon, in June at Riverside International Raceway's Budweiser 400, where he defeated his teammate Terry Labonte. Later that season, Richmond earned his first pole position at Bristol and then scored one more win at Riverside in season-closing Winston Western 500.
Three seasons in the #27 Old Milwaukee Pontiac
For the 1983 Winston Cup season, Richmond joined Raymond Beadle, whom he had known before he started racing, to drive the #27 Old Milwaukee Pontiac. The highlight of the season was Richmond's victory at Pocono International Raceway, his first oval track win. During the season, he recorded four pole positions and fifteen top 10s, finishing tenth in the points. That year, he also made a debut in the NASCAR Busch Series, participating in three races.
In 1984, Richmond continued to race in the #27 Old Milwaukee Pontiac. He won one race, the Northwestern Bank 400 at North Wilkesboro Speedway. He finished the season 12th in the points.
Two NASCAR Busch Series wins with Rick Hendrick's team
The season 1985 was the last for Richmond in the #27 Old Milwaukee Pontiac. He scored no wins, finishing best in the second place at Bristol, ending the season 11th in the points. That year, he started in two Busch Series races and won at Charlotte in Rick Hendrick's #15 Pontiac.
He repeated the same in 1986, participating in three Busch Series races and winning again at Charlotte in the #15 Pontiac.
Seven Winston Cup victories in 1986
The main story was Richmond's move to Rick Hendrick's team in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series in 1986. Driving the #25 Folger's Chevrolet, Richmond scored his first win with Hendrick's team in the 13th round at Pocono's Miller High Life 500.
Then, Richmond won five times in the next nine races, triumphing at Daytona's Firecracker 400, Pocono's Summer 500, Watkins Glen, Darlington's Southern 500 and Richmond's Wrangler Jeans Indigo 400. His seventh win came at season's finale at Riverside. Despite winning most races, Richmond finished third in the points, behind Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip.
The health problems stopped Richmond's career in 1987
The season 1987 started with Richmond sitting out from the season-opening Daytona 500. The reason was pneumonia, as a result of compromised immune system weakened by AIDS. The health problems forced Richmond to miss out eleven rounds. The return was victorious as he won two races in a row in the #25 Chevrolet, the Miller High Lite 500 at Pocono and Budweiser 400 at Riverside.
He earned one more pole position at Pocono's Summer 500. His last race was at Michigan International Speedway on August 16. He resigned from Hendrick Motorsports in September 1987.
Hollywood-style life and Hollywood-style death
After winning many battles at racetracks across America, Richmond had to fight against the mortal disease. Unfortunately, he had no chance to win, dying in August 1989. In the meantime, he attended to make comeback to racing in 1988 but NASCAR didn't let him after a controversial positive drug test. Richmond even filed a lawsuit against NASCAR which was settled out-of-court.
Richmond was one of the most popular drivers of his time, developing a freewheeling lifestyle which earned him a nickname Hollywood. Unfortunately, one of his many women gave him a fatal gift, an AIDS.
Nine years after his death, he appeared on NASCAR's list of 50 greatest drivers of all time. In 2002, he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. His life was subject to an ESPN documentary "Tim Richmond: To The Limit", which debuted in 2010.