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Richard Ernest "Richie" Evans
July 23, 1941 - October 24, 1985
Rome, NY
NASCAR Modified Career: 1963-85
 

Richard Ernest Evans was an American racing driver who as the the unquestioned king of modified racing won nine NASCAR National Modified Championships, including eight in a row from 1978 to 1985. The International Motorsports Hall of Fame lists this achievement as "one of the supreme accomplishments in motorsports".

Evans left his family's farm at age 16 to work at a local garage. After he found early success in street racing, then became a winner in drag racing, an associate suggested he try building a car to race at the nearby Utica-Rome Speedway. He ran his first oval-track car, a 1954 Ford Hobby Stock numbered PT-109 (after John F. Kennedy's torpedo boat in World War II), in 1962. He advanced to the Modifieds, the premier division, in 1965, winning his first feature in the season's final night.

In 1973, Evans became the NASCAR National Modified Champion. In 1978 he won a second title and did not relinquish his crown during the next seven years. Evans took over four hundred feature race wins at racetracks from Quebec to Florida before he was fatally injured at age 44 in a crash at Martinsville Speedway while practicing for the final race of the season, the Winn-Dixie 500 Tripleheader in late 1985 (three races in one day -- a 200-lap Modified race, a 200-lap Busch Series race, and a 100-lap Late Model race). Before his fatal crash, Evans had clinched the inaugural Winston Modified Tour (now known as Whelen Modified Tour) championship.

In 1979, Evans started 60 NASCAR Modified races and posted 54 top-five finishes -- including 37 victories. 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.

More Details of Evans History

Richie Evans' racing career began after leaving his father's farm in Westernville, N.Y. at the age of 16 to become a mechanic at a gas station. His first racing experience was as a drag racer, but he soon switched to running stock cars starting in the Utica-Rome Speedway Hobby Division in 1964. 

Richie won his first NASCAR National Modified Championship in 1973 at age 32. It was his first season of serious point chasing and he thought it was fun as well as a lot of hard work. Evans' did indeed love the mechanical aspects of racing, putting in about 100 hours a week in order to keep two cars running during the 1973 season.

Evans didn't win his second Modified Championship until 1978, but from 1978 through 1985 he  won eight consecutive NASCAR Featherlite Modified titles. Richies 8 straight Championships is a record for any NASCAR Division to this day. For 13 years Richie finished 1st nine times and 2nd twice, only finishing out of the top 10 once.  Evans also won a record nine Most Popular Driver Awards.

Richie Evans, who won more than 400 feature races during his career, won over 30 track championships, including two at Stafford, four at Thompson, and one at Riverside Park. In 1980 he won 52 out of 84 races he entered.

Richie was a 3-time Modified Race of Champions winner.  Winning on the 1.5 mile Trenton Speedway in 1973 and was the last driver to win on the big 2.5 mile Pocono Raceway Track in 1979 before his next win in 1980 when he was the first driver to win on the 3/4 mile Pocono Track.  Richie won the Daytona International Speedway Modified race in 1979 and repeated the victory in 1980.

Richie was the 1980 Riverside Park Speedway Champion and is 7th on the all-time Riverside Park Speedway win list with 32 wins between 1978 and 1984 in only 7 seasons of competition.  The drivers in front of him competed in 10 to 23 different seasons.

NASCAR Unveils Modified All-Time Top 10    Sept. 14, 2003

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Four drivers who are among "The 50 Greatest NASCAR Drivers of All Time" are members of the "NASCAR Modified All-Time Top 10" announced Friday by the sanctioning body.

Richie Evans, a nine-time NASCAR champion, heads the NASCAR Modified All-Time Top 10. Six-time champion Jerry Cook is No. 3, with Ray Hendrick at No. 4 and Geoffrey Bodine at No. 5. All four also are part of "The 50 Greatest NASCAR Drivers of All Time" list compiled in 1998.

Mike Stefanik, one of two active Modified drivers on the NASCAR Modified All-Time Top 10, is No. 2 on the strength of his six titles and 65 career Featherlite Modified Series victories.

The rest of the top 10 features three-time champion Tony Hirschman, also still active, at No. 6; three-time champion Bugs Stevens at No. 7; 1970 champion Fred DeSarro at No. 8; two-time champion Jimmy Spencer at No. 9; and 42-race winner Reggie Ruggiero at No. 10.

"This is an outstanding list of drivers from NASCAR's Modified history," said Cook, now NASCAR's competition administrator working out of the new Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C.

"Modified racing is NASCAR's oldest division and played a big part in the early growth of NASCAR. Fans loved the Modifieds -- and they still do -- because they're different from every other form of car in NASCAR."

Cook raced against all of the other drivers in the NASCAR Modified All-Time Top 10. "There was no one driver you could call the toughest," he said. "They were all tough, across the board. Nobody gave in to anybody and it made for great racing. That has carried over into today's Featherlite Modified Series. We have good car counts at all the races and tracks fill the seats."

Career capsules:

No. 1 Richie Evans -- Named one of "The Greatest 50 NASCAR Drivers of All Time" in 1998, Evans remains the undisputed king of NASCAR Modified racing. Nearly 20 years since his death in 1985, Evans' presence is still felt among the Modified faithful. 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 won nine NASCAR titles between 1973-1985, a championship total that is unmatched in all of NASCAR.

No. 2 Mike Stefanik -- By the time the dust had settled from the Evans-Cook rivalry that fueled NASCAR Modified racing in the 1970s, Massachusetts native Mike Stefanik was beginning a career that would re-define success in NASCAR racing. Stefanik's career accomplishments include four track championships, three most popular driver awards, more than 60 Featherlite Modified Series victories and eight NASCAR championships. Stefanik's six Featherlite Modified Series titles (1989, '91, '97, '98 '01 and '02) are accompanied by two Busch North Series championships, which he earned in 1997-98. Incredibly, Stefanik won the dual championships in two consecutive seasons, making him the first driver since Lee Petty to win two NASCAR division titles in a single season, and the only driver to do it twice. Stefanik won the Eastern Motorsports Press Association's Northeast Driver of the Year award in 1997.

No. 3 Jerry Cook -- In a career that spanned three decades, Jerry Cook won 342 races and earned six NASCAR Modified championships (1971, '72, '74, '75, '76, '77). When his driving career came to a close in 1982, Cook stayed with the sport and helped shape the Featherlite Modified Series of today. Cook served as the series' director when it began in 1985 and remains with NASCAR as competition administrator. Cook was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association's Hall of Fame at Darlington Raceway in '89 and named as one of "The Greatest 50 NASCAR Drivers of All Time" in '98.

No. 4 Ray Hendrick -- Over a 34-year racing career, Virginia's Ray Hendrick had a reputation of racing anything, anywhere. The countless stream of races in the 1950's, 60's and 70's included several stints with the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Some records indicate Hendrick won as many as 712 races in his career. In 1993, Hendrick was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association's Hall of Fame and he was honored as one of "The Greatest 50 NASCAR Drivers of All Time" in '98.
 

No. 5 Geoffrey Bodine -- Bodine began racing midgets at his family's Chemung Speedrome in upstate New York, at the age of five. Bodine became one of the earliest NASCAR Modified racing stars, winning nearly 600 races, by some accounts, in his career. In 1978, Bodine won 55 Modified races in a single season, a figure that landed him in the Guinness Book of World Records. Bodine advanced to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series in 1979 and was selected as one of "The Greatest 50 NASCAR Drivers of All Time" in 1998. Bodine has 18 career NASCAR Winston Cup Series victories, including the 1986 Daytona 500.

No. 6 Tony Hirschman -- Hirschman broke onto the Featherlite Modified Series scene with a six-win season in 1989. Since then, the Allentown, Pa. native has compiled more than 20 career victories and three Featherlite Modified Series championships (1995, '96 and '99). His most recent championship in '99 showed the drive and determination of a true champion. When the season began, Hirschman was without a ride but teamed with car owner Gary Cretty for the opening race. In the weeks and months that followed, Hirschman kept his newly-assembled team on top of the standings and won the championship along with the series' Bud Pole award. Hirschman has collected more than $860,000 in career winnings on the Featherlite Modified Series, second only to Mike Stefanik in that category.

No. 7 Bugs Stevens -- When Carl Bergman wanted to pursue a NASCAR racing career while serving in the military in the 1960s, he knew his superiors might object to the idea. And, so the story goes, "Bugs Stevens" was born. Stevens became Bergman's assumed name at the race track, where he drove to perfection. Stevens won several track championships and Modified races across the East Coast, culminating with three consecutive NASCAR Modified championships in 1967-69. Stevens' son, Dave Bergman, continues the family tradition and competes in the Featherlite Modified Series today.

No. 8 Fred DeSarro -- In the shadows of Modified greats Evans and Cook, DeSarro managed to make himself known in the 1970s NASCAR Modified ranks by driving to win. DeSarro won several track championships at Stafford Motor Speedway and Thompson International Speedway in Connecticut, and was the NASCAR Modified champion in 1970. In 1972, DeSarro was the inaugural winner of Stafford's Spring Sizzler race, one of NASCAR Modified racing's premier events.

No. 9 Jimmy Spencer -- One of the most well-known drivers in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series today, Spencer first made a name for himself in the Featherlite Modified Series. Spencer won 15 Featherlite Modified Series races over four seasons, from 1985-88, and was a two-time champion in '86-87.

No. 10 Reggie Ruggiero -- Regarded as one of the best NASCAR Modified drivers never to win a championship, Reggie Ruggiero's 42 career Featherlite Modified Series victories are second only to Mike Stefanik on the series' all-time win list. "The Reg" has won multiple track championships and finished in the top 10 in Featherlite Modified Series championship points 13 times, in 16 seasons between 1986-2001.

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