DARLINGTON, SC - (December 1, 2000) - Larry Hensley, a longtime and highly successful drag racing track operator, promoter and former-competitor, has accepted the position as general manager of Darlington International Dragway (DID).
In making the announcement, Darlington track co-owner, Carlton Phillips, said Hensley's addition to the historic facility successfully ends the pursuit of an individual who would meet the track's upbeat and expanded scheduling and future directives.
"We looked at a tremendous amount of excellent and highly-qualified candidates for the position," said Phillips, a former national event-winning Pro Stock racer who operates the International Hot Rod Association-sanctioned (IHRA) track along with popular Pro Modified car owner, Johnny Rocca.
"What we like best about Hensley are his solid credentials and vast knowledge, from having successfully managed several major and well-respected race facilities," he continued.
"Perhaps his strongest trait is the fact that he is totally hands-on," Phillips further explained. "If there's a problem, Hensley will find the very best solution. If something doesn't work, he can fix it.
"That gives us total confidence in the day-to-day and race weekend operation of the facility, which should also translate into an all-around better experience for our many and loyal drag racers, fans and sponsors," he said.
Hensley's credentials are indeed vast and deeply rooted in the sport of drag racing. Growing up in the Detroit area as a youth, he started competing at nearby Detroit Dragway in 1959, then worked his way up to the Super Stock ranks a short time later.
He furthered his knowledge after meeting a neighborhood racer, Paul Stefanski, who hired him to crew on a supercharged Mustang Funny Car. That led to his first touring schedule, competing against the likes of "Jungle Jim" Liberman and Lew Arrington of "Brutus" fame, among others. In the early 1970s, Hensley found work with veteran star, Connie Kalitta, and was soon tabbed as crew chief for upcoming female standout, Shirley Muldowney, on her first Funny Car effort.
By 1973, he decided to direct his energies closer to home. This resulted in the co-creation of a successful Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealership near Sarasota, Fla.
The end of the `70s witnessed a marked transformation, thanks to his association with some close friends, including musician Greg Allman. A short time later, the Greg Allman Band was formed, with Hensley instrumental in critical facets of their rigorous concert tours throughout the United States.
Several years later, Hensley's love of the dragstrip beckoned his return, which came in the form of employment with another associate, automotive aftermarket kingpin, Dick Moroso. Soon, he found himself in a managerial position at Moroso's Miami-Hollywood Motorsports Park. At one point, he also simultaneously operated Moroso's West Palm Beach track, overseeing as many as 250 events per season, including Super Chevy Shows, mud bog races, SCCA regional and national events, Citrus Nationals, Moroso 5-Day Bracket Race, to name a few.
In 1990, he returned to the Harley-Davidson business and opened up a facility near West Palm Beach, before eventually moving it near his 25-acre farm in Aiken, SC.
Throughout all of his travels and accolades, Hensley established a parallel reputation as an accomplished drag bike owner/driver, commandeering his own machines in divisions including Nitro Funny Bike, Pro Mod and Pro Stock.
"One of the nice problems that Darlington's owners will find is I'm so much in favor of the racer," explained Hensley.
"This is a safety first deal. I want a good, safe race and I want my track crew to be the best there is. I'm going to be a stickler for safety and taking care of the racer.
"That was one thing that we prided ourselves on (while managing Moroso's drag race facilities)."
Hensley envisions some of the racetrack's first signs of new change to come in the way of increased ontrack activities and especially those geared to the weekly competitor.
"I'm looking forward to perhaps a weekly bracket race and once-a-month show, of some kind," he said. "After all, this is Pro Modified and "door-slammer" racing country.
"I also want to open up on Wednesday and Friday nights, with test-n-tune," continued Hensley, who has already relocated to the Darlington area with his wife, Nancy..
"In short order, I want guys to hold their head up and say they race at Darlington."