Macon, IL May 21, 2009-In memory of one of the finest champions the sport of auto racing has ever known, promoter Bob Sargent and the staff at Track Enterprises have decided to dedicate the 2009 running of the Hoosier Hundred to three time USAC ...
Macon, IL May 21, 2009-In memory of one of the finest champions the sport of auto racing has ever known, promoter Bob Sargent and the staff at Track Enterprises have decided to dedicate the 2009 running of the Hoosier Hundred to three time USAC Champion Larry Rice who passed away May 20.
"We at Track Enterprises would like to recognize the contributions that Larry Rice made to our sport by running the 2009 edition of the Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds on May 22 in his memory", said CEO Bob Sargent. "Larry was a champion and a gentleman on and off the race track and one of those unique individuals who gave a lot of himself to the sport, he will be sorely missed by us all." "He is one of the reasons that we are able to carry on the tradition of the Hoosier Hundred."
"Many people may only know Larry Rice as a driver turned broadcaster, but he offered so much more to life and the sport", according to Jay Hardin, Track Enterprises Motorsports Historian. "Larry was a great family man and one of the nicest people you could ever meet." "His on track accomplishments included a USAC Midget championship and two runs in the Indianapolis 500 including the co-Rookie of the Year title with Rick Mears in 1978, but where Larry really seemed to be at home was behind the wheel of a Silver Crown (championship dirt) car on one of the miles." "In fact, he once told me that driving a championship dirt car was like driving a Cadillac."
Rice made his USAC Silver Crown debut in one of the mighty uprights at Sedalia in August of 1974 and unfortunately wrecked a new dirt car built by car owner Dave Lefevre. Lefevre built another machine and the driver and car owner proceeded to embark on some fine runs in the series, including 4 top ten finishes in the next six races. The question of when Rice would post his first 100-mile national championship dirt track win was answered in August of 1977, when the 31 year old led 94 laps and beat Sheldon Kinser to the finish line to win the Tony Bettenhausen 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield. Rice had been receiving signals from the pit area to move up the racetrack as the groove had changed and Kinser was closing by running high against the cushion, but the gentleman from Linden, Indiana explained in victory lane that "I'd been blowing them away for 80 laps down there and it was going to take a bulldozer to get me to move to the top."
The points earned at Springfield, along with a fifth at DuQuoin and a second to Pancho Carter in the Hoosier Hundred led Larry to his first national big car championship. After several rides in Indianapolis machines for Pat Santello, Rice returned full-time to the dirt tracks and while he qualified well on the one-mile dirt tracks, he was unable to post a win until September of 1981 That victory would become one of the most important of Larry Rice's fine career.
Larry Rice had been a fan of auto racing since he was a small boy. His father had taken him to the very first Hoosier Hundred in 1953 and he witnessed the four-car photo finish in which Bob Sweikert put the Dean Van Lines machine across the finish line first. As a young boy and an adult Larry Rice had never missed a Hoosier Hundred and as a driver it was an event that was near and dear to his heart. Larry started George Middleton's Pizza Hut machine on the pole and on a warm Saturday afternoon in 1981, led all 100 miles holding off a hard charging Rich Vogler and a three-wheeling Gary Bettenhausen for an emotional victory. In fact, the Hoosier Hundred win helped Larry to become the first two-time champion of USAC's Silver Crown division.
While Larry never won another Hoosier Hundred he continued his streak of never missing the 100-mile classic through his career as a driver and later as a broadcaster, including handling the PA duties with long-time partner Gary Lee. Nicknamed "Rice-A-Roni", the former school teacher hung up his helmet after the 1991 season and devoted himself full-time to a career in broadcasting and working in the insurance industry handling motor sports clients.