Here’s one for all the Romans out there as this guy was one of your own… Richie Evans or “The “Rapid Roman” as he was later known started his career at the tender young age of 16 when he rapidly left the family farm in Westernville (like Luke Skywalker or Superman?) to become a mechanic at a service station in Rome.

He quickly made a name for himself over the next five years as a street racer and finally raced professionally for the first time at our very own Utica-Rome Speedway in 1962 (in the car pictured below). Well, I shouldn’t say our own really because he was the one who ‘owned’ that track or rather just about every driver that every raced him on it! And he wouldn’t stop there…

Just a couple years later he began racing modified stock cars at the Speedway and quickly started establishing himself as the eventual and official ‘King of the Modifieds’. In 1973, Richie finally won his first NASCAR National Modified Championship and then went on to win another 8 more in a row annually starting in 1978, a feat as yet unmatched by anyone in all of NASCAR. His stats are extremely impressive and his awards are numerous but suffice it to say that in his 13 years as a NASCAR driver he took the checkered flag at 400+ feature races all over the North American continent only finishing out of the top ten once in his entire career, at least until that tragic day on the final race of the 1985 season at Martinsville…

As he was rounding turn three (sound familiar?) in practice he crashed his orange #61 hard into the wall and lost his life instantly. Many years later, racing safety experts have concluded that he ironically died from the exact same injury that took the life of another NASCAR legend, Dale Earnhardt. Just as happened in Earnhardt’s case, following Richie’s death officials ramped up the safety requirements for the cars in order to protect the drivers better on impact. And just when you thought Richie’s story was over, the best was yet to come.

Even though Richie never competed in the upper echelons of NASCAR, he was posthumously inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame earlier this year alongside the likes of Darrell Waltrip and in doing so is the only Modified racer to be given this honor, ever.

26 years since his passing and he’s still winning victories in the hearts of racing fans all over and the biggest names in the business still regard him as one of the greatest drivers who ever lived and a likely inspiration for generations to come. Check out the video below to get an idea of how much high regard everyone had for this true man of steel with whom the ‘force’ was very strong…