Open wheel racing
A friend of Richmond's father co-owned a sprint car and Richmond joined the team as a crew member for Dave Shoemaker. In 1976, 21-year-old Richmond took the car onto Lakeville Speedway at Lakeville, Ohio for some practice laps. "Somebody put a stopwatch on me," Richmond said. "I was running laps faster than Dave had been. It was the first time I had ever driven a race car." Richmond and his father found a red, white and blue-colored No. 98 car in Pennsylvania, which was the same number and paint scheme that Richmond used on model cars as a child. In his first competition at the track, officials placed Richmond in the slowest heat. He passed several cars before spinning out and breaking an axle. Although he made several attempts to get the car pointed in the right direction, the broken axle prevented the car from driving straight. After being towed to the pits, he parked the car for the rest of the event. Later that season, they towed the car to Eldora Speedway, only to have Richmond crash the car again. In response, Richmond's father fired him as the driver. The next season, Al Richmond bought a SuperModified better suited to his son's driving style. In 1977 Tim Richmond became both Sandusky Speedway's Rookie of the Year and the SuperModified class track champion.
Richmond returned to racing sprint cars in the United States Automobile Club's (USAC) national sprint car tour in 1978. Competing in 12 races, he finished 30th in points as the series' Rookie of the Year. That year he attended Jim Russell's road racing school at Willow Springs International Motorsports Park, setting a student course record. Richmond raced in a 1978 Mini Indy car event at Phoenix International Raceway, winning the Formula Super Vee support event in a Lola T620. The win attracted sponsors and attention from major owners like Roger Penske. He also competed in USAC's Silver Crown series.
Richmond's father bought an Eagle Indy Car chassis and an Offenhauser engine for the 1979 race at Michigan International Speedway. Richmond qualified 21st fastest with a 175.768 mph (282.871 km/h) lap, significantly slower than Bobby Unser's 203.879 mph (328.111 km/h) pole position speed. The race ended for him when his motor blew up on the fourth lap, and he finished last (23rd). Owner Pat Santello was looking for a driver to replace Larry Rice for his CART team at the following race at Watkins Glen International, so he gave Richmond a test at Willow Springs Raceway where he had previously set the student record. Santello hired Richmond, who then qualified 15th fastest for the event and finished in eighth place, the best of his IndyCar career. Richmond raced in three more events that season. During practice for the 1980 Indianapolis 500, Richmond set the fastest unofficial practice speed of the month, besting even race favorite Johnny Rutherford in the vaunted Chaparral. His hopes for the pole were dashed with a crash in morning practice on the first day of qualifying. After repairs he qualified 19th for the race. He worked his way up to the top 10 during the race, led a lap, and finished ninth as he ran out of fuel at the end of the race. To the delight of the crowd, winner Rutherford gave him a ride back to the pits. He was named the 1980 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year. "I busted up a few Indy cars right after that," he said. "Milwaukee, Mid-Ohio. . . at Michigan I cut one in two. I was afraid my racing career would come to a halt. So when I got an offer to drive stock cars, I took it, and it turned out I liked driving them better."
1980 - Stockcar Debut
Pocono Raceway President Joseph Mattioli III convinced Richmond to make the change to stock car racing on the NASCAR circuit. Richmond made his first NASCAR start two months after winning the Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year award. He debuted at the Coca-Cola 500 at Pocono on July 27, 1980, finishing 12th in a D. K. Ulrich-owned Chevrolet. That season, he competed in five events, with two DNFs (did not finish) and three 12th-place finishes. Overall, he finished the 1980 season 41st in points.
Richmond raced for three teams in 1981. He started the season by competing in 15 events for Ulrich. He had his first career top 10 finish, taking sixth place at Talladega Superspeedway, soon followed by a seventh-place finish at Texas World Speedway. After Kennie Childers hired him away from Ulrich mid-season, Richmond had top 10 finishes at Pocono and Bristol. For the final seven races of the season, he drove for Bob Rogers and had a top 10 finish at Dover International Speedway. Overall for the season, Richmond had six top 10 finishes to place 16th in season points.
Richmond started 1982 without a ride before getting a one-race deal to drive for Mike Lovern's Fast Company Limited, Billie Harvey, at the Rockingham track. Richmond completed 112 laps of the 492-lap event to finish 31st, retiring from the race with engine problems. For the following event, Richmond was hired to drive J.D. Stacy's No. 2 car. In his first race for the team, Richmond earned his first career top 5 finish when he placed fifth at Darlington Raceway. Returning to Pocono, he finished second, before winning his first race on the road course at Riverside, California the following week. Later that season, he earned his first pole position at Bristol. The tour returned to Riverside for the final race of the season where Richmond won his second race, sweeping both events at the track. Benny Parsons said that "watching Richmond go through the Esses was unbelievable". For the season, Richmond had twelve top 10s, two wins, and one pole to finish 26th in points.
In 1983, Richmond began racing for Raymond Beadle whom he had known before he started racing. He returned to the three-cornered Pocono racetrack, earning his first oval victory. During the season, he accumulated four pole positions (Darlington, Pocono, Charlotte, and Atlanta), one win (Pocono), and fifteen top 10s on his way to finishing tenth in season points. He made his first appearance in a NASCAR Busch Series (now Nationwide Series) car, but did not finish any of the three races he entered that season.
Esquire magazine named Richmond as one of "the best of the new generation" in 1984. That year he had one win at North Wilkesboro Speedway and second-place finishes at Dover, Darlington and Riverside. Richmond finished the 1984 season 12th in points, with 11 finishes in the top 10 and in six in the top 5. In 1985, the final season that Richmond competed for Beadle, his best finish was a second-place run at Bristol. He ended the season 11th in points with 13 Top 10s in 28 races. In the Busch Series, he qualified at the pole position in the two races he entered, and won the Charlotte race.
Time With Hendrick Motorsports (1986-1989, 1990-2007)
Richmond joined Hendrick Motorsports in 1986, where he teamed up with veteran crew chief Harry Hyde. It took the team until the middle of the season to gel. Richmond had suffered a 64-race winless streak that was finally broken at the Van Scoy Diamond Mine 500 at Pocono in June 1986. After two straight second-place finishes at Charlotte and Riverside, Richmond started the Pocono event in third place inside the second row. That race saw a caution for rain with five laps left before the halfway point. NASCAR wanted the cars to get to the halfway point to make the race official, so the sanctioning body had the drivers slowly circle the track. It took the drivers 26 minutes to complete the laps, and the rain was so heavy that some drivers had to look out their side windows because they could not see out their windshields. Two hours later, the track had dried and the race resumed with Richmond in third. After Richmond's car was adjusted to remove the "push", the car was more to his liking. Because his radio did not work, he was unable to communicate with his crew chief, Hyde, and he made his final pit stop with 37 laps left. Hyde worried that Richmond had stopped a lap too early to ensure that he would have enough fuel to make it to the end. After Richmond took the lead with 30 laps left in the race, Dale Earnhardt made up three seconds on Richmond's five-second lead. With four laps to go, Buddy Arrington spun in a three-car accident. The remaining laps of the race where completed slowly under caution and Richmond took the checkered flag for the victory. He had led 97 laps, including the final 30, taking his first victory in a Rick Hendrick car. The tour returned to Pocono a month later, and Richmond battled for another victory in a fog-shortened event. In the final 8-lap sprint, Richmond competed in a three-car battle with Geoff Bodine and Ricky Rudd. Richmond crossed the finish line beside Rudd, winning the race by 0.05 seconds. He notched four more victories that season, and over a span of twelve races, Richmond earned three second-place finishes, and six wins. The National Motorsports Press Association named him Co-Driver of the Year with Earnhardt after Richmond accumulated 13 top 5 finishes and 16 in the top 10. He had a third-place finish in points after winning seven events in 1986, in what was his first full NASCAR season.
Tim Richmond was again only racing part time in 1987 do to a light illness (turning out to be mono from his womanly affairs) that kept returning throughout the year. Richmond started the Daytona 500 in a promising fourth place start. He had major competition on the pole though, as Bill Elliott sat there. Bill Elliot dominated much of the race, but Tim Richmond collectively led 27 laps, 24 of which were over Bill Elliot, the other 3 over a determined Earnhardt late in the race. He returned to Pocono for the Miller High Life 500 during the middle of the year. Starting third, he led by the fifth lap and ultimately led 82 laps, including the final 46, to win the race by eight car-lengths over Bill Elliott. Richmond couldn't be happier about his second consecutive win at Pocono and his second win in his NASCAR career. Because he could use only fourth (high) gear, he had to use that gear to slowly exit the pits. Richmond was emotional after the victory, saying, "I had tears in my eyes when I took the checkered flag. Then every time anyone congratulated me, I started bawling again." Richmond earned a victory in the next race at Riverside, and made his final 1987 start at Michigan International Speedway's Champion Spark Plug 400 that August, finishing 29th with a blown engine. For the races Richmond didn't race in, Benny Parsons was his substitute.
Although Richmond attempted a comeback in 1988, NASCAR suspended him just 4 races into the season for testing positive for banned substances. The substances were identified as Sudafed, a non-prescription over-the-counter allergy medication, and Advil, an over-the-counter pain reliever. In April 1988, Richmond sued NASCAR over the suspension. Although he retested later that year and was reinstated, he could not find a car to drive. In his first public appearance in February 1988, Richmond denied that he abused drugs and said that a mistake had been made in his drug test. His suit with NASCAR was settled out-of-court, the terms sealed. Post-season, NASCAR publicly apologized about the incident, stating the drug test in question was faulty and that no teams should use it against Richmond for 1989. Richmond's replacement for 1988 and 1989 was Benny Parsons, with a green paint scheme and the number changed to #35. Ken Schrader was supposed to drive, but the deal fell through, leaving him to drive the #90 car until 1997.
Brief falling out with Hendrick Motorsports (1989)
Richmond finally found a team willing to sign him; Richard Childress Racing (mainly due to needing someone to help Richard rise above Hendrick Motorsports). Richmond got a new number, number 29 and got to race with the team's only other driver, legendary Dale Earnhardt. Richmond, for the year, was sponsored by 2 main sponsors: Miller Beer and Dickies Jeans. Richmond went the year with just one win, occurring at Pocono again.
Return to Hendrick Motorsports (1990-2007)
Due to his lack of performance the year prior, and with Earnhardt's near winning of the championship, Richmond was let-go by Childress and decided to go back to Hendrick Motorsports if possible. Hendrick was hesitant, but eventually Richmond convinced him to let him drive his old car again, now sponsored by Kodiak. Richmond seemed very content with his old ride, winning 7 races in 1990, including both Talladega races, the later race at Pocono and the final race of the year at Atlanta, battling with Dale Jarrett in the closing laps. Richmond came in 5th in points.
Richmond started 1991 by winning the Daytona 500, his first win in the event. He went on to have 6 more wins, including the Pepsi 400, and finished second in points to Dale Earnhardt. Richmond signed a lifetime deal with Hendrick Motorsports keeping him in the #25 Chevy.
Richmond won five races, including North Wilkesboro. Richmond finished third in points behind Bill Elliott and Alan Kulwicki. Richmond would have won at Atlanta if not for a determined Dale Earnhardt spinning him in a controversial move that let Earnhardt win the race, one of Earnhardt's few 1992 wins. Earnhardt would be fined post race for the event.
Tim Richmond was beginning to feel a need for a championship. He'd come so close in 1991, and still had a chance even in '92. But Richmond needed more, he needed a true championship. Richmond drove hard in 1993, but he still came 3rd in points, winning 11 races, however, his highest win count for a single season in his career.
Richmond began the low of his career in 1994, winning just 2 races in the entire season, one at Pocono and the other at Watkins Glen.
Richmond's low peaked with absolutely no wins in 1995 at all. He had 1 top 5 finish at Charlotte and 7 DNFs.
Richmond was furious at himself. "The hell is wrong with you Rich?" he could be heard asking himself all year. Kodiak dropped sponsorship, being replaced with Skoal as the primary sponsor.
Richmond had a slight improvement over the previous 2 years, winning 4 races. He came in 14th in points in 1996, denying him any shot at a championship. Speculation arose that Richmond was about to retire, due to his lack of performance.
Richmond had little hope at the end of '96 for what '97 would hold, but it turned out to be the comeback season he needed oh so desperately. He won 9 races, shocking the entire NASCAR community. He came 3rd in points.
Dale Earnhardt's win at the Daytona 500, after 20 years of trying, denied Richmond a shot at winning the event, but he still had a good enough car to come in 3rd, with Bobby Labonte battling him for 2nd and inching by him at the last second with Rick Mast being used as a pick. Richmond went on to win 5 races in 1998, a pretty mild season, and came 5th in points.
The season to end the century saw Richmond have another mild season, winning 6 races and coming 9th in points. He did get his second Daytona 500 victory to start the season. UAW-Delphi began sponsoring and Skoal eventually pulled sponsorship completely near the end of the season.
Richmond had another great season in 2000. He had 5 wins, and finished third in points.
Richmond had a pretty mild season in 2001, scoring three wins. During the last lap of the Daytona 500, coming off of turn 4 Dale Earnhardt slid up the track and hit the wall head-on, killing him instantly and leading to his car collecting Ken Shrader and Richmond in the infield grass. Richmond and Shrader walked over to "shoot the shit with Dale." but instantly saw his condition and waved over the paramedics with the universal sign of hurry. Post-race, upon hearing of the death of Dale Earnhardt, Richmond decided he would run a special scheme at the Pepsi 400 to honor Earnhardt. He ran an all-black scheme for the Pepsi 400, with a little "3" logo on the bottom-right of his rear windscreen. However, despite the heartache of the season, Richmond remained consistent enough to finally win his first title.
2002 wasn't as good for Richmond, as he only won two races, and finished 10th in points.
Richmond's season was a bit better in 2003, with three wins and fifth in points.
2004 only got Richmond one win, at the fall Texas race, which turned out to be his final win. However, he remained consistent enough to make the inaugural Chase and win a second championship.
2005 was the worst year for Richmond, with only one top 10 scored, and that was at Indy. He also had 11 DNF's and finished a disappointing 15th in points. Richmond announced plans to retire in the next few years. Richmond's final sponsor, National Guard, coming over from the #16, began sponsorship post-season after UAW-Delphi left.
Richmond had an eerily good 2006 season, as if in his last years fate wanted him to have one last real strong run. He had 10 top 5s, shocking everybody; nobody thought he had it left in him.
Richmond's last season saw him come in the top 5 in 3 races, en route to his retirement. In his last race at Homestead, he finished it in 7th. After his last race he thanked Rick Hendrick for sticking with him for all those years, saluted the fans, and then packed up for his big retirement party in New York.
Tim Richmond Racing
At the end of 2007 PPI Racing was fledgling and was no longer economically viable. The company was put up for sale, and Richmond decided he wanted to try out being a team owner, so he bought the assets. He renamed the company Tim Richmond Racing and got the last PPI Racing drivers (namely Travis Kvapil) who Richmond mentors and now has made successful race car drivers. Tide decided to come back as the main sponsor for Kvapil in 2008. Richmond Racing still drives Chevrolets and has close ties to Rick Hendrick, not switching to Toyotas as PPI Racing was considering.
Tim Richmond Racing was involved in controversy in 2013 when NASCAR found they were running with modified restrictor plates on superspeedways, leading to a massive fine of over $2.5 million imposed on the team.
Tim Richmond Racing signed DEI Driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. at the end of the 2007 season for 5 years, in the #58, beginning in 2008. In 2011 Kyle Busch was signed to the team with the #54, as Richmond stated "Kyle has a lot of talent he just needs to find. I will help him be the next superstar of this sport."
Today Tim Richmond Racing is one of 3 Chevrolet teams, the other 2 being Hendrick Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing. Tim Richmond Racing is still as relatively new and small team, but is competitive with Richard Childress Racing.