Richie Evans: NASCAR's Other "King"

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Richie Evans: NASCAR's Other

Earnhardt. Petty. France. Waltrip. These names are synonymous with NASCAR history, and rightfully nominees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, set to open in 2010.

However, NASCAR's history was built on more names than Allison and Jarrett. Some of them, while just as or more successful, are relatively unknown among modern NASCAR fans.

One of those people is Richie Evans.

Born on July 23, 1941 in Rome, New York, Evans racing career spanned 28 years. It began when, at age 16, Evans left home to begin working in a garage.

While his racing career began in drag racing, Evans found his niche racing modifieds at his hometown track, Utica Rome Speedway.

It was at Utica that Evans ran his Ford Hobby Stock for three years, moving to the premier Modified division.

Utica saw Evans run his Ford Hobby Stock for three years, moving up to the premier Modified division in 1965. His first feature win came during the last race of the '65 season.

The "Rapid Roman," though, didn't count on a team of engineers and crew members to build his legacy in modified racing. Instead, Evans put in over 100 hours each week into his car.

"Working with the car and working on it in the garage every week is an advantage," Evans once said. "While I'm working on the car, I'm thinking about every lap I rode in that thing. It's not like the mechanic who stood and watched it during the feature and then has to make some decisions."

His hard work would begin paying off eight years after his premier modified debut when, in 1973, Evans won his first modified championship.

Five years later, Evans won his second title, and made sure he didn't have to wait that long for the next one.

He didn't.

From 1978 until his final year in racing, 1985, the "Rapid Roman" never relinquished his modified title. Along the way, he collected over 400 feature victories—including 37 in 1979 alone. He also won the first championship for what is now known as the Whelen Modified Series, to accompany his 30-plus track titles.

That resume solidified Evans' legacy in NASCAR, and he showed no signs of slowing down when the 1985 season rolled around.

However, with one race remaining in the '85 season, Evans was killed in a practice crash at the historic Martinsville Speedway.

Eighteen years after Evans' death, a young New Jersey up start in the Busch Series named Martin Truex, Jr. paid homage to the famed modified legend, replicating his famous orange paint scheme.

He had more wins and championships than NASCAR's other king, Richard Petty. In 1996, Richie Evans was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, and two years later NASCAR named him one of their 50 Greatest Drivers of All Time. 

Thanks to allthatmatters.org, LegendsofNASCAR.com, and Circletrack.com for the information and quotes used in this article.

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