Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bittersweet Richmond Story Told With Care


Update: Leaving this post as the top story so those looking for more info on Tim Richmond before the Tuesday night program can easily find it.

ESPN's 30 for 30 series on Tuesday nights has been a wonderful assortment of one-hour programs provided by a variety of sources. Show topics have been an eclectic group from Michael Jordan's baseball experience to the Baltimore Colts Marching Band losing their NFL team.

Into this highly acclaimed mix of documentaries steps producer Rory Karpf and the NASCAR Media Group. This time, there is no slickly packaged hype and not one mention of the Chase for the Championship. Instead, the sobering reality of the life and times of former driver Tim Richmond is placed front and center.

It's a bold topic to put in the mix of one of the highest-profile documentary series seen around the world. ESPN Films is the distributor. 30 for 30 was created in 2009 when ESPN signed Spike Lee and Barry Levinson among others to begin a sports-themed documentary project.

Some TV viewers may remember ESPN Original Entertainment and projects like Playmakers and The Junction Boys. There was also a Dale Earnhardt Sr. movie and shows like Stump the Schwab. That effort to create original programming and diversify the ESPN line-up ended in 2007 with a resounding thud.

This time around, ESPN Films is letting a wide variety of sports and non-sports production companies contribute. The results have been nothing short of spectacular.

Tim Richmond: To The Limit continues the 30 for 30 tradition of taking a single subject and examining it from all sides. Karpf and NMG never hide from the reality of Richmond's impact on the sport from both a positive and negative perspective.

As he has done before on other topics, Humpy Wheeler plays an integral role in setting the stage for how and why Richmond arrived behind the wheel of a stock car. Richmond's sister provides the family counterpoint to Wheeler's stories about the brash young man who looked just a bit different from the drivers of the time.

A reminder of Richmond's IndyCar past and footage of the accident that sent him to the safer confines of NASCAR serve to set an amazing table. Contributions from Deb Williams, Ed Hinton and Rick Hendrick help to put into perspective just how different Richmond was from the NASCAR stars like Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Without a doubt, the key player in this project is Dr. Jerry Punch. Alone on a couch in casual clothes, Punch is free to speak about the swirl of controversy that surrounded Richmond for a variety of reasons. Only Punch could provide the ultimate credibility on both the NASCAR and healthcare issues.

AIDS was nothing more than a strange disease for gay men when Richmond was diagnosed. Fear, ignorance and homophobia fed the feelings that some in the NASCAR community had for Richmond once his health struggles were apparent.

A gripping soundbite from the late Bill France Jr. served to shine the light on the reasons for Richmond's final ban from competition. NMG's ability to use footage rarely seen or long since forgotten truly brings the reality of the this era to life.

Ultimately, it is Punch who ties the pieces together when he relates ESPN's on-air contribution to Richmond's final days. Punch is at his best when he is allowed to blend raw emotion with his personal love for the sport and its colorful characters.

It's been a while since NASCAR veered off the path of political correctness and opened the doors to the true reality of its history. The NASCAR Media Group is often tasked with churning-out the same old highlight shows. Well, not this time.

This project shows once again what can be done when creative people are turned loose on a sport rich with over half a century of history. It's well worth viewing a couple of times. Thanks to Andy Hall at ESPN for providing an advance copy.

Tim Richmond: To The Limit airs at 8PM ET on ESPN Tuesday night. It then re-airs on ESPN2 at 11PM and again on Wednesday at 7:30PM.

Always happy to have your comments. We will repost this after the original airing on Tuesday for additional opinions. In the meantime, please feel free to add your comment by clicking the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for stopping by.

80 comments:

AncientRacer said...

I am looking forward to this. Rory Karpf did a nice job with the Dale film. But I wonder, and I know when it airs I will find out, if anyone really admits to the essentially homophobic fear surrounding Tim after the rumors began. I was at dinner with Magic Johnson several years back and he talked about that aspect in terms of both himself and Tim.

Vince said...

I'd love to see this, but don't have ESPN. Anyone know if it's available online anywhere? Thanks....

JD, Deb Williams. Now there's a blast from the past. I remember her from her Winston Cup Scene days. What is she doing now?

Dan Easterly said...

Good review & can't wait to see it. Just one issue on AIDS and its context. You said it was a strange disease for gay men, etc when Richmond was diagnosed. By all accounts that was Dec 1986. However, Ryan White had been battling the school board in Indiana as early as may 1985. ABC News covered his story in depth that summer, putting a more human face on the disease and helping to dispel the gay men notion

glenc1 said...

AR, if it's well done I would think it would have to touch upon that. I am really looking forward to it. It will also be interesting to hear how candid people are about this now. I would hope they feel more open to talk (apparently Jerry Punch did). I've seen a few of the 30 for 30 pieces and they were all well done. I was at the Hendrick shop/museum a few years ago; HMS has a trophy case with Tim's memorabilia in it. At least they remember.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Dan,

Ryan is shown in the piece and his plight as a child with AIDS is well-documented.

They also mention the transition that was underway at the time from the belief that AIDS was a gay disease to the understanding that it was a threat to all in society.

JD

Anonymous said...

NASCAR Media Group certainly produces beautiful, polished pieces. My only issue is the editorial decisions that affect content. In this case, I wonder how much they will detail NASCAR's conduct in this case. I know this is about Tim Richmond, but I don't see how you can expect to tell the whole story unless you tell what NASCAR did and did not do. That includes drug testing issues and lawsuits that were settled out of court. I consider it one of the lowest points in the history of the sanctioning body.

Considering that NASCAR only wants happy news about the sport, I am doubtful that NMG can or will tell the whole story. Like others, I will soon find out; and I hope that they prove me wrong.

I am a devoted fan of racing but rarely watch any of the NASCAR-related support programming. I consider it "puff" that is not worth my time. This program on the life of Tim Richmond is the rare exception, and I hope it tells the complete story.

Truth and honesty will keep me coming back. Happy news and snow jobs will not.

Chadderbox said...

I can't wait to see this episode on Tim Richmond. This is the era of Nascar that I miss.

Walter said...

Mr Editor -
I was a Tim Richmond fan way back when it wasn't a given that an open-wheel driver could hold their own in Cup racing, much less take it on full-time ...he certainly brought a freshness to the scene when it was sorely needed ...look forward to how the seeming distrust among fellow drivers is handled, but Dr Punch will likely fill us in on that perspective ...for me a fondly remembered race was with Richmond and Alan Kulwicki lined up side-by-side at Bristol and the intense fan response for both drivers
Walter

Bob from OC Cal said...

I consider myself lucky to have been witness at two of Tim's race wins at Riverside. It was magic watching him go through the esses with ease.
I look forward to seeing the story, but like others have mentioned, sure miss his presence on the race track!

MichiganCincy said...

I too, look forward to this story on ESPN. Like anonymous though I have my doubts that the real story of Tim's end in Nascar will be told. Since Rick Hendrick will be commenting, I also have doubts that the true story of how Rick essentially threw Tim under the bus when the AIDs rumors began swirling, in ending their relationship and effectively eliminated Richmond from Hendrick connection for decades afterward. I hope it tells the actual story, but cynicism in past Nascar related involvement tells me it probably won't be so.

GinaV24 said...

I am looking forward to seeing this piece. I wasn't following NASCAR during the time that Richmond was racing, but I've read about him and I heard Rick H and Kyle Petty both speak about him - thanks for the reminder that its on.

GinaV24 said...

GlenC1 - I've seen that too. I know there are people out there who don't like Rick H for a lot of reasons, but one thing, he's been through a lot of personal loss and he doesn't forget his friends.

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

NA$CAR handled the Tim Richmond case horribly. He sued for defamation of charachter and NA$CAR fired back by forcing him to release all his medical records. This is one of many cases that proves no one is safe from AIDS. It has been an epidemic since 1981. I was floored when i read may things that NA$CAR treated him like a nobody. Tim may have been a playboy, but he was one heck of a racer.

Sad that has been one of NA$CAR's only big foulup in the Bill France, Jr. era.

Gymmie said...

I didn't know Tim since I was off and on during that time mostly off but have heard how he was treated throughout the industry. Was truly sad.

Look forward to seeing it tho.

Jonathan said...

Looking foward to this very much!!! Obviously I wasnt watching Nascar when he was racing as I was born in 1981 but the little I have seen of him in videos man I know I would of been a big fan of his! He had personality he loved to party loved racing and was proud of it! Awsome this should be fun

Anonymous said...

Vince - FYI:

You can find Deb Williams on Facebook at:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=1305939438

She is now a "freelance journalist."

Nice lady.

Zieke said...

I happen to have watched Tim drive a race car, and to say the least, he could do things that many of the other hotshoes could not. I will not name names, because that would draw alot of flack, but if some footage is on the show, it will be worth watching. He was a special driver.

Vince said...

Thanks to the Anon for the tip on Deb Williams.

Tim Richmond was one of my favorite drivers at the time. That guy could wheel a race car. I think that if he had not passed away, Dale Earnhardt Sr. would have one or two less championships. Tim was that good. Hope all of our newer fans watch this program to see how good he was and what a great guy he was. Quite the character.

Bucky Butler said...

When Cale Yarborough went to a limited schedule,semi-retirement in 1983 there was only one driver for me. Tim Richmond. Tim was still with JD Stacey then. He was young, brash and anti-establishment but he could drive the wheels off a race car. Finally ending up with Hendrick, his talent really flourished. His off-track antics were a throw back to the drivers of the '60's and I loved every minute of it. What NASCAR did to him in the end was a tragedy. However, they did name him one of the 50 greatest in '98. Trying to make amends perhaps. I look forward to seeing this special. I hope a lot of the current fans watch and realize that NASCAR didn't start with Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson. There was a lot of greatness and believe it or not, personality in this sport at one time. Tim Richmond's flame burned bright and was extinguished way to early. But it was sure fun to watch.

OSBORNK said...

I remember Tim Richmond well. He was a risk taker both on and off the track. Unfortunately, his off track risk taking ended up taking his life. He was a driver that could sit out racing for months and get in a car and win. His race track performance reminds me of today's Kyle Busch with his natural ability.

I look forward to watching the show and fondly remembering a unique personality.

David said...

VERY excited to see this. Tim Richmond was before my time but his story still captivates me as do many of the drivers from the 80's and early 90's. Simply put my schedule is cleared to see this.

Ken-Michigan said...

It might be interesting to see NASCAR's reaction in the coming days after tonights ESPN Tim Richmond hour long program generates MORE viewers than the races themselves.

More people will watch tonight vs the people who watch this Sunday @ Martinsville.

With the vast archive of NASCAR races and ESPN actually having a "Classic" channel, it boggles my mind that someone won't allow these
Classic races & drivers to be aired on a regular basis.

Personally, being a fan since the mid 70's.... and I think I can speak for all of the veteran fans, we need more of the old classic racing IF you want to keep us "veteran fans" around much longer.

Just watching tonight will stir the memory and leave us wanting more and more of the old stuff.

My lasting memory of Tim Richmond was at Michigan Intl Speedway. It was pole qualifying day and as Richmonds car was pushed closer and closer to the front of the line, Richmond was nowhere around. Someone finally had to wake up Richmond,(in motorhome or transporter) just in time for his qualifying run. I believe that this ended up being Richmonds final NASCAR event & it was at Michigan.

Looking forward to seeing it on ESPN tonight.

Anonymous said...

ANON@2:42

Good post. Yes the NMG does produce great pieces. But the impartiality is not present.

Personally i love the new Showtime show. It's raw with the radion chatter. Too bad the audience is so limited by pay TV

Anonymous said...

OMG - for one hour, I got the feeling back. Great show - great footage. The cars looked like cars, there were passes on the track.

glenc1 said...

blank screen for about 3 minutes....DISH. This is really annoying.

PammH said...

glen-more than that for me. change channels & hope to catch the whole show later...

Roland said...

blank screen also. Dish network as well. Espn is officially dead to me now. So sick of this

glenc1 said...

I guess I'll record it later. Finally ESPN does something right & screws it up. You'd almost think they were hacked or something...

David said...

I wrote a comment earlier but I guess it didn't take. I didn't get to see Tim Richmond race, it was before my time as a fan. There are several drivers and personalities that I never got to see and wish I would have. Tim Richmond being one of them.

I cleared my calendar for this and I am extremely glad I did.

Powerful stuff, very well done. Honest.

No provider issues here, Cox Communications in Phoenix, AZ ran it the whole way through with no signal problems.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Taking your comments now that the first showing of the program is done.

What did you think?

JD

glenc1 said...

well, I'm sure ESPN will blame it on DISH. But I'm kinda suspicious after the previous sound incident they wouldn't admit to. Still blank...15 minutes.

I was enjoying it up to that point.

Kiteman11 said...

One of the most amazing things I've ever seen regarding this sport. Well done, ESPN.

David said...

ESPN didn't have a problem glen. That was all your provider.

JD, I was very moved by the whole thing. Thought it was extremely well done and really enjoyed hearing the stories from so many different angles that you really almost felt you could be there if not for but an hour. Good and bad. I remember reading the Tim Richmond chapter in Humpy's book too and it was pretty straightforward then so it was really something to see it with video and hearing from family.

Anonymous said...

Awesome show..Glad I got to see him race...BTW "The King" is an *ss!

kiteman11 said...

I had Dish and no issues whatsoever, btw.

Ironbear53 said...

It was a very well done piece. I never saw Tim Richmond race, but I really wish I had.

I'm glad ESPN did one on NASCAR (I have seen a few 30 for 30's in the passed and they were well done) and I think they picked a great person.

My only major issue is that it was too short. When I say that, I mean I think that it is a more complex story and needs more than an hour. In the hour they had, it was a great doc.

Also, I have Comcast Cable and I had no issues here either.

Walter said...

Editor -
Done tastefully ...enjoyed reliving some memories and the where were you feeling ...I had forgotten how well he ran short tracks, but I believe a couple shots were of Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway (yeah, I was there) ...lots of good memories brought back seeing the Folgers car on the track ...too bad NMG can't handle production for all Sprint Cup events ...lessons to be learned by Fox, TNT, ESPN
Walter

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

It was very well documented. This showed the world that anybody can get AIDS. It documented Tim's final 2-3 years very well and how NASCAR handled or mishandled Tim's drug test. I saw that he was a good High School football player and Track star. Tim's lifestyle and driving skill made him a star but also caused his death.

RIP Tim Richmond 1955-1989
All NASCAR fans and I miss you

Anonymous said...

Simply Amazing. For someone who is only 22 years old, it really showed me how the people who had AIDS were treated unfairly backed then.

Dr. Jerry Punch said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Very well done. Almost changed my opinion on Richard Petty though. He needs to get over the fact that Richmond was different

glenc1 said...

JD, can you shed any light on the 'feed' issue? I have no idea how it all works. Does ESPN 'provide' to DISH the feed? And is it regional, a feed from a 'hub'? Is it something automatic? I know this is off topic. Just something I've been wondering. I have set the recorder for tonight.

David said...

I can't really say anything bad about Petty because as many people have said, it was a different time back then and a guy who was COMPLETELY different then all the other drivers out there comes in and in a way made it look easy, he had a laid back attitude at times, almost cocky, it makes you wonder.

I liken it to Hmeil when he was up and coming in the Busch Series. Amazingly fast but sometimes things happened that made you go "wow is this guy on something?"

It does leave questions though that we'll never fully know the answer to which is the unfortunate part. But Tim Richmond's legend will live on through someone and now fans such as myself and many other new ones can have this to refer to which helps us remember the history of where we've come.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Glen,

DISH and DirecTV do what is called "turn around" the outgoing ESPN feed.

They downlink the ESPN program signal and then re-transmit it up to the DISH or DirecTV satellite.

That "cluster" of signals is then delivered to your home.

Home satellite dishes are notorious for being affected by atmospheric conditions from heavy summer rain to ice in the winter time. The #1 problem is wind.

Sorry for the problem, hope you get it the second time around.

JD

Anonymous said...

Good show... well done. Very moving. Tim Richmond was one heck of a race car driver. Did you see that big old Monte Carlo dirt tracking through those road course turns? Now, THAT was stock car racing!

I didn't have any signal issues here using Comcast cable.

Chadderbox said...

I was glued to the tv for an hour watching the show. I felt rather sad by the end of the show. I think the show really captured the era of Nascar and the persona of Tim Richmond.

I thought Kyle Petty's comment about (the Nascar community) being "ignorant" was about as honest as it gets. DW seemed at a loss for words in one clip.

The old footage was wonderful. I thought the entire program was tremendous.

Tim Richmond had a bunch of talent behind the wheel!

glenc1 said...

thanks JD. ESPN is back, plus the show is on the deuce at 11. Hopefully it will work. The weather here is fine in central NY. No issues. Not sure where PammH and Roland are..

TexasRaceLady said...

I was blown away. This film brought so many memories flooding back it almost made me cry.

Back in the day, I loved watching Tim and Dale battle. Tim was the only driver I ever saw beat Dale at his own game. The clips from the races just made all the more painful to realize what we race fans have lost.

RIP, Tim Richmond. This is one old race fan who will never forget your brief, shining moment.

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

Anon at 9:15pm

They were treated unfairly because few, if any knew of this disease. It sickens me because we isolate people we view different.

Anonymous said...

I saw Tim race at Indianapolis in 1980 and was a fan for life. I admit to shedding more than a few tears during the broadcast. I'm so glad more people are getting to know about him through this fine presentation.

FotoFinish said...

I live on the west coast and didn't get to see this until 8PM my time and I haven't read many of the other comments. What I remember most about Tim was during his short comeback, he was the only driver that really challenged Dale Sr. His natural ability to drive was and still is awesome. Easy to see where the inspiration for Days of Thunder came from too. One thing that really got my attention was the great scenes from Riverside, Pocono, Watkins Glen and other tracks. Why is there not a place to see these great old races today? I know I would pay to see them on cable or buy DVD's if FULL races were offered. This was a great tribute to a great driver.

Charlie said...

Very well done show.

I liked the part where the Nurses got to see him on Tv and Jerry Punch knowing that he was watching.

Jimbacca said...

My feed taped just fine.

I was 12 etc when Richmond raced. I remember, when I could find nascar races, watching him just rip through the field. Just amazing to watch.

I wish the show was longer with more clips. The car control was out of this world. It was nice to hear the background etc. Days of Thunder would have been much better if they would have stuck closer to the real story. He was a jet setter ladies' man. I don't think anyone has come close to hitting all those notes. Pieces yes but there will never be a Tim Richmond again. Before the time of PC and make sure sponsor this and that.

Jerry Punch was incredible. In his zone. DW was good. As a life long King fan it was kind of a bummer but old school southern folk didn't get him and that still held true today. Hearing Sr. stick up for him shows the kind of person both of them were. It was also great to hear Bill come clean with that they screwed up.

Great show just wish it was longer.
Thanks for the heads up JD. I would have missed this gem.

majorshouse said...

What a well done show. I remember Richmond fondly and was one of my most favorite drivers and this was incredibly well done and it showed from Bill, Jr.'s front how prejudiced NASCAR really was and how political it was then and even worse now and how I woujld love to see more productions like this that are stripped of all of the hype we have been seeing over the past several years, and Jerry Punch really was in his element here and I just wonder if he had not felt so scripted if he could not have done play by play better. I guess we will never know then.
I personally plan to watch this one again this evening, great show NASCAR Media Group and ESPN, you got it right for once.

OSBORNK said...

I have Dish and didn't miss a second of the show.

I have a good friend that knew Tim well and even had him do an appearance in Bristol for one of his products. He thought very highly of Tim and was blown away by the female attention he attracted.

The show showed Tim exactly as I remember him. They downplayed the bad actions of NASCAR but I think they probably did what most sports would have done at the time based on the limited knowledge of AIDS.

AncientRacer said...

I do not have much faith in NMG as it is the NASCAR Ministry of Propaganda, but this film was very good. It was also a type of film that is a challenge to write; the Titanic always sinks, after all, so it is the journey to that point that is the actual story.

I could go on for awhile about the people in the film and what they had to say lo these many years later, but I will restrain myself and instead offer a few of my impressions of it as a film.

The setup featuring Ryan White was excellent. The rest of the hour was foreshadowed and focused down to one comment when Ryan was asked about his "best friends" and he replied, "I don't have any."

The staging of the interviews was also perfect even those featuring Bill Jr. though he was filmed in 2006. Everyone, except Richard Petty, was essentially visually naked. Wide shots. Empty rooms. Full display of body language. Would have been a much different feel had there been tight head shots only. These people were trying to explain themselves and were not doing a very good job. BTW Do I feel less respect for the King? No. I had no reason to suspect he felt otherwise then and that he still feels the same way today.

Were I editing the piece I would have tried one change. It is a minor atmospheric thing, but worth mentioning. During the first appearance of the sequence of Tim in Victory Lane at Pocono I would have dumped out the music. The swelling orchestral bed was distracting and did not, IMO, buttress the tone coming into the scene; it was, in fact, distracting. This especially because at that point there was no voiceover and the pictures were more than adequately conveying the message. Less can be more.

Next, my admiration for Robert Duvall went up several notches. He absolutely nailed Harry Hyde. I do not think I truly realized that until last evening.

Lastly, when I first read the script for "Philadelphia" my remark was that it was a lot like Tim's story and why not do one about Tim. It would be, I said, like "The Natural" (book version) but on wheels. The answer was that if Tim were used it would be good, but it would not resonate as well since the audience could leave the theater smug in the belief that they would never react to an AIDS victim the same way as a bunch of redneck racecar types. Had to go the other way and put the AIDS in the men's room of the swells. It was a good point.

And that's that.

GinaV24 said...

Really well done. I wasn't watching NASCAR during the late 80's so I missed all the Tim Richmond era, but I sure remember all the fear about AIDS. Watching the footage of him running at Riverside and Pocono and side by side with Earnhardt made me smile though -- it sure looked like there was a lot of fun out there racing.

I thought they did a nice job of balancing the comments with the actual footage.

MichiganCincy said...

I agree with AR on just about every point. I never got to see Richmond racing when he was alive, but have become a big fan and have managed to catch his races on some of the classics shows.
I have read the book by David Poole on Tim and knew what I wanted to see explained in the broadcast. While I didn't get that, I did get wonderful footage and so many meaningful looks and nuances of Tim Richmond. That incredible smile and little boy glee shines through in much of the footage.
I respect Richard Petty the most in that broadcast for being honest then, and honest now about how many felt. He did not gloss over what he was then, and some on the show did.
The real tragedy of Tim Richmond was he should have left this world in a blaze of glory in a wrecked racecar, morbid as that may sound. To have to live and die with a disease that was causing National hysteria at the time, and be unable to talk about it was the ultimate sadness for a man such as Richmond. To die away from the spotlights and the adulation, essentially alone, small bit by bit, struck me more than anything in the documentary.
My hope is that this 30 for 30 will bring many young fans to a realization of why Tim Richmond mesmerized so many at the time he lived and raced...

rich said...

Absolutely five star production by NMG. Thanks to ESPN for including this subject in the 30 for 30 series.

Anonymous said...

Three scenes really stood out:

-in the driver's meeting with Tim was messing with something in Richard Petty's front shirt pocket. The stare that Richard gave Tim was great.

-while Tim was being interviewed and the blond in the short white skirt walked by. Classic. Can you imagine any of the current crop of drivers doing that?

-the footage of him wheeling the car around the road track (I forget which one). Truly amazing.

Bobby said...

At the time of the Richmond story, film was very careful about AIDS in many instances.

The best known example was the James Bond film series. The Timothy Dalton era Bond was known for sticking with one woman for the entire film, and I remember Time even referencing that was the reason 007 stuck with Kara Milvoy (Maryam d'Abo) for The Living Daylights.

Blood transfusions (as in the Ryan White case) was to blame for AIDS in the early days, and new developments in 1985 led to AIDS testing of all donated blood. A new law banning people who engaged in specific behaviour that was known to lead to AIDS from donating blood was imposed to prevent AIDS from striking innocents.

Richmond's career transcended the era of the AIDS scare, and his behaviour was an example of what had to be avoided. It was a time different from the standards of today. What if he had been smarter in his behaviour and not made the mistakes he made. Would he have been the big star he would have been? Would he have won titles and been a Hall of Fame driver?

Anonymous said...

A very touching film. I don't think I can say enough about the great job NMG did on this one. It truly is a shame Tim Richmond got the AIDS.

Anonymous said...

One thing that needs to be remembered--*lots* of drivers past (and present) engaged in exactly the behavior Tim did (probably not with that much style...). Just like with rock stars and groupies, there are the 'fence bunnies' (they had any number of names, I believe). I remember old Herschel McGriff talking about 'catting around' as he put it. Being in different cities, traveling--it isn't uncommon (even for 'regular' people who travel on business.) Tim just unfortunately did it in the era of HIV. Ironically, the largest increasing population of people with the virus are heterosexual senior citizens--and they believe the ED products are a part of that (I bring that up only because of the sponsorship deals.) The commercials only show them with their wives....

Anonymous said...

The show made me long for "the good old days" of NASCAR as opposed to the mess we have now.

Charlie said...

For those that haven't seen this show yet it will be rebroadcast again Wednesday (Oct. 20) 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm eastern time on Espn2.

PammH said...

Had to miss the BV segment on RH to watch Tim's story. Just soooo sad at the end. Bill Jr. was still in control then. TG for Kyle Petty-at least someone is telling it like it is. And Richard Petty lost my respect sometime ago, after his comments after Big E died. Excellent show, imo. Kudos!

red said...

just caught the re-run & some observations:

unless one was alive at that time, one simply cannot understand the level of hatred, violence, hysteria that was visited upon individuals with HIV/AIDS and their family and friends. for richmond to prefer to have people think that he was using drugs or had some "asian flu that turned into pneumonia" or for dr punch to continue the charade on-air by claiming richmond was hospitalilzed b/c of a motorcycle accident as he lay dying in the hospital speaks to the times. but when viewed in today's environment, it's impossible to understand. i hope this 30 for 30 piece helped with that.

dr punch is the hero of this piece for me. for folks who have never seen him outside of his current broadcast work, it's gratifying to know that they saw him as the empathetic, wise, caring man he is, a man who knew the truth of richmond's HIV/AIDS and never turned away from the driver. his quiet discussion of the times, the atmosphere in nascar and in the nation and his obvious affection for tim richmond was the highlight.

as for richard petty's moment in the film: i believe he feels the same utter disdain for women racers today that he felt (and apparently still feels) for tim richmond in the late 80s. he may be an amazing racer but i'm not certain i'd invite him to dinner.

i don't believe bill france jr's statement for a moment; i think he knew full well at the time that their test was flawed and that the second test that richmond took was accurate. but i also believe he could think of no other way to keep richmond out of the car and so he jumped on the wrong test result. the consequence (beyond richmond never racing again): fast forward to the distrust some have in regards to nascar and mayfield. hoisted on one's own petard, indeed.

props to nascar media group and espn for a wonderful 30 for 30. and a special "thank you" to rory karpf: you did a wonderful job and treated tim richmond's story with respect and honesty.

my "until it's gone" HIV/AIDS bracelet may have gone from red to silver with wear since i put it on in 1993 but it's for men and women like tim richmond that i continue to wear it.

sbaker17 said...

3 remembrances of Tim, all from Riverside International Raceway:

I was standing inside turn 6 during one of the first early morning practice sessions.
Tim spun coming out of turn 5 kicking allot of dirt and racks on the track, resulting in a red flag for clean up. About 5 minutes later a passenger car pulls up to the fence and 2 guys hop out, one of them being Tim. Tim was surveying the track and explaining to his companion about how and why he lost it. Tim then turned and shouted to the cleanup crew as they were sweeping the track and apologized for making the mess.

We always sat in turn 6 for the races, a long way from the start/finish line. By the time the cars reach turn 6 after the checker, they are probably going @ 30mph. All drivers wave to the crowd as they go by acknowledging the waves from the crowd. After one of Tim’s wins he actually pulled up and stopped, window net down, helmet off, waving to the crowd and mouthing a big “Thank you.” The place went absolutely nuts.

Probably the November race in ’85, Tim’s car broke and he pulled to a stop inside the track across from the stands in turn 6. After looking over the car, saying a few “hellos” to the course workers and fans lining the inside fence, Tim ran across the track, hopped over the crash wall, climbed thru a cut out in the chain link fence where a TV camera was stationed and disappeared beneath the stands. A few minutes later here he came, soda pop in hand after a visit to the concession stand and headed up into the bleachers, found and took a seat. He sat there drinking his soda, signing autographs and watched the on track activity during the caution period. When he was done with his soda, he got up, waved to everyone and headed on out. Once again, the crowd went wild.

Tim was probably second only in fan support at Riverside to Dan Gurney

Scott

Anonymous said...

Yes if you weren't an adult in the 80's it's hard to describe what it was like. It really was this 'thing' no one knew what to do with. I had a situation at my place of employment back then with a person with Tim's condition and was put in a situation that I had to tell my boss 'fire me or find someone else'. Hard to believe I had to say that back then but I was scared of what might happen.

Remember, Richard Petty was born in the 1930's. His outlook is much different than ours. That look he gave Tim in that clip spoke volumes. Basically he said 'get away boy' with that stare.

Kyle did what few do today involved in Nascar. He says exactly what he thinks.

Tim's sister did I great job I think.

Really the whole movie with all the old clips just makes me miss what Nascar was back then...fun.

Sam

Anonymous said...

red, I have similar recollections from that time--and the little effort put toward research, etc, until people got over the stigma. I remember people believing you could get it from just kissing people. I was a teacher and remember them doing a seminar for our staff in 1986 or so to dispel some of the fears (probably as a result of Ryan White's case.)

But I have also previously heard the King's comments on women, and it kinda irritated me a the time but I chalked it up to a different generation. I have to say, though, there are others of his generation that are much more open minded, so that doesn't exclude him entirely. That's why I keep hoping someone like Mackena Bell will come along & start kicking butt to prove him wrong... :)

Dannyboy said...

I recorded the 30 for 30 and watched it last night. As a fan since the old-guard days this piece reminded me of why I loved NASCAR in the first place, and why I lost much of my interest after Tim Richmond passed, and stayed way for a long time.

It was obvious from the many interviews that several people who didn't behave well towards Tim now regret it intensely.

Dr Jerry Punch's poignant recollection of Tim's last days will stick with me forever. His description of the hospital workers watching the Pocono broadcast with Tim in his bed brought tears to my eyes.

Great job by the filmmmakers, and kudos to those who contributed on-camera.

Tripp back in NH said...

Several years ago I read David Poole's book on this remarkable driver. I came away understanding a lot but I thought that there was more to the story. The ESPN piece filled in some of those gaps for me. They carefully crafted something that I would almost call a love letter. Interesting, since over 20 years ago NASCAR was nowhere nearly this kind to him.

There is a real difference between reading Humpy Wheeler's recollections of Richmond and hearing him say them on camera. Same for Dr. Jerry Punch, Kyle Petty and the rest. This piece used that difference to maximum effect, and the effect was riveting.

I really didn't follow NASCAR that closely when Tim Richmond was racing so watching this touching but still incomplete piece was fascinating. They didn't state how he contracted HIV directly but inferred that it was his lifestyle. Poole's book dealt with it more directly but the years have faded my memory of what was written.

Maybe NASCAR Media decided that it was less important to dwell on a negative and chose to celebrate Richmond's extraordinary talent and unquenchable desire to win. If that was their decision, they succeeded in a big way. I got a chance to know Tim Richmond a little and smile as he played with the reporters in a way no one has before or since. For that I am grateful to the producers of this wonderful film.

MRM4 said...

Someone mentioned how different the staging looked with Richard Petty. That was from an interview that's probably 6 or 7 years old, if not older. They shot things differently back then. I know that setup because it's seen a lot on a variety of subjects.

I finally got to watch it last night. I have seen a number of the 30 on 30 episodes and all are well-done. This has to be one of the best if not THE best.

I remember the circus that went on around his health, both during his first abscense and when he had to quit for good because NASCAR would not let him race. During the first go-round, that's when all the rumors came out. Most of them concentrated around possible drug use. When he came back and had to quit again, that's when the AIDS rumors really took off.

Back then, if it was rumored a person had AIDS, many assumed they were gay. So that only added to the circus and why NASCAR wanted to keep it quiet. They pretty much did until shortly before his death. Kyle nailed it when he said it was all about their PR image. That's why I looked at the Brian Vickers situation somewhat suspiciously when that story first broke.

Anwyay, very well-done piece and highly recommend that everyone sees this.

MichiganCincy said...

For those of you interested in more about Tim Richmond, the book by the late, David Poole is excellent. Titled, "Tim Richmond, The Fast Life and Remarkable Times of Nascar's Top Gun". Many of the collected memories used in the 30 for 30 broadcast, I first read in the book.
Its an easy read and gives you a very good idea of what Tim was to so many people.

Anonymous said...

I am anon at 10/18 2:42 pm

I got pretty much what I expected. It was a well made show, and it seemed to show all sides of Tim Richmond in the limited time available and let the cards fall where they may. On the plus side, it brought back a lot of memories for us veteran fans and showed newer fans another era and one of its most colorful characters. For many of us, it was the older times that built the loyalty to the sport.

On the negative side, some of the people interviewed seemed more interested in protecting their own reputations and keeping away from anything that might appear negative toward themselves. It is unfortunate that some people who watched this program will think they have a full understanding of what went on.

DW, the man who won't shut up, seemed at a loss for words at times. It was as if he was searching for something to say that wouldn't make him look bad. Rick Hendrick also seemed to be careful to stick to impersonal facts and spent half his time talking about Harry Hyde. On the plus side, I thought Dr. Jerry Punch made another step in reestablishing his reputation with fans after his disastrous try at play by play.

I was never a Richard Petty fan, but I respected him for his racing and treatment of fans. As the years go by, he chips away at my respect. As some have noted he is from another era. However, one of the opportunities in life is to learn and grow as we experience the world and its wide variety of people. This opportunity seems to have been wasted on him.

In contrast, my respect for Kyle Petty continues to grow. I thought he was one of the most honest interviewees, and he was the only one I heard express any genuine remorse.

NASCAR Media Group really amazed me in how they portrayed the actions of the sanctioning body. We were given a brief, poor quality interview/statement by Bill France, Jr. In it, he appears to be making a major admission that the drug test was incorrect. While at first appearance it seems he is admitting a mistake, he is actually saying it was somebody else's fault. End of story. NASCAR was an innocent bystander that was victimized by someone else.

NASCAR is and always has been a privately owned business that has been able to rule the sport with an iron hand. Their methods sometimes approach that of an enforcer for a loan shark. NASCAR has never been an innocent bystander when it comes to running their business.

NASCAR was in a difficult position and needed to do something. Rather than do things the right and fair way, they chose to go after Richmond with the strong arm tactics they had always used.

With Bill Jr. gone, I thought NMG might be able to muster a little courage and tell a more complete picture regarding the sanctioning body. Instead we got the innocent bystander victimized by a faulty drug test.

I read somewhere that NMG is working on a two hour special on Wendell Scott. It will certainly be interesting to see how they handle that. I expect the sanctioning body will again be the innocent bystander who had nothing to do with the terrible treatment Scott suffered.

For people who think they got the straight story on NASCAR's part in the Tim Richmond story, they should remember that old adage "History is written by the victors." In this case, history has been written by the survivors. The historian is NASCAR Media Group, and the first word in the historian's name is NASCAR.

MichiganCincy said...

Well, well said. I had the same thoughts and feelings.
It was why Ed Hinton and others of us questioned the whole Jeremy Mayfield scandal and now why some of us are wondering about Brian Vickers leaving driving. While it may all be as it seems, the Richmond treatment has left many of us distrustful.
I also wonder why no one questioned why Tim was looking for a ride to get into the Clash in Daytona in 1988. No explanation was forthcoming from Rick Hendrick on this.
I read that this documentary could not go forward until Tim's half sister Sandy, and Rick Hendrick signed on. It took some doing for them to be interviewed. I think Sandy's distrust of something with Nascar in the broadcast title could be understood. I have to wonder why, though Rick Hendrick had to be convinced. Could it be that how he was to be perceived and what he would talk about would be carefully scripted. Just wondering....

Sophia said...

Anon 5.28

Good post. I was not watching NASCAR in the days of Tim but sure wish I had been.

I'd also heard of Rick H abandoning him but that was not written into the story either. While many chose to be cowards, and I am aware and remember the hysteria around AIDS in the 80s, it bothers me that we did not learn MORE about the cause of isolation of Tim. Everybody seems to miss him NOW but how many called or visited him at the end?

I don't want to hear it was the age of hysteria. A phone call or mask, if you were REALLY that ignorant of a friend's illness, could've done a lot for for him to have gotten visitors/called....what the torment of being kicked out of NASCAR must've been like helped eat away at him as much as the illness one could bet.

While seeing the colorful characters and older style cars was fun, this show while well done within it's limits, left me more depressed about the sport.

I've cut back racing and all extraneous shows 90% this year. Added to this horribly handled illness of Tim Richmond add

1. Generic tracks +

2. Generic cars (though I'm HAPPY the COT is safer, it's boring as hell to see all cars exactly alike :( )
+
3. Generic homogenized drivers with PC personalities
+
4. Sponsors demanding the PC it really does remind me why I've pretty much stopped watching.

I wish the book on Richmond had audio version as I limit use of my eyes these days. He certainly deserved better than he got from friends at the end.

glenc1 said...

Now after catching the last 15 minutes, finally....

I had read all the details of Tim's story long ago...it was after he was named to the top 50 drivers back in the anniversary year. I hadn't been a fan at the time he was driving, but the story intrigued me enough that I read up on it. You can find lots online even now. It was when I was starting to figure out the 'NASCAR Monopoly' as I called it, because they seemed to control everything. People at Pocono were trying to get publicity honoring Tim, because they felt NASCAR was trying to ignore him. This documentary probably could have been longer, because they did leave out some things, but they told the main story and kept the sugarcoating of NASCAR to a minimum.

Sophia, Barry Dodson kept in touch with him, but said at the end, 'Tim was embarrassed about having AIDS. He was so ashamed about it, his life stopped before he died,' said Barry Dodson, Richmond's crew chief. `It was so sad, because he loved to have fun. He loved life so much.' It sounds like he didn't want people to see him like that. Barry's own story would make a good documentary, for that matter. Anyways, I thought they covered it well given the time restraints. I also just found some quotes from Petty I had forgotten, but now I remember why I thought he was so wrong...thought Tim was bringing the wrong kind of attention on the sport. That was so long ago, but Bill France was so obsessed at anyone finding out his guys were actually doing some of the stuff they did....obviously there were lots of stories the media chose NOT to tell at the time. I think people should also remember, Rick was a NASCAR 'employee' too--you have to play by their rules as an owner as well. They can make your life very miserable if you don't, just as they did with Tim. But if nothing else, people who knew nothing about Tim now do, and that is a good thing. I hope Sandy has some peace knowing that people still care.

Tracy D said...

Wonderful film. Anytime entertainment makes you remember, think, analyze, and cry, it's Emmy worthy. Tim Richmond's story did all of that, and more.

Dr. Punch is a man who is a true and brave friend, and that's the highest praise I can bestow.

bevo said...

Well done piece on a story that never got the attention it deserved. I hope that everyone learns the larger lesson in this. Fear should never make us lose our compassion for others. Always be aware of those who peddle fear in a cynical ploy to manipulate public opinion be it the media, politicians, business or spiritual leaders.