Weld Racing Presents Legend Racer - Edmond Richardson
By: Luke Bogacki
To those of you reading this column here on DragRaceResults.com, it’s no mystery why Edmond Richardson was selected for this LEGENDS spotlight. Richardson’s on-track success has been well documented over the past 3 decades, as he’s been one of the most consistently dominant sportsman racers over the course of his illustrious career. He’s a 4-time NHRA World Champion, having hoisted the championship trophy twice each in Super Comp and Stock Eliminator. He’s also a 16-time NHRA division champion, and has 46 career NHRA national event titles to his credit, winning in nearly every sportsman category (Super Stock, Stock, Super Comp, and Super Street). He’s “Doubled,” winning two categories at the same event more than anyone in the sports history, with 5 multi-win national events, not to mention several divisional, and countless big dollar bracket double-victories to his credit. In 2000, he was honored as one of the top 50 drivers in NHRA history, ranking 37th, and his success on the NHRA stage only augments the sensational career statistics he’s compiled on the big buck bracket scene.
While it would take an entire column to accurately describe his on-track success, the goal of this story is to look beyond the incredible accomplishments and focus on some of the marks that Edmond Richardson has made on the sport that truly cement his legendary stature. A common thread among all of the featured LEGENDS on DragRaceResults.com has been the sentiment that each of the spotlighted racers were innovative, forward thinking, and in many respects “ahead of their time.” Richardson’s track record alone speaks volumes for his savvy approach and skill behind the wheel. His commitment to the sport, however, has more long reaching affects. Edmond Richardson wasn’t the first individual to make a living driving sportsman race cars, and he certainly won’t be the last. But he’s done it exclusively for nearly 30 years, which puts him in rare, if not exclusive, company. In the process, he’s paved the way and essentially created a blueprint for others to follow. Richardson’s innovation isn’t recognized so much for what he’s done on the track (although he’s certainly left his contribution to the sport in that regard) as for what he’s done off of it. He wasn’t the first driver to enter two cars at an event; but he’s been the most successful multi-class racer in the sports history. He wasn’t the first sportsman racer to plaster a sponsor’s name on the side of his race car; but he’s landed some of the most lucrative and significant partnerships in the history of sportsman racing, and through those alignments he has brought more attention to the sportsman categories than they had ever previously enjoyed. He wasn’t the first winning racer to offer schooling to help fellow competitors improve; but he’s done it passionately for a long period of time in a variety of formats. In short, Edmond Richardson may be the most successful racing entrepreneur that the sport has ever seen.
With help from Edmond's boys Austin and Ryan, I was able to snap a few shots of his trophy shelf out in the shop while we were visiting one night. Also shown is that first trophy from Paris Dragstrip back in 1976. - Scott Lemen
How It Began:
Edmond Richardson, and his brother Scotty, were born into a racing family. Their father, Eddie, was one of the most successful bracket racers in the state of Texas, and in the early age of big bucks racing, throughout the country. Long before the advent of the junior dragster category, Edmond’s first trip down the race track came on two wheels, riding a 100cc Yamaha Enduro. At the age of 11, Richardson won the Street Eliminator and overall Track Championship at the fabled Green Valley Raceway behind those handlebars.
Of that 1974 championship season, Richardson recalled “Back then, they’d race cars and motorcycles together in all classes, not just Street. But I had a huge advantage. We raced on a .3 pro-tree, so no one could red light. I was on a little motorcycle, racing against guys in their station wagon that they drove in off the street; of course I’d have the better light. The only real challenge was the other motorcycles and from one guy that had a little Mazda pickup. He ran the little bitty spare ‘donut’ front tires, and he’d deep stage, and then roll in some more. I wish I could remember his name, I learned a lot about rollout and reaction times from him.”
For earning the overall track championship that season, Richardson won a deer hunting trip. The only problem was that he wasn’t old enough to take advantage of the prize; so his father went on the hunting excursion.
Over the next ten years, Richardson progressed on the local racing circuit. He took the wheel of his first “real” race car, a Ford Gremlin with a 440 Mopar under the hood. He, father Eddie, and eventually younger brother Scotty, were a fixture on the Texas bracket racing scene, racking up event wins and points championships at tracks like Green Valley, Texas Raceway, Paris Dragstrip, Hallsville Raceway, Cedar Creek Dragway, Temple Academy Dragway, I-20 Dragway, and more.
Richardson's first "Real Race Car" was a AMC Gremlin with a 440 Mopar for power.
In 1984, Edmond decided to try his hand at NHRA competition, and he entered the Gremlin in Super Street. Though he was able to attend just five divisional events that season, and did not yet have the aid of a throttle stop of any sort, Richardson claimed his first NHRA division championship. What may be more impressive, was the fact that he also claimed his local track championship that same season.
“At the time, money was real tight and racing was basically our only source of income,” Richardson explained. “So I couldn’t pass up the potential winners purse at Kennedale on Friday night, or the points bonus money at the end of the year. And, you have to remember I had to deal with Charles Paul, Jimmy Paul, Bruce Hodges, Jerry Hefler, and that bunch every weekend. You weren’t going to miss a few races and win the track championship. So we’d race at home on Friday night, then drive all night to the NHRA race, make one time trial, and race. That’s just how it was.”
In 1986, Richardson became the first driver in NHRA history to win two division championships in the same season, as he captured the Division 4 crown in Super Comp and Super Street. At the time, it was a rarity for any driver to compete in two categories, and getting two cars to each event created some major logistical challenges.
“Honestly, the reason I started driving two cars at the divisional races was for the reason we just discussed. I’d bracket race on Friday night, get to the NHRA race late, and usually just get one run before first round. Well, I knew my Gremlin, and I knew my dragster. So if I could run both cars there, I could get a time trial in Super Comp and in Super Street. I could make a run in both lanes. I really just did it in order to get a little more information and track time. Plus, I was trying to make a living. If I could take two cars to the track, I figured I could win twice as often.”
While the theory sounds solid, and has become commonplace in today’s world of sportsman drag racing, the concept was foreign to just about everyone in the mid-1980’s. Simply getting multiple cars to the race track often presented the biggest challenge of all.
“We started out taking two rigs. A friend of mine would put the Gremlin in his trailer, and we’d cram two dragsters in our trailer. We did that for a little while, but the upkeep and the fuel of two rigs just didn’t make as much sense. So we came up with ways to get our stuff to the track. When Scotty started racing the NHRA stuff, and then we sometimes hired other drivers too, we had to get pretty innovative in terms of towing,” laughed Richardson.
In the late ‘80’s, Richardson would often haul five cars to the race track. He would load a door car on the back of a ramp truck that was attached to a small enclosed trailer that had two dragsters crammed inside. At the back of the enclosed trailer was another trailer hitch, which was hooked to a two-car open trailer that carried another pair or door cars.
“You laugh now, but that’s how we’d get five cars to the track. And we didn’t just do that to go an hour down the road, we hauled to Seattle like that! We have some stories from those days, let me tell you! Those trips were an adventure. Believe it or not, you could actually back that rig up; you just had to go real slow and be patient. If you were blocking the road and someone had to wait on you, well they were probably going to be ticked off, because they just had to wait!”
Richardson has hauled at least two cars to just about every event he’s attended over the course of the last twenty-five years. The practice of entering multiple classes is now common in the sportsman ranks, and nine other racers have joined Richardson as double winners on the national level of NHRA racing. No racer has accomplished the feat as often as Richardson, who has five double wins to his credit. He’s also doubled at more divisional events than any other sportsman competitor, and has driven to multiple victories in countless big buck bracket events. When asked about the secret to his multi-class success, Richardson offered the following.
“I always felt like running two cars is an advantage, especially the way the NHRA races are structured,” he explained. “I like to stay busy, and if I’m not doing something I’m bored. With one car, I think you can have too much time to think, and overanalyze everything. Plus, it puts so much pressure on one round; with two cars if I make a mistake with one, I can still win in the other.”
He continued, “Look at it like this. Let’s say you’re running Super Stock at a national event. You win your round Saturday morning, so you’re down to 6 cars and you get to race on Sunday. You go look at the ladder, and see that you’ve got Peter Biondo next round, and you’re racing for the bye to the final. Now you’ve got a day and a half to think about racing the best guy at the track. I don’t care who you are, you drive yourself nuts thinking and worrying about that round. If I’ve got two cars in, that keeps me busy. It keeps my mind off that upcoming round, and keeps me from over-thinking things. I’ve always been a racer, I just want to get up there and race. If the whole thing was run in one day I’d like it a lot better; so I’m much better off if I can stay busy and running two cars will usually keep you plenty busy!”
The 1986 season also marked the first time that Richardson used a throttle stop on his “Super” category machines, although he admits it was a primitive device that literally moved the throttle pedal (and his foot) after shifting into high gear. He worked with Jerry Thomas of ACD to develop “The .90 control,” a huge seller during that era, and one that Richardson obviously became very proficient with himself.
The Richardson family dominated NHRA Division 4 and local bracket competition for the next several years, before Edmond earned his first NHRA World Championship, in Super Comp, in 1989.
One of Edmond's biggest career wins came during the 2009 NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indiapolis. Shown here with Wife Sue and their 3 boys along with others.
Edmond’s first world championship came behind the wheel of a TinMan built dragster that adorned the colors of Lonestar Mail Order Parts, an east Texas based parts house. In the early ‘90’s, Richardson landed a monumental agreement with Texas-based Slick 50 corporation and flew the company’s flag for several years in a partnership that was unheard of in sportsman racing up to that point. He’s also enjoyed major sponsorship runs with Quaker State Motor Oil (after they merged with the Slick 50 Company), Borg Warner Automotive, Painless Wiring, and more. In the process, Richardson not only proved his team’s value to the marketing plan of each of the mega-corporations, but also brought tremendous exposure and attention to the sportsman ranks of NHRA racing, exposure that those classes had never previously enjoyed.
Richardson gave much of the credit for his corporate success to the late NHRA photographer, Les Lovitt, who he says really took him under his wing.
“Les showed me how to say the rights things in front of people that mattered,” Richardson said.
“The Slick 50 deal was just one of the classic ‘right place at the right time’ situations. I was actually doing a round track show at TinMan’s shop on my way to the national event in Houston. It was the first year that the race was sponsored by Slick 50, it was the ‘Slick 50 Nationals.’ Well, the CEO of Slick 50 was at this show, and somehow we got to talking. I don’t really remember what all I said, but I was pretty full of myself and no doubt I told him all about how good I was. He didn’t seem to care a great deal, but I ended the conversation by telling him that he’d remember me; because I was going to win his race that weekend.”
Days later, Richardson lived up to his word by scoring the Super Comp crown at the Slick 50 Nationals.
“I remember it like it was yesterday. He was actually introducing the winners as we walked up on the stage to get our trophies after the race. He looked at his card, and kind of grinned, and he looked at me and said, ‘You really won, didn’t you?’ After the race, he asked what my plans were for the next week. I had to be in Phoenix by Thursday, so he told me to stop by his office before I left. We agreed to a deal that day.”
In 1992 Edmond became the first to "double up" in the Super Categories, winning S/St and S/C in Atlanta.
Under the Slick 50 banner, Richardson enjoyed arguably his best season in 1992. He claimed 8 NHRA national event titles and became the second driver in the sports history (month’s behind Pat Austin) to win two categories at the same event when he captured the Super Comp and Super Street crowns in Atlanta. He capped the season with his second NHRA Super Comp world championship.
By then, the team and the business had expanded. Team Richardson included an 18-wheeler adorned with Slick 50 colors that hauled 5 race cars to nearly every NHRA national event. Edmond employed younger brother Scotty, and Shane Carr as drivers, along with crew chief Steve “Porky” Pounds. The team was all but unstoppable.
The Slick 50 sponsorship was completed in a matter of days after his win at the Slick 50 Nationals in Houston.
In the mid 1990’s, Jerry Thomas came to Edmond with the idea to create an instructional video aimed at sportsman racing. Edmond, along with his Slick 50 teammates, worked with Bob Frey and Thomas to create a 3-video set, with the first video titled “Bracket Racing Basics.” Sales and feedback from the project greatly surpassed Richardson’s expectations.
“When Jerry first came to me with the idea, I really didn’t think we’d make any money on the project, but it would be good for Slick 50, and that would be good for me. Jerry basically funded the whole deal, and we got a lot of additional backing from our sponsors that wanted to be a part of the film. The whole thing really opened my eyes. For one, it was a lot easier to get backing for the project than I dreamed, and then the number of those video’s that we sold was incredible. Heck, Jerry retired, partly as a result of that!”
Since, Richardson has touched several racers within the Edmond Richardson School of Drag Racing, a course on bracket racing basics and advanced strategies for racers of all experience and skill levels.
“I started doing the schools without really even realizing it,” he said. “I’d get a call every now and then from a racer offering to pay me to come to wherever they were and help them for the weekend, or whatever. I found that not only did the racer seem to take a lot from the experience and improve, but that I really enjoyed helping them and seeing them have success. That’s how it all got started, and we developed the actual school setup and curriculum from there.”
The Edmond Richardson School of Drag Racing was essentially the first driving school aimed at sportsman racers who were looking to improve their game. Edmond’s initial tag line for the school was that “Plenty of schools can teach you how to drive. We teach you how to win.” Since, many other successful sportsman racers have followed that lead to create various schools based on the same premise, but the Edmond Richardson School of Drag Racing is still alive and well, as Edmond hosts a handful of classes at his home track, Beech Bend Raceway Park, each season and travels to other venues on occasion.
Today’s Racing World:
Edmond Richardson has been a professional race car driver for nearly 30 years. In that time, he’s seen the sport grow and change, and the business surrounding it has expanded in ways he never could have envisioned in the early 1980’s. And yet, Richardson has always found a way to succeed, and he’s never known anything else.
“I’ve been extremely fortunate,” said Richardson. “I’ve never had to get out of bed and punch a clock. I never have.”
When asked about the differences of the sport today versus 10, 20, or 30 years ago, Richardson shared some simple and objective insight.
“From a professional standpoint, there are two major differences in the sport today compared to the past,” he said. “For one, the difference between cost and potential income has decreased, it’s grown a lot closer. Everything related to racing: race fuel, diesel fuel, parts cost, travel expenses, entry fees, buybacks; it’s all more expensive than ever. And yet for the most part, purses are basically the same as they were 10, even 20 years ago. So we’re spending more money to race for basically the same money. That means that in order to be successful, you’ve got to have a higher win percentage than ever. In my mind, that means that I have to be somewhat selective as to where I race and which races I attend. As a result, I don’t race nearly as much or travel nearly as much as I used to.
“The other main difference is that it’s so much more competitive, and it seems like it gets tougher to win every year. There’s been so much technology introduced to make it easier to make nice runs. It started with electronics, and it’s extended into the technology involved in every facet on these cars. Plus the racers are taking it more seriously than ever. That’s probably a result of the increased costs; it’s still a hobby for most, but it’s so expensive that we all want to win a little every now and then to justify it, and racers are making strides to do so. I’m not complaining, it’s just a fact. Heck, I’ll even admit that I’m partially to blame. For years, I’d sell my cars turn-key at the end of every season. I could built them pretty cheap, and I’d make good money by turning cars on a regular basis. Well what did that accomplish? After 10 years of flipping 2 cars a year, guess what? There’s 20 really good race cars out there, and those are the cars I have to try to go beat!”
At 48 years of age, Richardson is just as capable and dominant behind the wheel as ever. Last year, he fought to the last race of the season vying for the NHRA world championship in both Super Comp and Stock Eliminator before falling just short of the crown (he finished the season 3rd in Stock and 4th in Super Comp). He also won the always competitive Tenn-Tuck Triple crown points championship on the strength of four $10,000 victories at Beech Bend Raceway Park. This season Richardson has a national event win (in Stock) and a runner-up (in Super Comp) to his credit. He also took home $10,000 and a new dragster after winning the opening day of the JEGS U.S. Open Bracket Championships. Just recently, he earned the Sportsman title at the NHRA Division 3 E.T. Finals to earn his 16th division title and the opportunity to compete for another world championship at the NHRA World Finals next month in Pomona.
Edmond & Sue Richardson after a win in 1999. A young Jason Lynch stands behind the roll cage with wife Tina.
When asked what drives and motivates Richardson to compete at a high level after all these years, he again provided a pointed answer.
“That’s an easy answer. I’m motivated by winning, just like I was on that 100cc motorcycle 35 years ago,” Richardson said. “I’ve never really been much for the publicity or the media end of it. I mean, I’ve gotten a lot of attention over the years as a result of my success, but I’ve always focused more on the business end of things. Honestly, I enjoyed seeing the guys that drove for me; guys like Scotty, Shane, Jason Lynch, Steve Cohen get the recognition they deserved. Now I really like seeing my boys get recognized when they win, that means a lot. But personally, I was never in it to have someone tell me how good I was. I just wanted to win, and I still want to win. When the day comes that I’m not competitive, I’ll turn it all over to the boys. But until then, I’ll be hard at it. I still pull into every race I go to feeling like I can win, like I will win. If and when that changes, I’m done. I’ll crew chief!”
In 1999 Edmond Richardson won Stock Eliminator in Topeka, Kansas. 2011 Million Dollar Bracket Race winner Shane Carr, (in grey sweatshirt) was no doubt learning from one of the best while working for Edmond .
The Next Generation:
Believe it or not, Edmond Richardson is a grandpa, twice over. His daughter Ashley and her husband still live in North Texas with their two young children. His sons, Ryan, Blake, and Austin, live with Edmond and his wife Sue near Nashville, TN. Each of the boys have taken their turn behind the wheel with near instant success as they seem destined to follow in their father’s racing footsteps on some level. Edmond’s oldest son Ryan has raced seriously all season, and just captured the NHRA Division 2 High School championship at the recent E.T. Finals in Reynolds, GA. Blake has enjoyed a standout season in his first year behind the wheel of the families Nova and Camaro Footbrake cars, picking up several wins at area tracks. In fact, one weekend earlier this season, each member of the Richardson family earned victories at Beech Bend Raceway: Edmond won Super Pro, Ryan won Pro, and Blake won Sportsman!
Edmond and the boys - Austin, Ryan and Blake in 1999 after yet another NHRA Super Comp National Event victory.
“The big push right now for the boys is college,” Edmond explained. “I’ve never tried to force racing on them, they all get a choice of what they want to do, and Sue and I support them 100%. We’ve missed plenty of races to go to ball games and other stuff that they were interested in. Ryan and Blake have really gotten into the racing, and they’re doing well. I’ve tried to teach them how to race the only way I know how; you’ve got to walk before you run. You have to learn to footbrake first, and they’ve both done pretty well. They win pretty regularly locally, so they’ve started to take the next step and we’ve traveled a little bit. So far, their racing has paid for itself; we’re not going to all the big races and shelling out thousands of dollars for them to learn. They can do that at home.”
Richardson’s youngest son Austin even took the wheel of the family junior dragster this season and experienced immediate success, winning an NHRA Wally at Beech Bend in his first event!
“Austin is real smart, and he’s real quiet,” said Edmond. “He’d never been too interested in racing, but this year he said he wanted to try it. He won that race, and on the way home, he’s riding in the front seat of the motorhome beside me with his trophy. And he just looked at me, real serious, and said ‘You know Dad, if I practiced and worked on it, I’d get better at that tree. And if I did that, they’d all be in trouble, because that finish line is easy!’ I about fell out of the motorhome laughing.”
While Edmond Richardson still competes and enjoys great success today, he’ll be the first to admit that his priorities are in a different place these days. In fact, when interviewed for this feature, Richardson and his family were enjoying a vacation on the gulf coast.
“Stuff like this, I never used to do this. Vacation? I didn’t take vacations. My phone was always clipped to my hip; and that call that paid the bills might come at 8:30 at night, so I never missed a call. And while that mindset helped make me successful in racing and business, I know I missed out on some things that I can’t get back. My outlook has changed a lot. I’m trying to take the time, and to enjoy my family and our blessings. That’s my biggest advice to anyone, whether they’re passion is racing or some other business. Take the time to enjoy the little things in life and don’t work it all away.”
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