Dick Atkins was an impressive sprint car and midget racer when he graduated to the USAC National Championship in 1965. His time among North America’s open-wheel elite was impressive but sadly brief.
Brief Indycar career
1966 was his only full such season and he proved increasingly competitive in J.C.Agajanian’s Watson-Offenhauser. He may have failed to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 but finished second at DuQuoin and was on the front row for the penultimate race of the season – the Golden Gate 100 at Sacramento. He led at the start only for Mario Andretti to take control. However, Andretti spun just five miles from the finish and Atkins retook the lead to win on the anniversary of his championship debut.
Ascot Speedway accident
Three weeks later Atkins was back racing sprint cars at Ascot Speedway on what was to be a tragic day. Don Branson spun and Atkins, who was following, crashed into the stationary car. Both were fatally injured in the fiery wreckage. Atkins was transferred to the local hospital but died a day later.