Good looking and popular with the crowds of California race fans, Richard Charles (Dick) Atkins was one of the best sprint car drivers of his era and was just begining to shine in the USAC Championships. Atkins won the Sacramento Mile, champ-dirt car race in the heydey of many super talents.
In 1966 he qualified for the 1966 Indy 500, but was later 'bumped' and didn't race and just three weeks before his fatal accident he won his first USAC Championship race. Then on 12 November 1966, Don Branson lost it in a corner at Ascot Park (Gardena). Branson's car bounced off the wall back into the path of Atkins. Branson was killed instantly and Atkins died the next day from what at first were believed to be burns. However an autosy revealed that the cause of death was a fracture to the rear of his skull.
Soon after this accident, his close friend J. C. Agajanian, called on USAC to make rubber bladders in fuel tanks madatory.