Ray Price: Lengendary Racer, Dealer, Innovator
story by Steve Earwood, photos by Tim Hailey
Ray Price, who contributed mightily to Harley-Davidson’s performance image through his success in motorcycle drag racing, died peacefully Wednesday at his home in Raleigh. He was 78.
The owner of one of the largest Harley-Davidson dealerships in the Southeast, Price was best known for pushing the envelope with a series of hybrid Harleys that captured the imagination of the casual race fan. Considered the “Father of the Funnybike,” he raced for almost half a century as either a rider or team owner. He rode his own 200 mile-an-hour bikes until the age of 66 when a crash at Las Vegas left him with nerve damage in one arm and forced him to the sidelines. Nevertheless, he continued to field high performance fuel Harleys for others including Tommy Grimes, who last October rode Price’s Top Fuel bike to victory in the Jim McClure Nitro Nationals at Rockingham Dragway, Price’s home track. En route, Grimes qualified No. 1 for the fifth year in-a-row, reset his own AMRA national speed record and beat fellow Carolinian Jay Turner in the final.
“Ray not only has been a top competitor and a loyal sponsor but also a dear friend for over 24 years,” said Rockingham owner Steve Earwood. “Ray’s passion for motorcycle drag racing and his influence on our sport were extraordinary. He defined Harley Top Fuel racing and contributed to our sport at every level. The respect he commanded was evident in the way that people listened carefully every time he spoke. He is a true legend whose impact and legacy will forever be a part of professional motorcycle drag racing and Rockingham Dragway.”
Ray's smile was as legendary as his accomplishments. Here he is flanked by Larry McBride and Cecil Towner at the 2013 Motorcycle Dealer Show
Price was the first to use a wheelie bar in motorcycle drag racing. He also developed the two-speed automatic transmission, an innovation that made possible the first 200 mile per hour run in drag racing motorcycle history. As a rider, he won 46 national events, set 51 performance records and won a pair of championships.
His stature within the racing community is reflected in the fact that he was inducted into five different Halls of Fame: The American Motorcycle Association Hall in Pickerington, Ohio, the Sturgis Motorcycle Hall in Sturgis, S.D., the North Carolina Drag Racing Hall in Mooresville, the National Motorcycle Museum Hall in Anamosa, Iowa and the East Coast Drag Times Hall in Henderson. Price even had a museum of his own, the Legends of Harley Drag Racing Museum, constructed on the second floor of his Raleigh dealership.
Price is survived by his wife, Jean; daughter, Robin, and grandchildren Rebecca and Jordan Richardson.
“You know, there aren’t any guys out there like Ray anymore,” Earwood concluded. “At least not as far as I can see. He was a true pioneer in the sport and nobody enjoyed the ride any more than he did.”
Here is a great story about Ray on Dragbike.com
And on the AMA Museum website