Born: July 23, 1941
Hometown: Rome, NY
NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee, Richie Evans. (Credit ISC Archives/Getty Images)
Series: NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour
Starts: 1,300 (estimated)
Wins: 475 (estimated)
Named one of the “The Greatest 50 NASCAR Drivers of All Time” in 1998, Evans remains the undisputed king of NASCAR Modified racing. Evans captured nine NASCAR Modified titles in a 13-year span, including eight in a row from 1978-85. Evans’ racing career began at the age of 16 when he became a mechanic at a gas station. His first racing experience was that of a drag racer, but he soon switched to running stock cars starting in the Utica-Rome Speedway Hobby Division in 1964.
Nicknamed “The Rapid Roman,” his career accomplishments included multiple track championships across the Northeast and hundreds of victories including a 37-win season during a stretch of 60 Modified races in 1979. Evans took over four hundred feature race wins at racetracks from Quebec to Florida. In 1986, Evans was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association’s Hall of Fame at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, Alabama.
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In the first year of the current NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour format in 1985, Evans won 12 races, including wins in four of five events at Thompson, Conn.
At the age of 44, Evans was killed in a practice accident at Martinsville on October 24, 1985 while preparing for the final race of the season, the Winn-Dixie 500 tripleheader (three races in one day — a 200-lap Modified race, a 200-lap Busch Series race, and a 100-lap Late Model race) for the NASCAR Modified Tour. Though not recognized at the time, many racing safety experts have concluded that Evans’ death resulted from the same type of “head-whip” injury and resultant Basilar skull fracture, which also claimed the life of Dale Earnhardt in 2001. Before his fatal crash, Evans had clinched NASCAR’s inaugural Winston Modified Tour (now known as Whelen Modified Tour) championship.
Evans was the father of six children: Jodi Lynn (Evans) Meola, Janelle Ralaine (Evans) Walda, Jill Ann Evans, Jacqueline Marie (Evans) Williams, Richard Edwin Evans (who has raced under the moniker “Richie Evans Jr.”) and Tara Denise Evans.
Evans’ signature orange Modified paint scheme (GMC truck color Omaha Orange; black numbers with white shading) was replicated in 2003 on a Busch Series car driven by Martin Truex, Jr. in his first year on the series driving for Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s Chance 2 Motorsports. Steve Park also ran a Richie Evans tribute paint scheme for Tommy Baldwin Racing’s #36 entry at the 2010 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.
Elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame on June 14th, 2011 with Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Inman and Glen Wood. The induction ceremony is scheduled to take place on Jan. 20, 2012 at the NASCAR Hall of Fame located in Charlotte, NC.