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CLAIM TO FAME The king of modified racing, Evans, pictured after winning at Daytona in '80, died at 44 after a crash at Martinsville. He won nine NASCAR modified titles, including eight in a row from '78 through '85.
LYNN EVANS, Evans's widow: MY LIFE WITH RICH was unique because I traveled almost as much as he did—I was a flight attendant. If he wasn't racing, Monday was usually our day to spend together. During the week he lost his life we basically crossed paths at five o'clock in the morning. He was coming in from Connecticut, and I was going out the door to fly a four-day trip. I was never fearful of Rich racing. I guess I just believed in him so much and thought he was such a fantastic driver. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that Rich would lose his life racing.
The short tracks in modified racing were just his thing. He loved challenges. He might not agree with this, but I loved when he had to start in the back of the pack because he would put on a fantastic show to get up front. Winning at Daytona [in '79 and '80] was the thrill of his life. He still liked the short tracks, but he had to prove to himself that he could do it.
The Hall of Fame is just the cream of the crop. I never expected to be alive to see it. My son was home the night of the announcement, and he told me to TiVo the news conference, but I said, "It's not going to happen just yet." When we found out both my children, Tara and Richie, said, "Mom, he's in! He's in!"
I don't think Rich ever realized the effect he had on the sport. He was humble. That's one thing I absolutely loved about him: He never forgot who he was and where he came from. I think he'd be flabbergasted today.
TOMMY BALDWIN, a current NASCAR team owner, broke into racing as crew chief for his father, who competed against Evans: Richie Evans knew every part of the business. He knew how to build race cars, how to make them go fast, and he knew how to drive them. That's why he was so successful. Guys like Richie—with that type of talent—knew what they needed. They knew how the car needed to handle for the shorter length of the modified races we did. They may not have been the fastest at the beginning of the race, but they understood where the track was headed and how the car was going to handle on the tires.
We honored him at Daytona in July 2010 and again at New Hampshire this past September. We want to teach people about Richie; he got the jump start on everybody learning about the sport. He was a lot of people's idol, on and off the track. The impact of Richie's death on the modified circuit is similar to the impact Dale Earnhardt made when he passed. Certain safety aspects came into play. The modified series, much like the Cup series, still doesn't have that guy as Richie's successor. No one has ever replaced Richie Evans, and I don't think anyone ever will.