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I copy/pasted this article years ago for my own enjoyment. Now I can't remember where I found it. If you know the source of material contained herein, please contact me and I will either credit it, link to it, or remove it.


Al Richmond admits his house needs cleaning. A veil of dust cloaks the furniture inside his three-bedroom, ranch-style home, coating the decor with a soft, subtle haze. So many old clothes fill his bedroom closet that he has to hang his wardrobe on a bar in the bathroom doorway. The attic is stuffed with so many boxes of stock-car racing memorabilia, he can't begin to describe what's in them because he hasn't opened them.

Even so, Richmond, a 78-year-old retired businessman, likes his house that way. He prefers it unchanged and silent, poised for the moment his son, Tim, and wife, Evelyn, come home. The problem is, they never are.

His son, the partying, promiscuous Winston Cup driver Tim Richmond, died of complications from AIDS 10 years ago at age 34. Al's wife, Evelyn, Tim's companion and protector at the races, died of cancer in November 1994.

"I wanted to clean everything out and start fresh for him," said Sandy Welsh, Al Richmond's stepdaughter. "I did take some of mom's nightgowns and makeup out of the bathroom just after she died, and when I got done, he said, 'Don't move another thing.' He wants to keep everything just like this because it's just like mom and Tim are off at a race, and on Monday, they'll be back."

But Al Richmond has daily reminders they won't be back to that house on the shores of Lake Norman, just north of Charlotte. His son's furniture stays exactly where he left it. The Trans Am 455 he gave Tim on his 16th birthday, a gift to complement the Corvette and airplane Tim already had, is parked in the garage.

But none of those things is of any use now, except to remind Richmond what he has lost.

Al Richmond owned a successful drill manufacturing company in Ashland, Ohio, and watched over the business when Tim and Evelyn went to races. After Tim got sick, however, Richmond sold the business in 1988 so he could spend more time with his son. But he lost his lifelines soon thereafter. Tim died in 1989, and Evelyn died five years later.

"All I have left is in a mausoleum up in Ashland," said Richmond, who left Ashland with his wife in 1990 and moved into Tim's house. "Tim and my wife are buried side by side."

Not only did Tim leave a father and half-sister behind, but he also left a mark on NASCAR racing, bounding into the sport in 1980 with more flair, energy and defiance than had ever been seen. While other drivers showed up at the track in T-shirts and jeans, Tim Richmond arrived in Armani suits. When most drivers were married with children, the single, svengali Richmond always had at least one gorgeous woman on his arm. When everybody else had cropped hair, he wore his hair long and coifed, even renting a Lear jet one time to fly to New York for a haircut.

Richmond's dream was to be a movie star, and he did have a bit part in the film Stroker Ace with Burt Reynolds, but his real talent was driving a race car. In six full seasons on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit, he won 13 races and 14 poles, including seven races and eight poles in 1986.

"When I first started racing, I thought, 'Man, Tim Richmond is the coolest. I want to be like Tim Richmond,'" Winston Cup driver Mark Martin said. "He was what being famous was all about. He had the women, the looks, the clothes and that kind of wild, crazy attitude that only super-famous people have. And he could drive, too. He truly was one of the greatest that ever was."

While Richmond's fearless driving style was his trademark— making even tough, intimidating Dale Earnhardt uneasy— what made Richmond stand out even more was his irreverent personality. He was far from subservient in the reserved yes-sir, no-sir Southern culture of NASCAR racing, refusing to bow to NASCAR officials as other drivers did. He questioned their authority on a daily basis, once even holding an impromptu news conference after he thought NASCAR unfairly penalized him.

Richmond would talk about those anti-establishment escapades with his crew at night, drinking cases of beer and entertaining women inside his motor home at the track. Sometimes he would invite fans there, groupies who would party through the night with Richmond's bunch. One time, after winning a race at North Wilkesboro Speedway, he grabbed the microphone and announced over the public address system he was having a party at his house on the lake— and that everyone was invited.

But Richmond's antics aren't talked about much anymore. Even during NASCAR's 50th anniversary last year, when Richmond was chosen one of the circuit's 50 greatest drivers, which shocked the Richmond family, his name didn't come up much.

"He was almost like a comet that blew through here and everybody said, 'Ooh!' Then it's gone, and you wonder whether you really saw it in the first place," Winston Cup driver Kyle Petty said. "Tim Richmond was one of the greatest drivers this sport has ever seen, but he was in the wrong era for us, for this sport. He was 10 or 15 years ahead of his time."

On the 10th anniversary of his death, Richmond's name and memories of his fleeting stardom will pop up in several places. His crews, team owners and fellow drivers will remember him. His fans will talk about him on the Internet and set up a makeshift shrine for him where he died in West Palm Beach. Former Hendrick Motorsports General Manager Jimmy Johnson, who worked with Richmond in his last days of racing, will be no different. It's not easy for Johnson to forget a day such as this. All he has to do is look down at his calendar and see the reminder. Every January, Johnson turns to Aug. 13 on his new calendar, then writes, "Tim died. 5:12 a.m."

"It's a shame you hear about Davey Allison, Rob Moroso and Alan Kulwicki, but you don't ever hear about Tim, even though he did a lot for the sport," said Johnson, who lives in Sarasota but is still a consultant for Hendrick, the multicar team that features three-time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon. "To me, he was great. He taught Hendrick Motorsports where Victory Lane was. It wasn't a question of whether he would win a race. It was by how much."

Some people involved in racing say Richmond disappeared from NASCAR history because of his headstrong attitude, his playboy image and promiscuous lifestyle. Others insist it is because people assumed he was a drug user. But the label that lingers is that Richmond was an AIDS victim, getting the disease when it was stereotyped as the gay plague or an intravenous drug-user's epidemic because little was known about it. Not many people knew it could be contracted through blood transfusions or unprotected heterosexual sex, which Richmond's doctor says is how Richmond got the disease. Richmond's good looks and charisma attracted women. But in the conservative sport of racing, the stigma of AIDS, no matter how it was contracted, was enough to turn Richmond into a pariah.

"NASCAR is just a society. It's our own society, and we make our own rules," seven-time Winston Cup champion Richard Petty said. "So, he was downplayed when he got sick, and nobody wanted to be involved with him, so they let him fade away. They didn't even want to breathe on him."

"It's a crying shame when people only think bad things about Tim Richmond," said Buddy Barnes, who was on Richmond's Blue Max Racing team and one of his closest friends. "He knew how to have fun, and he knew how to drive a race car. That's what I want to remember about him."

"The AIDS thing doesn't have a bearing on the way we see Tim Richmond now at all," NASCAR Vice President Brian France said. "His driving ability was great. He was a very talented guy. All we said was, 'Are you ready to drive? Are you clear-headed? If you have a sustained injury, we're going to have a discussion with your doctors and everybody else about how fit you are.' But the exchange of information didn't come easily from someone like Tim. We were trying to run a sport and do what's good for everyone. Tim decided, 'I'm not going to share my medical records with you. I know everybody else does, but I think I'll pass this time.' Well, it doesn't work that way."

Richmond was afraid of what would happen to his family, of getting kicked out of his condo in Deerfield Beach and other negative repercussions that would stem from his having AIDS. He just wanted to return to racing. To do so, he stopped taking the AIDS drug AZT several weeks before returning to NASCAR, anticipating a drug test. So when NASCAR reported he failed the drug test, Richmond filed a lawsuit against NASCAR, asking $20 million for defamation of character. The case was dropped Jan. 17, 1988, when a federal judge ordered Richmond to produce his medical records. That is when Richmond holed himself in his condo in Florida and cut himself off from everyone but his immediate family.

"Tim was embarrassed about having AIDS. He was so ashamed about it, his life stopped before he died," said Barry Dodson, Richmond's crew chief. "It was so sad, because he loved to have fun. He loved life so much."

Al Richmond is convinced NASCAR had something against Tim from the start— mostly because he was different, and because he brought changes to the sport, including many innovations that are standard today. Richmond was the first driver to wear a firesock as well as a closed-face helmet, which he brought to NASCAR from his days in open-wheel racing. He was laughed at when he showed up, but now everyone, except for a few diehards such as Earnhardt and Dave Marcis, wears a closed-faced helmet. He was one of the first people to bring a motor home to the races. Now everyone, including team owners, crew chiefs and NASCAR officials, has one.

Richmond also was one of the first drivers to make the transition from open-wheel cars to stock cars. He raced in United States Auto Club events in the Midwest before running in the 1980 Indy 500, where he finished ninth and was chosen rookie of the year. Now, several of the most successful Winston Cup drivers have come from open-wheel racing, including Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Ken Schrader. Richmond also was a visionary when it came to real estate. He was one of the first racers to buy a house on Lake Norman. Now nearly all the drivers, many crew chiefs and team members live there. Richmond was ahead of his time when it came to fitness, too. He was on a strict diet and worked out regularly. He loaded up on carbohydrates for races and did Jazzercise workouts to get in shape, not exactly the workout of choice for macho, gritty stock-car drivers. But now many drivers exercise and have personal trainers.

"NASCAR was fighting the redneck stereotype at the time, you know, good old boys and beer drinkers, and Richmond helped change our image," said Chip Williams, NASCAR's publicist during Richmond's years on the circuit. "The boom didn't happen yet. Heck, we couldn't even sell it in the Southeast. National TV was starting to come in, and we couldn't have a bunch of guys chewing tobacco, talking like you couldn't understand them and flying rebel flags in the infield because it wouldn't sell. So, even with all his problems and with everything that went on, he helped the sport."

Even though his town is filled with racers, race teams and race fans, Al Richmond hasn't been to the races since Tim died. He keeps tabs on what's going on, though, watching every race at home alone, assured his son would have kicked everybody's butt. From time to time, Dodson stops by to check on Richmond, just as he kept tabs on Tim.

"He doesn't feel welcome because of what happened to Tim and how Tim died," said Dodson, who has many of the clothes Tim left behind, including the tuxedo Tim planned to wear after he won the 1987 championship. "It's so sad because when Tim died, he took a big part of Al's life, too. It hurts him not to be associated with racing because he loved it so much. I feel very bad for him because when you lose a child, that void never gets smaller."

Dodson should know. His two teenage children were killed in a car crash by a drunken driver nearly five years ago. "Al can't hide it from me because I've lost children, too," Dodson said. "You can see it in his face. He grieves every day, every second of every day."

Al Richmond tries to forget that pain for a moment each day, though. Every morning he gets up and passes the closet where his son's and wife's clothes intermingle. Eight pairs of Tim's cowboy boots— red ones, blue ones, genuine rattlesnake skin ones—hang meticulously from their boot straps on the far wall. Dozens of Evelyn's tiny shoes— spiked heels, leopard-skin pumps and multicolored sling backs—are stacked neatly in individual clear boxes. Her bright, bold dresses hang next to his suede jackets and European suits. Richmond deeply misses the people who wore those clothes.

Many personal things have been passed on to friends. Dodson, Tim's Blue Max crew chief, has Richmond's custom-made tuxedo. Harold Elliott, his old engine builder, a cowboy hat. Rick Hendrick saved Richmond's road-race car, along with some uniforms, helmets and trophies. He hopes to build a museum someday where he can display them. "There are just so many people who want to know more," he said. So Hendrick and friends like veteran crew chief Harry Hyde hold on to what they have left of Richmond.

Hyde, now 64, stores a roomful of mementos in his trailer— videotapes of each race, cases of Folgers coffee and stacks of photographs of Richmond in Victory Lane. "He wasn't going to be like you wanted," Hyde says. "He wasn't going to be like mama wanted. He wasn't going to be like Harry Hyde wanted. Or Folgers. Or Rick Hendrick. "Now if you can blame a guy for that..."

Tim at Daytona, Speedweeks 1988