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IHRA Founder Larry Carrier To Be Inducted Into The IHRA Hall of Fame

Friday, 23 April 2021

Larry Carrier was a visionary as the founder and first president of the International Hot Rod Association.


Inducted as a Legend in the inaugural IHRA Hall of Fame class, Carrier pushed the entire sport of drag racing to new heights. He raised the level of the professional product, while not losing sight of the Sportsman racers whose support remains vital to this day.

Carrier built and founded Bristol Motor Speedway, which opened in 1961, with partners R.G. Pope and Carl Moore. He built Bristol Dragway four years later and October 1970 founded the IHRA, which sanctioned its first national events in 1971.

David McGee, through his role as editor of Drag Review Magazine and IHRA publications director, worked closely with Carrier. He fondly remembered his old boss as tough, but fair.

“Larry was fearless. He had tremendous self-confidence and never walked away from a controversy or a tough decision,” McGee said. “He and Carl Moore enjoyed great success with their oval track but drag racing was a different animal and he welcomed the challenge. LC was a very complex person.

“He was incredibly loyal to his family and those who supported him. He certainly enjoyed taking on challenges and his mind was always working — often late into the night — on ways to improve and be more financially successful.”

The IHRA rivaled NHRA as the largest drag racing organization at that time. Decades later, it remains the leading promoter of grassroots, Sportsman drag racing and a force internationally with tracks in Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

The IHRA, through Carrier’s vision, was the first to attract the involvement of a major corporation in drag racing. Carrier signed R.J. Reynolds’ Winston brand to sponsor the IHRA tour in 1975. A true promoter of the sport, he also introduced RJR to the IHRA’s biggest rival in NHRA.

Larry Carrier

Jeff Byrd, the late President of Bristol Motor Speedway and Dragway, was working for the R.J. Reynolds tobacco company when he first met Carrier.

Asked about his memories at the time of Carrier’s death in 2005, Byrd recalled, “He was a guy of the highest integrity, very honorable in his dealings with RJR. He told us that if we wanted to see all that drag racing could do for them we also needed to see NHRA. He not only introduced Winston to the IHRA, but also to its biggest competitor.”

Carrier sold Bristol Motor Speedway in 1970, but repurchased the facility from Warner Hodgdon in 1985. With the track deeply in debt, he brought it back from financial ruin. He sold Bristol Motor Speedway and Dragway to Bruton Smith in 1996 for $20 million with the speedway then at 71,000 seating capacity.

Denny Darnell, known for his work in both NASCAR and drag racing, served as Vice President and General Manager of Bristol Raceway and Dragway from 1985-88. In a 2005 interview, Darnell recalled that Carrier brokered the deal with ESPN to show both the NASCAR Cup and Busch Series races.

He also talked about how Carrier made the IHRA one of the top motorsports sanctioning bodies in the world.

“When Larry started IHRA, it was comparable to NHRA in every facet,” Darnell said. “They had better tracks and paid better money. He solidified drag racing when he brought Winston into IHRA and NHRA.”

A member of several Hall of Fames, including the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1987 and the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 1995, Carrier ventured outside of motorsports as the founder of the World Boxing Federation, which sanctioned fights in 49 countries at the time of his death in 2005.

Larry Carrier w/ Boxing Champion Thomas Hearns

Other sports-related ventures included owning a Bristol bowling alley, the Tri-Cities Golf Club and several World Champion horses.

His children found success in their own right. His son, Larry Jr., was a successful businessman in Atlanta, while sons Mark and Andy became owners of the Carrier Boyz drag racing team, which fielded the Top Fuel entry for Cory McClenathan.

Prior to his team ownership, Mark compiled a 31-2-1 record with 26 knockouts as a professional heavyweight boxer. Carrier’s daughter, Carolyn, served as a public relations representative for NASCAR legend Bobby Allison.

Larry Carrier’s impact remains great with Bristol Motor Speedway and Dragway one of the largest entertainment venues in the world. The IHRA continues to be a force in drag racing in North America and throughout the world.

“Bringing R.J. Reynolds into the sport, the pro ladder, free entry for pro teams, bigger payouts and points funds for all classes, supporting safety improvements, and securing first-class TV were just some of his contributions,” McGee said. “It was an honor to be part of that and my years with IHRA remain among my most cherished memories.”

Last modified on Friday, 23 April 2021