In the first three classes to enter the NASCAR Hall of Fame, only one person has the distinction of making it to the sport’s highest honor without being a part of its premier series. But Richie Evans earned his spot by doing one thing and one thing only: winning. Evans raced in NASCAR’s Modified Division, the open-wheel faction that is NASCAR’s oldest sanctioned series.
While the 200 win mark tops the Cup heap, Evans eclipsed that by more than double, with 478 wins in the Modified Division to go along with nine championship titles, including eight straight from 1978-85 (the 1985 title came in the newly formed Whelan Modified Tour). Nicknamed the Rapid Roman for his hometown of Rome, NY, Evans came to tracks across the Northeast with his trademark orange car (the original orange paint was “found” by one of Evans’ buddies in the garage where the City of Rome kept its snowplows, which were also-you guessed it-orange.) and usually left with a trophy. By the time he was killed in a practice crash at Martinsville, Evans had earned more sanctioned wins than any driver in NASCAR history. Evans also provided inspiration for a generation of young racers from the Northeast to make the Modifieds their home.
Lest race fans question Evans’ inclusion with the Cup stars and founders of the sport, host Mike Joy relayed one of the most emotional moments of the induction ceremony in his introduction: seeing a fan dressed proudly in a Richie Evans t-shirt, almost 27 years after the driver’s death. Evans was inducted into the Hall of Fame by his crew chief, Billy Nacewitz, and his ring was accepted by his widow, Lynn. Lynn Evans said that part of Richie Evans’ legacy as a Hall of Famer is to inspire local racers to be the best they can be, because anything is possible. Nacewitz spoke of Evans’ work ethic and common sense. “He’s where I got my work ethic…You could learn from him if you’d just listen…It was so much fun.”