Legendary racer talks shop in Troy

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 2, 2002

Features Editor

Ray Price grew up in the tobacco fields of North Carolina.

His wheels were a bicycle and top speed was as fast as he could pedal.

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When he was about 8 years old, a friend’s uncle came by on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and Price vowed that one day he would have one of those fine riding machines.

That didn’t happen until he was 25 years old and a married man, but it was well worth the wait.

Today, Price owns the second largest Harley-Davidson dealership in the world and is a legend in professional motorcycle drag racing. Price holds the drag strip record for the quarter-mile in the IHRA (International Hot Rod Association) at 219.04 mph and a time of 6.374.

That’s covering a good distance at a high speed and in a very short time, especially for a man who’s just celebrated his 65th birthday.

But legends don’t come easy and Price isn’t taking it easy. Instead of resting on his laurels, he is on the road with his Harley Davidson Racing Team on the Ray Price 65th Birthday Tour 2002.

For Price, creating this tour was something very special.

Given his age and the length of his professional drag racing career, that Price remains competitive in speed and quickness, equal to or better than the best, is very unique.

However, Price doesn’t consider himself unique – rather fortunate to have been able to spend the majority of his life doing something that he loves – racing.

"Motorcycle racing just got in my blood," he said. "After I got out of the Air Force,

my brothers and I got involved in illegal street racing and that really got the adrenaline going and I knew I was hooked on racing. But, I soon decided I was better off racing on the strip."

Price started racing for trophies a track-sanctioned events and, although racing was already in his blood, it really started pumping. Amateur racing was exciting, but Price wanted to be up against the big boys. So, in 1967 after he got himself established in business and in life and had "a few years squared away," he joined the professional racing circuit, the IHRA.

A year later, he put his name in the record books by setting a new quarter mile drag record at 112 mph and at a time of 11.4 seconds.

During the time, Price and his wife, Jean, were working hard to make a success out of their Harley-Davidson parts store and he was busy – on the side – capturing two national championships in drag racing.

By 1983, the business future was looking bright for Price. He purchased Harley-Davidson of Raleigh and he developed a reputation for his pioneering work in the development of racing and its related products. The business took off almost as fast as a Harley Hog. Today, Price’s dealership employs about 50 associates and sports a showroom floor that incorporates an indoor simulated drag strip.

Now, recognized as one of the top professional drag strip racers of all time.

He is out to prove, at age 65, that he can still run with the best of them.

He doesn’t make a big deal out of his age.

"If I can run down the drag strip and do something that a 30-year-old rider can do, then I feel proud," he said. "I want to keep racing as long as I can. I don’t know how long that will be, so I want to have as much fun as I can."