Mark’s family was always involved with racing. Paul Richards, Mark’s father always told him to stay away from it. “You can never make a living in racing, stay away from it!” were often Paul’s words to Mark.
Mark’s dad went nearly broke racing during the 1950s, so naturally he told Mark to get into a profession that was more reliable. Even after nearly going broke from the sport he loved, Paul was still a huge fan of it. Mark grew up at the race track, every weekend he was at race track somewhere. They would often go to Morgantown Speedway, Interstate Raceway, Pennsboro Speedway and even an asphalt track in Pennsylvania named Heidelberg Raceway. “That’s what I looked forward to was going to the races.” Explained Richards.
Mark was 13 years old when his older brother Roger Richards bought a used dirt late model. Roger had a construction business and was busy with that, so he wanted Mark to work on the car and get it prepared for racing. “Up to that point, I’d never worked on a racecar. So, I started working on it. Next thing I know, we was loading up and going to the track!”
Over time, Roger wanted to get better cars. Roger never drove and always had drivers for the car. The “better” car Roger wanted was a Gary Marks car that was built in Pennsylvania. Current racer and friend Clint Smith’s dad built cars for Roger and Mark. The better cars came with better drivers. Morgan Sheppard, Rodney Combs, Buck Simmons, Bob Wearing are among some of the more notable names. “My brother’s list of drivers is pretty long.” Mark said jokingly.
During that time, Roger convinced Mark’s first true chassis builder mentor, Buddy Parker to move to West Virginia. He came up from the famous Roscoe Smith garage. David Spears who drove for Roger was also quite influential during Mark’s formative years in the sport.