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Tim Richmond’s ‘First Cup Win’ Car Up for Auction at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale

An Opinion

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January 13, 2012

By Rebecca Gladden

Rebecca Gladden

Five years ago, in January 2006, I wrote an article in this column entitled, "A Piece of NASCAR History at Barrett-Jackson."

That car was a 1969 Dodge Daytona winged racecar, No. 22, which had been driven by Bobby Allison in the 1970 Cup season. Allison took the car to Victory Lane at Atlanta that year and finished the season second in championship points.

What made the vehicle interesting from a historical perspective was the fact that it was discovered, decades later, in a barn in the Midwest. It was weather-beaten and unrecognizable, save for a few glints of gold paint from the distinctive red and gold paint scheme that Allison made famous, which led to its recovery and restoration.

In a twist of fate, the car I wrote about in 2006, had been owned by Mario Rossi, a NASCAR Cup team owner during the 1960s-70s. A year later, I was contacted by a family member of Rossi who asked for my help in telling the story of his unexplained disappearance in 1983.

Tim Richmond First Win Car ~ Photo Barrett-Jackson

For more on the Rossi mystery, which remains unsolved to this day, see "The Rossi Files: The life and mysterious death of a NASCAR hero," on SI.com.

Now, another compelling vehicle, this one with ties to Earnhardt, Petty, Tim Richmond and others, is on the auction docket at the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction. The event is being held at Westworld in Scottsdale, January 15-22, 2012.

The car with Lot No. 681 is a 1981 NASCAR car with a Valvoline paint scheme and the No. 50 on the door. It is described as a "Winston Cup Pontiac NASCAR."

Along with having been one of the first NASCAR vehicles specifically built for road racing, it was, most notably, the car that Tim Richmond drove to his very first Cup Series win.

Richmond was a rising star in the sport in the 1980s before his life was cut short by complications from AIDS in 1989 at the age of 34. His best year was 1986, when he notched seven Cup wins and ended the season third in points just behind Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip.

According to listing details at Barrett-Jackson.com, the car up for sale was built "as a Buick in Rod Osterlund's shop under Dale Endmann's (sic) direction. It was one of the first 'road race' cars to be built for Winston Cup Racing.

“On June 26, 1981, Osterlund sold his entire team and racing staff to J.D. Stacy Enterprises. Dale Earnhardt was Osterlund's driver, but quit the Stacy team on August 3, 1981, to join Richard Childress."

The seller describes the car as "built for Earnhardt," though the racing icon never actually drove it.

The vehicle was eventually driven in the Cup Series a number of times with various drivers between 1981 and 1986, among them Richmond, Morgan Shepherd, Richard Petty, Tommy Riggins, and Al Unser Sr., and passed from owner to owner, including the teams of Stacy, Curb Racing, and the Dingman Brothers.

The 1982 season was Tim Richmond’s second as a full-time NASCAR driver after making the transition to stock cars from IndyCars. In 1981, he scored six top-10 finishes for three different owners before moving to J. D. Stacy’s team the following year.

Richmond’s open-wheel experience and natural talent proved to be valuable assets on NASCAR’s road-course tracks, particularly the 2.6-mile Riverside (CA) International Raceway. In 14 Riverside starts, he scored four victories and two second-place finishes. He also won four times at Pocono and once at Watkins Glen among his 13 total Cup wins.

The car being sold at Barrett-Jackson was piloted by Richmond in his first career Cup win, which occurred at Riverside in the 1982 Budweiser 400, about midway through the season. Richmond drove past Terry Labonte for the victory; rounding out the top-five were Geoff Bodine, Dale Earnhardt and Neil Bonnett.

Richmond swept RIR that year in the J.D. Stacy ride, which was branded No. 2 at the time, leading 92 of 119 laps in what was then the season finale race. He won twice more at Riverside for subsequent car owner Rick Hendrick in ’86 and ’87, though not in the car on the auction block at Barrett-Jackson.

The 1981 Pontiac, now sporting the No. 50 Valvoline paint scheme, was last raced in NASCAR at Riverside in November, 1986. Al Unser Sr. drove the car to a 20th-place finish after experiencing an engine failure with just nine laps to go.

According to the seller, the car was purchased at Barrett-Jackson in 2002 and has since competed in the Historic Stock Car Racing Group, “with numerous podium finishes at Road Atlanta.”

The vehicle is described as “vintage NASCAR race eligible and race prepped.”

Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale will be covered live on SPEED from January 17-22, 2012. Visit SPEED.com and Barrett-Jackson.com for complete details.

Follow Rebecca on Twitter: @nscrwriter

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The thoughts and ideas expressed by this writer or any other writer on Insider Racing News, are not necessarily the views of the staff and/or management of IRN.

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