A MAN WITH A MISSION by Jim Vasaldua
Richardson On The Fast Track To The Big Time
On February 18, 2001, the nation lost a pioneer in the racing business. On the last lap of the Daytona 500, the only seven time Winston Cup Champion (Richard Petty won two Grand National Championships and five Winston Cups), Dale Earnhardt lost his life doing what he did best, driving a race car.
Back in McKinney Texas, then 17-year-old Robert Richardson watched in horror.
“He has always inspired me to succeed,” said Richardson. “What he did for NASCAR was just unbelievable.”
In the spring of 2002, Richardson completed the Richard Petty Driving Experience and the Team Texas Driving Experience at the Texas Motor Speedway. His goal of becoming a NASCAR driver to one day follow in the footsteps of his famous hero quickly began.
His drive and competitive determination came from a background filled with mental and physical toughness. As
the quarterback for McKinney High School and the Southern Methodist University (SMU) Mustangs, Robert’s attitude was to succeed and drive to the ultimate goal of winning.
He began his driving career racing in Legends. He drove all around the North Texas area, learning the art of being competitive and handling a race car in traffic. Although he still, from time to time, races the Legend series, he is now on his way to attaining his dream of being a race car driver.
“I got a lot of experience in the Legends car,” said Richardson. “Last year was my first year in the ROMCO Super Late Model series and this is a very competitive series.”
Aside from the Legends and ROMCO, Richardson is also planning to compete full time in the NASCAR Southeast Series (formerly All Pro series), in order to get as many races under his belt and use each venue as a learning tool so he can move up the ladder in the racing world.
Over the course of the last year and a half that he has been driving on a professional level, he and his father, Robert Richardson Sr., have been approached by several Fortune 100 companies who are very interested in sponsoring the number 33 Chevrolet car that is fast becoming Robert’s office.
Robert Richardson is quite a character around the SES pits. (51 Photos)
Through seven NASCAR Southeast Series races this season, Richardson is 11th in the point standings with one top-five and two top-10 finishes. His best finish came at Kentucky Speedway in June, where he finished fourth.
There has also been interest expressed throughout the racing community about putting Richardson in a major Nextel Cup team driver development program.
“I’m not interested in getting into a series and tearing up equipment. This is a learning tool for me and I want to succeed and go as far as I can with it and tearing up the cars and equipment on a weekly basis is not the way you learn how to drive a race car.”
To see and talk to Richardson is a sheer joy in it self. In short, he is a 22-year-old driver who has only been behind the wheel for only a year and a half, yet, he talks with such high acclaims that anyone would think he has been driving for years. Each race, each meeting and every aspect of racing, you can see Richardson taking everything at hand and turning into a positive reaction.
The eyes of Texas were shinning bright on Richardson as he prepared himself to do battle with ROMCO’s best drivers at the 1.5-mile high banked Texas Motor Speedway earlier this year. As the green flag dropped, it did not take Robert long to assume the lead.
By lap three, Robert had taken the lead. By moving past JC Umschied, Michael Crofford and Chris Davidson, it looked to be smooth sailing for the remainder of the 66-lap ROMCO race.
All evening long, Richardson and Davidson would switch leads back and forth. Davidson had over taken Robert by lap nine. Richardson, aware of everything around him, played it safe but yet continued to fight and by lap 15, he was back in the lead. As had been the case throughout the whole race, Davidson took the lead on lap 25 and by the 27th lap, Robert was back on top.
Richardson has had flashes of brillance this year in SES, but suffered through some tough luck other times.
Richardson (left) talks with fellow rookie JR Norris at Lanier Raceway (GA).
As the checkered flag dropped, Robert crossed the start/finish line a full four seconds ahead of Davidson. To the roar of the crowd, Robert had won his first ROMCO Super Late Model Series event and it came at his favorite track.
“It’s great to win at Texas. This has been a dream of mine ever since I was a kid. I’d rather win here than at Daytona….to me the win here at Texas is my Daytona.
“I wanted to perform well at this race and have the cup and Busch guys keep an eye on me and get my name spread out as much as I can this year,” Robert explains.
“The fans are what it’s all about. Without the fans this would be meaningless. I work and perform for the fans of racing.”
Away from track, Richardson has his hobbies and things that he enjoys doing. One of the things, when time allows, is spending time
with his cousin, Bryan Richardson. Bryan is professional bull rider and has ridden in the PRCA and PBR bull riding tours.
“I’m a country boy and I enjoy hunting and fishing and just hanging out with Bryan. When I’m not racin’, I like to go to rodeos with him and help him anyway I can to achieve and attain his goals.”
It is still early to tell, but Richardson looks to be fast on his way to becoming a true sports hero and champion. With a drive to succeed and the willingness to win, it will not be long until you might be able to see the name of Robert Richardson along side the likes of his “American Idols,” Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty.
Richardson won the ROMCO race at Texas Motor Speedway earlier this year.