BY JEFF WITHEY
MIDDLETOWN, NY – Two weeks ago while holding a commanding lead in a regular Saturday night feature, Eurich could see that 50th win well within hand and then like several times in the past, it didn’t come to fruition. What do you do if your Richie Eurich? You turn the page. Its another Saturday night at the venerable “House of Power” for Eurich.
To put into perspective what a long and productive career Eurich has had lets take a look at what 50 years is. June 2, 1967 the Beatles release record number 8, Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart Club, June 4th 1974 NFL awards a franchise to the Seattle Seahawks, June 4th 1984 Bruce Springsteen releases Born in the USA, June 4th 1990 Greyhound bus lines files for bankruptcy, June 5th 1968 Sirhan Sirhan assassinates then US Senator and democratic presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy who would later the next morning pass due to his grave injuries , June 5th 1977 the Apple II computer goes on sale, June 5 2004 former US President Ronald Reagan passes. Since 1967 there have been 10 elected US Presidents.
Through all of these milestones, just about every Saturday night Richie Eurich has called the Orange County Fair Speedway his home. Through his 50 years in racing a lot has changed. Safety, cars, technology and through it all some things have remained the same for Eurich.
A select group of crew members who some have been with Eurich for nearly his whole career, are at his beck and call during the night and gather during the week to prep the hot rod that Eurich pilots these days. With longtime sponsors of Collier, Midnite Napa Auto Parts from Pine Island, NY and with JPM power under the hood, Eurich is an easy going smooth customer. Not much seems to bother him for its just another Saturday night at the office.
“I’ve missed a lot of things over the years but somethings maybe I shouldn’t have missed but what can you do. If its Saturday night and this place is running, I’m here.” said Eurich. Eurich is a spry 69 year old racer whose holding his own against the younger group of racers.
“I think I’m in pretty good shape for someone who is 69. I don’t go to the gym or workout but I’m active. I own a garage and every Sunday we wash the car and start the prep work for another week of racing. I race two times a week, here and Accord and I haven’t really thought about retirement,” said Eurich.
“I play a little golf, I have grand kids, and some other hobbies but for 50 years I’ve been here on Saturdays. I am not a public person. I don’t think I would be a good salesman but when I retire I would like to maybe be in the promotion business or maybe tutor a younger driver but for now there is no plans to retire,” Eurich added.
Next week at Orange County is nostalgia night. In Eurich’s eyes its nice to see the previous generations of racers to come back and catch up on old times but don’t call Eurich a legend or an “old timer.”
“I don’t really care what they call me but Richie works pretty good,” a smiling Eurich added.
While conducting our interview a car passed by Eurich’s trailer and was smoking. Eurich showing his humorous side shouted out to his crew “hey is that my small-block” as the crew chuckled along with Eurich. “My small block has a little smoke but its not that bad,” quipped Eurich.
While focusing on his career accomplishments, Eurich went on to add, “some guys have never won here, some have only one win here. I’m not hung up on numbers. If I get to 50 great. If I retire and I’m at 49 that’s great too. I don’t keep track of numbers. Several times last year while leading here I tried to click off that 50th but ignition issues or something else prevented it from happening. That’s racing. I turned the page on last week (week before Memorial Day) and tonight I’m looking to accomplish our singular goal which is winning and that’s the same attitude we have every week. I couldn’t do this racing thing without all my crew guys and my wife. I have one guy that lives and breathes tires. That’s all he does. Some of these guys have been with me for nearly 30 years. There’s no way I could do this alone.”
In the 50 years that Eurich has been racing he’s seen a lot of innovation and upgrades to safety, “I remember racing with a fiberglass seat, no head rest, nowhere near the safety stuff we have today. I’m just glad that back then we weren’t going as fast as we are today because there may have been a lot more injuries than what there were.”
Eurich went on to add, “when I first started out the cars weren’t as technical as they are today. You could leave a car on the trailer for a week or two and it was fast right off the trailer. Now you have to make small adjustments here and there to keep up.”
While admitting he’s not a tech savvy person, his wife was quick to add, “we follow the races online on twitter and some of the racing sites,” she said.
Racing is a family. You gather each week at the same time and same parking spots. While you wont give an inch on the track, sometimes your friendship extends past your competitiveness. During his heat race, Eurich suffered a flat right rear tire. Members from Tommy Meier’s crew jumped down off there race trailer including Jeff Behrent, the current Vice President of Behrents Performance Warehouse, to help get the right rear changed along with Eurich’s crew.
“I’ve known Harry (Behrent) and Jeff (Behrent) for decades and we pit right next to each other. Sometimes you lend a hand to your neighbor because after all you get to know these people because your here with them every week,” said Eurich.
For the current future you can depend on Richie Eurich to be behind the wheel of his number 10 big-block at Orange County. When the time is right another of the golden masters of Modified racing will hang up his gloves and helmet for the last time. For now though, lets not let the sun fade on Richie because while 69 is just a number, as too is win number 50.