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 Les Richter
     Born: October 26, 1930     Died: June 12, 2010

Les Richter  was a Los Angeles Rams National Football League football player, former head of operations for NASCAR and president of the Riverside International Raceway. He played in 8 Pro Bowls as a linebacker. Richter was born in Fresno, California.

Career

After graduating from the University of California in 1952, where he played guard and linebacker, he served in the U.S. Army for two years. A first-round draft choice of the NFL's New York Yanks in the 1952 NFL Draft, Richter was traded to the Los Angeles Rams for eleven players, the largest deal ever made for a single player.

During his 9 years with the Rams, Richter intercepted 16 passes and scored 193 points which included 1 touchdown, 106 extra points, and 29 field goals. Despite being selected for 8 Pro Bowls, he has never been nominated or inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1982.

After retiring from football, Richter had been involved with auto racing in a variety of positions. He had been vice-president of special projects for International Speedway Corporation, chairman of the board for the International Race of Champions, and senior vice president of operations for NASCAR.

He worked at the California Speedway at the time of his death.

 

NASCAR Mourns Loss of Les Richter

BROOKLYN, Mich. --- Les Richter, who played instrumental roles in both NASCAR and professional football, died Saturday morning at age 79.

NASCAR president Mike Helton broke the news of Mr. Richter's passing at the conclusion of the drivers' meeting for today's Camping World Truck Series race at Michigan International Speedway.

``Of course, I replaced Les as NASCAR's vice president of competition and I had big shoes to fill _ big everything to fill,'' Helton said today at MIS. ``He was an impressive guy and he had such an impressive life to be as genuinely human as he was. He had such a remarkable story all the way through his life and NASCAR was just fortunate to have him part of NASCAR's community for a while.''

Mr. Richter, known as ``Coach'' in the NASCAR garage area from his days as a player/coach with the Los Angeles Rams and as coach of an Army football team at Fort Washington, was born in Fresno, Calif., in 1930 and was a two-time All-America football player at California.

Following a two-year tour of duty with the US Army in Korea as 1st Lieutenant, Mr. Richter was the first player selected in the 1952 draft by the New York Yankees Professional Football Club, who later moved to Texas and became the Dallas Texans. On June 13, 1952, Mr. Richter was traded to the Los Angeles Rams for 11 players, an NFL record. During his nine-year NFL career, Mr. Richter was an eight-time Pro Bowler who played linebacker, middle guard and place-kicker for the Rams.

Mr. Richter was vice president of special projects for International Speedway Corp., and played a dominant role in the development of Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., where the trophy for the Auto Club 500 was named after him.

``When you look at Les's life, it was remarkable in a sense that he played a significant role in developing the NFL as a player and he played a big role in NASCAR as an administrator and official,'' Helton said. ``So he transcended two sports in a time period where both of them were developing. It's just incredible.''

Mr. Richter began his 11-year association with NASCAR in 1983. In 1986, he became vice president of competition and in 1992 was named senior vice president of operations for NASCAR.

Asked what he learned from Mr. Richter in succeeding him as NASCAR's VP of competition, Helton replied, ``Kind of backhandedly, he taught me to be firm but fair. It as obvious to me why Bill [France Jr.] had Les in that role. He passed on to me not only the principle of how to be firm but fair but how to go about doing it.''

 

Richter played hard, then helped NASCAR go west

- ThatsRacin.com Contributor

The Lord must have had a roster spot Saturday for a savvy, witty ol’ linebacker who became a top NASCAR official.

So he called up the colorful Les Richter, a man I’m honored to have counted as a friend.

A Californian who achieved the rarest of honors, membership in halls of fame in two different sports, Richter passed away in his native state at age 79 after a lengthy illness.

Likable Les was named all-pro eight straight years while playing for the NFL’s storied L.A. Rams of the late 1950s and early ‘60s. He counted as his teammates quarterbacks Bob Waterfield, Norm Van Brocklin and Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch.

A former All-American at California-Berkeley, where he was valedictorian of his class, Richter was inducted into the college football hall in 1982 in New York.

The Motorsports Hall Of Fame Of America, located in Detroit, inducted the former president of Riverside International Raceway and vice-president of NASCAR last August.

After graduating from college, Richter served two years in the U.S. Army. Upon being discharged he was selected second overall in the NFL draft by a team then known as the Dallas Texans, later to become the Baltimore Colts and then the Indianapolis Colts.

He never played a game for Dallas.

The rights to Richter were traded to Los Angeles for 11 players, still an NFL record after all these years.

The Rams got by far the best of the deal.

While he excelled on defense, Richter at times also played on the offensive line and served as the Rams’ place-kicker.

Through football-related business connections, Richter became part of a Southern California group that purchased Riverside Raceway in 1959. Another Ram involved in the deal was Charlotte native Roy Hord, an offensive lineman who played collegiately at Duke.

“I’ll never forget the first time I saw the place,” Richter recalled as we had dinner several years ago during Daytona 500 week. “It was just a strip of asphalt twisting over rocky, hilly terrain. There were coyotes, rattlesnakes and no telling what else around.

“It took us a while to be taken seriously. What helped us gain credibility is when NASCAR’s Wood Brothers, Glen and Leonard, came out west and put Dan Gurney in their car. Dan probably was the most respected driver in America at the time.

“Dan drove the Wood boys’ cars to victories at Riverside in ’64, ’65 and ’66. Parnelli Jones won for them in ’67 and Gurney again in ’68 to give Glen and Leonard five straight.”

Richter, who had a mischievous wit, told another anecdote with a twinkle in his eye.

“In 1967 we staged a 67,000-mile endurance test for pickup trucks at Riverside,” he continued. “Chevy, Dodge and Ford all participated.

“The run was non-stop except for fuel, tires and a change of drivers. Eventually, the drivers on night shifts were getting really bored.

“So we hired some strippers to come out and hide near the turns. When the drivers came around the corners, the women would jump out beside the track and pretend to be hitch-hiking.

“The trucks were equipped with radios, so you can imagine the conversations that took place!”

Richter also had a soft, human side.

In the late 1960s, Mario Andretti’s Indy-car owner/sponsor, Al Dean of Dean Van Lines, was terminally ill. He expressed a wish to watch Mario drive his car one last time.

Richter arranged for Dean to be brought to Riverside Raceway in an ambulance. The vehicle was driven to the highest point of the track in the desert and Dean got to see Mario work his magic.

“It it hadn’t been for Les Richter’s big heart, this touching act of kindness likely wouldn’t have happened,” says Ron Watson, executive director of the motorsports hall in Detroit.

Riverside Raceway’s last major NASCAR event was held in 1987. The property had become too valuable in booming Southern California to maintain as a speedway.

NASCAR brought Richter, who had co-founded the International Race Of Champions series, to its headquarters in Daytona Beach, Fla., as a top aide to Bill France Jr.

During one of our dinners I asked Richter the toughest rival he ever faced on the football field.

He pointed to his left shoulder. “Feel this,” he said. I felt a bulge about the size of a peach.

“I call that my Jim Taylor knot,” Les said with a laugh. “We were playing Green Bay and I tried to solo tackle Taylor head-on. He left me with this little memento.”

I imagine that Les Richter left his football foes with a lot of lumps, too.

For those of us who admired the man, his death Saturday sadly leaves lumps as well. They’re in our throats.

 


IROC - International Race of Champions (1974-2006)

IROC, the International Race of Champions was a concept of Les Richter, Roger Penske and Mike Phelps in 1973. The idea was an auto racing competition, featuring identically-prepared stock cars set up by a single team of mechanics, in an effort to make the race purely a test of driver ability.

It was run with a small field of invited drivers (6-12) from all the major racing series including NASCAR, SCCA, FIA and USAC. Over the years CART and the IRL drivers, among others also participated.

The cars used in the first year were Porsche Carrera RSRs. Over the years the cars have included the Chevrolet Camaro (1975-89), Dodge Daytona (1990-93), Dodge Avenger (1994-95) and the Pontiac Trans Am (1996-2006). The series was not run in 1981, 1982, 1983 or 2007.

In 2007, IROC could not find a sponsor and closed down operations after almost 30 years of competition.


IROC - International Race of Champions Organization

Prior to its disbanding and auction of its assets, the IROC organization was:

International Race of Champions, Inc.
45 Park Road Tinton Falls, NJ, 07724
Les Richter, Chairman of the Board
Jay Signore, President and GM
David S. Atlas, Board Member
Walter P. Czarnecki, Board Member


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