Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Coach is Gone

Les “Coach” Richter, Veteran Motorsports Executive Instrumental in Development of Auto Club Speedway - Image Credit: Auto Club Speedway & David Talley


San Bernardino County, Calif. (June 12, 2010) -- Les “Coach” Richter, who was instrumental in the development of California Speedway, overseeing the project for Roger Penske from the demolition of the historic Kaiser Steel Mill, to its transformation into a first-class racing facility, passed away quietly this morning at the age of 79.

"Coach's name was synonymous with west coast motorsports, somewhat ironic for a man who became famous in football, but fitting for a man who could charge through any obstacle and was larger than life,” said Auto Club Speedway President Gillian Zucker.

“As a colleague, his knowledge, passion and enthusiasm for the industry were beyond compare. As a mentor, he was always there with sage advice and a hug that would knock the wind out of you but would leave no doubt how much he cared. He was a special friend, and we will miss him dearly."

Richter recently served as vice-president of special projects for International Speedway Corporation, the parent company of Auto Club Speedway. He was based at Auto Club Speedway, a two-mile, state-of-the-art superspeedway near Fontana, California.

The current trophy for the Auto Club 500 is named the “Richter Trophy” as a lasting tribute to his contributions to Auto Club Speedway and the world of motorsports.

Richter’s hard work and dedication for the Penske Family resulted in the opening of the speedway and marked the return of professional oval track auto racing to the Southern California region. On June 22, 1997, he served as the first Grand Marshal for the California 500 Presented by NAPA.

A veteran motorsports executive, Richter became the executive director of Riverside International Raceway (RIR) in 1959. Two years later, he became the president and general manager of RIR, a position that he held until 1983. He is credited with making RIR consistently profitable through his nationally known innovations and creativity, including the creation and promotion of the NASCAR Motor Trend 500 in 1963, and the planning and execution of the raceway’s $3.6 million improvement plan in 1969.

Richter’s 11-year association with the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) began in 1983, and in 1986, he became NASCAR’s executive vice president of competition. In 1992, Richter was named senior vice president of operations for NASCAR.

A native of Fresno, California, Richter graduated from Fresno High School, where he served as student body president and captain of the football team. Mr. Richter graduated from the University of California at Berkeley where he was valedictorian of the 1952 graduating class. As an All-American linebacker, Richter’s football heroics led to his eventual election to the College Football Hall of Fame.

Richter was the first player chosen in the regular draft of the National Football League in 1952. The New York Yankees Professional Football Club, who moved to Texas that year to become the Dallas Texans, selected him. On June 13, 1952, the Los Angeles Rams traded 11 players and draft choices to the Dallas Texans for the rights to Les Richter - an NFL record. Richter went on to play for the Rams for nine years, making all-pro as a linebacker for eight years.

Richter served in the United States Army during the Korean War as a 1st Lieutenant of the 44th Infantry Division.

Richter was affectionately known as “Coach” – from his days coaching an army football team while stationed at Fort Lewis Washington. He later was a Player/Coach with the Rams.

Editor's Note: I knew Les for many years, and sought his advice from time to time. I am now sad that I had lost touch with him over the last dozen years or so. Myself and the Staff at Competition Engineering will miss his Wit and Humor. But mostly his knowledge and stories.
Dicken Wear, "The Motorsports Report"


Funeral arrangements for motorsports legend Les “Coach” Richter will take place in Riverside, Calif. beginning Wednesday, June 16 with a public viewing at Acheson and Graham Mortuary followed by a public memorial service at Calvary Presbyterian Church on Thursday, June 17.

The veteran motorsports executive was instrumental in the development of Auto Club Speedway from the demolition of Kaiser Steel Mill to its transformation into a first-class racing facility. He passed away Saturday at the age of 79.

The funeral arrangements for Les Richter are as follows:

Public Viewing:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010 between 5 - 8 p.m.
Acheson and Graham Mortuary
7944 Magnolia Ave.
Riverside, CA 92504
Ph: (951) 688-1221

Public Memorial Service:

Thursday, June 17, 2010 at 11 a.m.
Calvary Presbyterian Church
4495 Magnolia Ave.
Riverside, CA 92504
Ph: (951) 686-0761

Media and members of the community are invited to the viewing and memorial services.

(ht: Information and Image Credit: Auto Club Speedway & David Talley)

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