Tim Richmond died two decades ago Thursday. Aug. 13, 1989, was the finish of the party in NASCAR.

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Dr. Jerry Punch, the young benidormclubdeportivo.org reporter and also de facto household physician in the garage area, sent much more than 90 world from the traveling present for AIDS testing that summer.

And an era that was, shall us say, wide-open, stopped.

Tim Richmond wasn"t just a win driver -- he to be the life of the party.Bill Frakes/Time Life Pictures/Getty ImagesYou could practically see and hear castle standing roughly the haulers, calculating: "Now she was v Richmond, ns know and also then she was v . And also then the was with and then she was with me -- uh -- Hey, Doc! I must ask you about something."

You may have actually heard the the Cole Trickle character in the film "Days the Thunder" was based upon Richmond. Truly, Trickle to be a wimp and a wallflower contrasted to Richmond.

Dale Earnhardt supplied to rent whole bar, drinks on him, every night, in ~ Coca-Cola 600 time at Charlotte. Richmond didn"t last 10 minutes in there before he began a fight. He wasn"t the only male who ever before left there through a fat lip, but he obtained it in document time.

Can you imagine Jeff Gordon law something prefer that?

Rich-kid Richmond and also Earnhardt"s mill-town homeboys never did mix well, even though the two drivers themselves -- one the child of a rich Ohio construction-equipment inventor, the other the child of a phibìc Carolina dirt-tracker -- became best buddies shortly after Richmond gravitated from Indy cars to NASCAR in 1980.

Out at the Charlotte track, in former of a race-day crowd, Richmond as soon as staggered across the stage throughout driver introductions. He brought a large plastic drinking cup, fifty percent full. His uniform to be unzipped under to his belly button and thrown ago at the shoulders, and drivers didn"t wear fireproof underwear in those days.

Drivers had been called to present themselves. Richmond, who"d qualified external pole, brought himself to a wobbly halt in former of the microphone and also scanned the crowd through sunglasses. He elevated the cup, saluted the crowd, take it a lengthy chugalug, wiped his mouth, wobbled some more.

"I"m T-i-i-m R-r-richmond," that slurred. "Just havin" a great time, sittin" below on the prior r-o-w-w-w." the chugged again, and also staggered away.

Can girlfriend imagine Jimmie Johnson law something like that?

Seeing Tim Richmond the end front was usual in 1986 -- a season in which he won 7 times -- consisting of this day in ~ Daytona in the Firecracker 400. He winner the July 4th extravaganza despite having his windshield organized in place by tape.RacingOne/Getty ImagesA hundred thousand human being wondered whether Richmond really was drunk. Learning him, castle wouldn"t put it past him. But he to be a showman, too. And this turned out to be an act.

It wasn"t an act once he closed a bar the night before a race with me and also a couple of colleagues. This was at north Wilkesboro, N.C. The subject of the wee-hours dispute -- make that debate -- to be why the media had actually to cover the points we did. Prefer his escapades.

He"d recently raised a basic alarm of protection guards at the newspaper wherein I functioned at the time, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A colleague to be interviewing that in a glassed-in room simply off the sporting activities department ~ above the eighth floor as soon as security surrounded the small room.

A security tapped ~ above the door and beckoned the writer, wanting to understand what the story was with this guy.

Tim Richmond, the NASCAR driver, the guard to be told. Why?

Well, Richmond had actually just been under in the lobby talking around bringing a bomb right into the place and also saying nasty things about a writer in ~ the paper.

Turned the end Richmond, ~ above a neighborhood media tourism for the Atlanta track, had actually rambled with the lobby and onto the elevators so quickly that that bellowed (probably ~ he"d had a couple of at lunch), "Look! There"s no security in this place! i could bring a bomb in here."

Can girlfriend imagine Carl Edwards law something favor that?

Richmond had actually mumbled something around a celebrity gossip columnist who had reported on Richmond out on the town in Atlanta top top a ahead occasion. Richmond had been spotted cruising in a limo, purchase $150 bottles of Dom Perignon by the half-dozen at miscellaneous nightspots, climate awakened alone in the backseat in wide daylight, quiet cruising, his Rolex and also his wallet missing, only a pair the panties left together a calling card by that specific lady.

But she could have acquired a calling map from Richmond -- AIDS. Various published accounts due to the fact that his fatality have claimed he infected numerous women -- as countless as a dozen, follow to one Miami Herald report. Part were purported come be race queens and also models.

When and also by who Richmond self was infected continues to be as lot a secret as how numerous he infected. Lore has long had actually it the he contracted AIDS at the end of his ideal season, 1986, in which he won 7 races because that Hendrick Motorsports. He won the finale in ~ Riverside, Calif., and stayed over for weeks to party v the Hollywood crowd.

By 1987, he missed the Daytona 500 v what we in the media were told to be "double pneumonia." that quit Hendrick, and the AIDS rumors easily followed in the garage-area gossip: "I don"t desire what he"s got," Darrell Waltrip stated cryptically, and wryly.

Later that spring, as soon as Richmond returned, one human in NASCAR would understand that Richmond had actually AIDS. That confided in Punch.

Punch would tell me years later that he had feared Richmond might, while to run a race wide-open, unbuckle his security harness and slam into some third-turn wall, "go out in a blaze the glory," together Punch placed it. Yet instead Richmond roared come back-to-back wins the June, at Pocono and Riverside.

Then he to be gone again.

In "88 came the uproar that, to this day, keeps me from rushing to referee on Jeremy Mayfield in the present substance-abuse mess. Deliberately or unintentionally, NASCAR "besmirched" Richmond, his lawyer claimed, because that substance abuse, commonly suspected to involve cocaine. NASCAR never ever proved the charges, at the very least not publicly.

NASCAR very likely knew Richmond had AIDS. Any kind of bleeding injuries he can sustain top top the track can put at risk their security workers, that didn"t wear safety gloves at the time. And also ordering the employees to take such precautions can spread a panic.

When Richmond make the efforts to go into the Busch Clash (now the Bud Shootout) that 1988 individually from Hendrick, making a transaction to journey a mediocre automobile owned through Ken Ragan, father of current driver David Ragan, NASCAR came up with its first substance-abuse policy.

Richmond submitted to the test, and also the sample was then sent off to the nation"s top substance-abuse authority of the time, Dr. Woodland Tennant of Los Angeles. NASCAR came out v a statement that it had found regulated substances in the sample, and then work later had to come out and admit that what Tennant in reality had discovered were over-the-counter medications.

Richmond sue NASCAR for defamation the character, happen in renowned brand-new York lawyer Barry Slotnick. The instance never came to trial, and the settlement was sealed by the courts.

The last time ns talked with Richmond was in March 1988. It to be on the phone. He to be in southern Florida, in seclusion, and also I remained in Atlanta. The lied to me when I asked about AIDS.

"Thank God it wasn"t anything choose that," that said. "What I had was poor enough."

Mythmakers, by the way, have turned Richmond right into a far better driver in fatality than he was in life. He was wonderful driver, however his performances to be spotty, erratic as his personality.

NASCAR was an out-of-sight, out-of-mind culture then -- even if it is you to be dead, comatose, gravely ill, every little thing -- and as Richmond put dying, his memory was suppressed. The AIDS talk remained however quieted, and the traveling show rationalized that possibly Richmond to be bisexual, maybe he provided needle-injected drugs, whatever. They wouldn"t accept AIDS as a heterosexually transmitted disease, lest that spoil the continuous party.

Then once he died there to be no more denial. A few weeks later his household held a news conference acknowledging that he passed away of symptom from AIDS, and that he had contracted the heterosexually.

The party stopped, not simply sexually but on myriad fronts. Based on the great of Richmond, NASCAR drivers came to be far much less media-friendly, an ext reclusive, more buttoned-down, much an ext guarded in your words and deeds. Lock wouldn"t drink with the media out in the bars anymore. All you acquired to recognize of them to be what their PR civilization instructed them come be.

Mythmakers, by the way, have actually turned Richmond right into a far much better driver in death than he remained in life. The was fantastic driver, but his performances to be spotty, erratic together his personality. He passed away at 34, with yet 13 wins in 185 starts over eight seasons. Johnson, 33, in his eighth season, has won 43 times through three right championships.

Richmond to be "another Earnhardt," as part claimed, just on the wild-driving side, often laughing ~ crashes. Lock wrecked each other, your cars when landing "on top of every other," together they offered to brag.

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It to be Richmond the character, more than Richmond the driver, who started the legend.