Fountain Inn Race Car Driver balances Family, Business, and Racing

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Fountain Inn, Sports

November 22, 2021 by Shirley Adams - Richard Matthews Contributed - Views: 56

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Fountain Inn Race Car Driver balances Family, Business, and Racing

Richard Matthews absolutely loves the town of Fountain Inn, South Carolina where he serves as current Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce, president of the Rotary Club, treasurer of the Fountain Inn Facilities Corporation, and founder and board member of the Fountain Inn Community Police Fund. There’s something else you may not know about this prominent member of the community—he has a passion about auto racing that began at an early age.

S210-1.jpgIn 1996, at the age of sixteen, Richard would autocross in his high school parking lot at Columbia, South Carolina. In case you are unfamiliar with the term “autocross,” it refers to a course created with traffic cones. Each participant drives through the course while being timed. The driver completing the course in the shortest time without knocking over cones wins the event. Through such activities, Richard discovered his keen interest and skill in racing. There followed a succession of competitions beginning with regionals, the nationals in Topeka, and culminating in “A Street Prepared” event where he placed second.

With this encouraging beginning, Richard enrolled in racing school at Roebling Road in Georgia with his IT7 automobile. He placed in the top five by year’s end. 

Given these successes, Richard purchased another car, a Swift DB3, called a Club Continental at the time. He did well, often finishing in front of the newer Van Diemen car models. Richard won the region. Then, at the American Road Race of Champions (ARCC) event, Richard experienced multiple problems including his rear brake line and rear wing falling off and being stuck in third gear, but he managed to finish second despite these obstacles.

S210-2.jpgS210-4.jpgThat did not keep him down for long! The following winter, Richard raced in Formula Renaut in Florida with Bob Gelles Racing. Then, he moved to a Star Mazda and raced for the factory team out of California, working with Michael McDowell of NASCAR fame. All the while, Richard raced with limited funds, but since he placed mid-pack for most events, Richard could afford to compete with limited sponsorship.

At this point, Richard realized that he would not be racing professionally, but he had this one dream to fulfill. Richard returned to ARCC with his Club Continental car and won the championship!

But, at last, Richard decided to sell the car, truck, trailer, and tools and go to work. During those racing years, he had attended college at Georgia Tech (Aerospace Engineering major), Clemson (Mechanical Engineering major), and University of South Carolina (Marketing major), hoping to pursue a racing career with this unique background. In the meantime, he operated an online car parts business and a Mazda third generation RX-7 shop out of his parent’s garage. Also, he started his own wealth management firm that now has two locations in Greenville, South Carolina and in Fountain Inn, South Carolina. Married and the father of a precious 3-year-old daughter, Richard had it all.

Then, one day, Richard ran into a friend who mentioned his intention of racing his Porche at Road Atlanta in February 2021. All those dreams about racing rushed back. Richard had hoped to retire one day and race once again, with a Mazda Miata car. At age 40, Richard had the means to pursue his lifelong passion, so why wasn’t he racing?

That’s when he went to the Major race at Road Atlanta to check things out. There, he encountered an old racing friend, Andy Brumbaugh, serving as crew member for his father in his Honda-powered Formula F. Encouraged by his wife and 3-year-old daughter as well as what he saw that day, Richard sought a car to race. On April 15, 2021, Richard purchased an RF-01 from Phil Picard of Momentum Motorsports. Then, Richard bought the RV and a trailer. A mere two weeks later, he and his wife discovered she was expecting!

Richard felt a need to race his car as soon as possible. Although the vehicle came with a good spares package, it had sat around for six years and minimally required replacement of the fire system, battery, dash, data, and brakes. Richard worked diligently to repair the car in his spare time and finally had it ready for competition in July 2021. Richard is most appreciative of key individuals who helped him meet his racing goals. Toni Creighton assisted him in getting his license and also introduced him to Steve Hampton (Hamp), an independent automotive professional residing a mere five miles from Richard. He also met Rob Zatz who possesses a vast background racing Continentals, Vees, and EP/HP.

S210-3.jpgRichard performed well in his refurbished car at Road Atlanta in July and Gobblins Go at VIR in August. Altogether, he won all four races in which he competed, including the first one where he started at the back of the pack due to a massive air bubble in the water system. Unfortunately, Richard couldn’t compete in enough races to qualify for SIC Roebling, so he is focusing on winning the ARRC this year!

Richard chose 44 as his car number in honor of the zip code “29644,” representative of his beloved Fountain Inn. When Fountain Inn closed Main Street to sponsor an auto show, Richard proudly displayed his prized car at the registration desk. He continues to enroll sponsors for local brand awareness and plans to enter his car in the Chamber’s Christmas Parade. 

And December promises to be an exciting month for Richard and his family. He and his wife are expecting twins due in December. So, in addition to his aspirations for winning at ARRC, his successful wealth management business, and his leadership role in the Fountain Inn business community, Richard and his wife will have two precious additions to their family of three. Richard plans to take some time off in 2022 to enjoy their new babies. In the meantime, cheer Richard on in his ARRC aspirations and look for him driving his prized car down Main Street for Fountain Inn’s Christmas parade!■


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