many people are there who go by one name and you know immediately who they
are. Elvis, Cher, Madonna, Oprah and Richie.
certainly all but Richie are internationally known but in the auto racing
world mention Richie and people automatically know who you are talking
Evans was modified racing. He personified what it meant to be a modified
driver and now, he is where he should be, in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
week, Evans was included in the third class of NASCAR’s elite. Richie you
see wasn’t just a nine time champion, who won more than 475 races, he
defined a division.
have been thousands of drivers who have raced in the modified division but
there was only one driver whose name was just as large as the division he
to admit that when the Hall of Fame was conceived, I said they should call
it the NASCAR Sprint Cup Hall of Fame because I feared that is what it would
be and I now will say sorry. Sorry to NASCAR for assuming that they would
only want the Cuppers in the Hall of Fame. To NASCAR and to the voters,
thank you for making me say I am sorry.
Richie was and is just as big as Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt and you
can’t deny NASCAR’s only nine time champion shouldn’t be in the holy halls
of the Hall of Fame.
time the cameras show the inside of the Hall of Fame, there is Richie’s
famous number 61, the bright orange modified gracing the hall and how could
you have the car in the hall without the person who made it famous.
time that I began covering auto racing and modified racing, Richie was
already a champion and he just continued to follow that up with title after
title after title. Throw in 26 track championships up and down the east
coast and you begin to understand the impact he made on the modified
wasn’t just big in the modified division. When the International Race of
Champions was formed (IROC) it was a series of the world’s greatest drivers,
driving identically prepared cars and the only distinguishing mark was the
car colors with the drivers name on the side of the door. There was blue,
pink, yellow, purple, green, red and Evans Orange. You get the notion this
guy was something special.
would think that a driver who won with the regularly that he did, he would
be despised by others in modified racing but you would be dead wrong. Richie
was adored by the fans, drivers looked up too and wanted to be like Richie,
the media loved Richie and the promoters loved seeing that orange #61
pulling into their pit area.
drivers were liked and respected by all. One driver. Richie Evans.
there are many perceived Kings of this and King of that, there is only one
King of modified racing and that is Richie. With apologies to Teddy
Christopher, the king of modified racing today, T.C. would be just a
commoner to Richie and that isn’t a knock on Teddy.
Kyle Petty said when Evans name was announced that now the “true King’ of
racing was in the Hall of Fame. Not bad coming from the son of the ‘King’
Darrell Waltrp, himself a member of the third class was thrilled with Richie
being in the elite circle of five.
modifieds went to a touring series, many complained of the miles on the
road. They don’t know what miles on the road meant. In the days of Evans and
longtime rival, Jerry Cook, the two Rome, N.Y., drivers who were chasing
points at weekly NASCAR tracks up and down the east coast.
night at Stafford, Saturday afternoon in North Carolina and Saturday night
in Virginia and then end the weekend at Thompson Speedway, that it what it
meant to chase points and nobody was better than Richie.
thrown in the fact, that Richie never was one to load up right away and head
off to the next track. Not Richie, he and his crew chief Billy Nacewicz
would usually be the last ones leaving after having a few beers and talking
with fans and competitors alike.
problems would arise in modified racing, it was Richie that the media wanted
to talk with and it was NASCAR who wanted to know what Richie would suggest.
would always be the one striving for this change or that change and it
wasn’t to give himself an advantage, it was to give the modified car owners
and drivers a better and sometimes cheaper way of racing.
always did it with making the modified division the best division it could
be. He cared about the modifieds and when that fateful day in October of
1985 when Evans life was cut short at the age of 44, modified racing began
modified division lost its spokesman. It lost a part of it soul. It lost the
only true leader the series ever had. There are current drivers and past
drivers AND car owners who could have taken over Richie’s voice but no one
ever showed up.
Richie wouldn’t stand with what NASCAR was doing to the modified division.
And he would tell them in no uncertain terms. NASCAR loved Richie and they
feared Richie. Now, that my friends is powerful.
through the pit area of any modified track and mention Richie and a thousand
stories will begin to flow and everyone in the pit area knows the name
Richie Evans regardless of their age.
like youngsters today know the names of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. They might
not know a lot about them but they will know they played baseball.
the name Richie and they will tell you he was a NASCAR driver, a multi time
champion, he WAS A MODIFIED DRIVER.
a lot that will said about Richie in the months leading up the induction in
Charlotte, N.C. in January and most if not all of it will be true.
Richie has been gone 26 years now, his influence on the division is still
around. It was Evans who gave a young driver named Mike Stefanik his first
major break when Richie asked him to driver his backup car at Thompson
Speedway in the early 1980’s. Mike Stefanik and Richie Evans are NASCAR’s
ONLY TWO nine time champions. Not Petty, not Earnhardt, not Gordon.
Stefanik’s NASCAR record shows seven modified titles and two Busch North
could Evans build a car and win with it, he also had an eye for talent.
noted author Bones Bourcier was asked to write a book on Evans in big bold
letters on the cover was just one word, RICHIE. Above it was the rest of the
title, The Fast life and times of NASCAR’s greatest modified driver.
the need to re-read the book this past week following Richie’s induction and
it took just one night as the 363 pages seemed to go fast. Just like Richie
book captured Evans perfectly by the people who raced with him, against him
and knew him the best. While I didn’t know Richie like Bones did, I laughed
at many of the stories, having heard them a thousand times before.
while you will read more about Richie’s exploits, as I scanned the internet
one day following his induction, there was a person name Jerry Dunn writing
on NASCAR Racing Scene and he said while he respected Evans record he “can’t
justify placing him in the NASCAR Hall of Fame at the expense of NASCAR’s
pioneers of NASCAR’s highest form of racing.”
what that writer is stating is that once all of the Cup stars, car owners,
and Cup crew chiefs are enshrined then we’ll allow other lower forms of
NASCAR to be inducted. If it is that kind of narrow minded thinking NASCAR
legends such as Tommy Ellis, Sam Ard, Jerry Cook, Larry Phillips and others
wouldn’t stand a chance.
and its voters did the right thing. It was as Eddie Flemke, Jr. told
Hartford Courant auto racing writer Shawn Courchesne that it was “one small
step for NASCAR and one huge step for modified teams and fans everywhere.”
also huge for short trackers around the country who know that they too might
have a chance at NASCAR highest honor without ever getting to the Sprint Cup
Richie Evans was and will
always be a champion. Now he just added another part to his legacy.