York County has lost a local dirt-track champion.
Al Richards, 68, died Tuesday.
According to York County Coroner Pam Gay, Richards likely suffered a cardiac event Tuesday morning, causing the truck he was driving to crash into a pole in the 500 block of North George Street. Gay released a statement listing the cause of death as "probable acute cardiac event."
The York Haven man will most definitely be missed.
He was a longtime competitor on the local late-model racing circuit. Driving his brother Bill’s well-known No. FOUR racer, Richards was a winner and champion on the local racing circuit.
He began his racing career in 1976 in the limited-late model class on Jack Gunn’s KARS circuit. At the time, those cars were known as Challengers, and Richards drove a 1967 Chevelle. The first year he won single races at Williams Grove and Selinsgrove speedways.
The next year the team made an all-out assault on the KARS Challenger series, finishing second in the series points to Mike Kendall, the father of current Lincoln sprint-car driver Robbie Kendall. That year, Richards won two races each at Williams Grove, Selinsgrove and Hagerstown on the KARS circuit. He also ventured out to other speedways a few times, winning twice at Lincoln and once at Susquehanna.
The next year, 1978, the team moved into the late-model ranks, and Richards responded with a win at Hagerstown and the KARS Rookie of the Year honors in the late-model class.
Richards raced late models for many years, scoring wins at a number of area tracks, and always running among the front runners. He won the 1994 season championship at Hagerstown, where he won five times during his career. His career stats also show six late-model wins at Selinsgrove, and three each at Williams Grove and Susquehanna.
While his wins came at the tracks mentioned above, he also raced at tracks such as Port Royal, Bedford, Jennerstown, and Winchester, Virginia.
While he had been out of the driver’s seat for a number of years, Richards still enjoyed the races, and still attended on occasion. He also enjoyed traveling to NASCAR races as a fan.
While Richards was well known to many local racing fans, he will always hold a special place in my heart. I have never claimed to be a mechanic of any type, but in my early days at the races, the Richards team allowed me to be a part of its pit crew. From those days, Al and I developed a friendship that lasted until early Tuesday morning.
My heartfelt sympathies go out to his wife Sharon, and children Angie, Albert II and Eric.
Bryan Householder writes about dirt-track racing for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.