The undisputed “King” of the NASCAR Modified racing Richard Ernest Evans, known as “Richie”, was born on 23rd July 1941 in Westernville, New York where he lived with his family on his father’s farm.
Always having a keen interest in cars Richie left the family home at the age of sixteen to begin training as a motor mechanic at a gas station in Rome, New York and it was here that he had his first experience as a racer, beginning with some success as a street racer he progressed to drag racing.
After winning in drag racing a colleague suggested that he build his own car and have a try at stock car racing at the Utica-Rome Speedway. His first race was in the Utica-Rome Hobby Division in 1964 after building his car, a 1954 Ford Hobby Stock, numbered PT-109.
He progressed to the Modified in the premier division in 1965 and had his first victory on the final night of the season. In 1973, his first serious attempt at point chasing he won his first NASCAR National Modified Championship but he did not win another Modified Championship until 1978 and from there on it would seem there was no stopping him. He won the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Championship a further eight times, from 1978 to 1985, reluctant to relinquish his crown and setting a record for any NACSAR racing division even to this day.
Over a period of thirteen years Richie finished first nine times, second twice and only finishing out of the top ten one in all those years. His driving career was an awesome success taking a total of twenty six championships on eleven different tracks in four states, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts. He won countless track championships across the North East and had a thirty seven victories season during 1979 whilst competing in stretch of sixty races.
In 1980 he entered for eighty four races and won fifty two of them. He won the Modified Race of Champions three times, taking the 1.5 mile at Trenton Speedway in 1973, was the last driver to win the 2.5 mile at Pocono in 1979 and the first to win the 3/4 mile at Pocono. The list of victories is seemingly endless. It is no wonder that his nickname was “The Rapid Roman”.
Sadly, on 24th October 1985 Richie was practicing for the Dogwood 500 event at Martinsville Speedway at Martinsville, Virginia when he crashed during the third turn, killing him instantly. He was just forty four years of age. His achievements have been recognised through many awards:- Selected as NASCAR’s Modifieds Most Popular Driver nine times, Inductee into FOAR SCORE Hall of Fame, 1986, Inductee in the New York Stock Car Association Hall of Fame, Inductee into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame, International Motorsports Hall of Fame,1996, One of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers of All Time, 1998, New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame, 1998,Inductee into the Oswego Speedway Hall of Fame, 2000, Named #1 on NASCAR’s Modified All-Time Top 10 list, 2003, One of NASCAR Weekly Series All Time Top 25 Drivers,2006, Inductee into NASCAR Hall of Fame, 2010. An impressive list of ways to show the respect the racing fraternity had for him but maybe the following truly show the devastation felt when he died: – In the 1985 IROC Series, every orange car featured a ’61’ on the rear bumper to honour Richie and his orange #61 car, the #61 is the only retired number in any series – #61 on the Whelan Modified Tour. And finally, Richie’s #61 was retired at his nascar racing home track – Utica-Rome Speedway in Vernon, New York.