Wake County

Motorcycle racer and Harley-Davidson guru Ray Price is dead at 78

Ray Price, seen here in 2009 with his drag bike in his shop in Raleigh, died Dec. 16 at age 78.
Ray Price, seen here in 2009 with his drag bike in his shop in Raleigh, died Dec. 16 at age 78. News & Observer file photo

Ray Price, a record-setting motorcycle drag-racing competitor known for hosting charity events at his downtown Raleigh dealership and the annual Capital City Bikefest downtown, died Wednesday night at 78.

His death was announced by his dealership, Ray Price Harley-Davidson.

Price, a native of Johnston County, was known for his successes in motorsports, winning 46 national competitions in 16 years, according to the dealership website.

He began his motorcycle dealership business in 1992.

Price’s business has played host to the annual Toys for Tots run and Ray Price Easter Basket Ride.

Price is survived by his wife, Jean; daughter, Robin, and grandchildren Rebecca and Jordan Richardson.

Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane issued a statement saying Thursday “is a sad day for Raleigh as we mourn the loss of a legend. Ray Price was a local business and community leader known not only for his achievements in motorsports but also for his community leadership and generosity. I am proud to have known him and to have been able to call him my friend.”

Downtown saw its 11th edition of the weekend-long Bikefest in September. Foul weather did not deter bikers from the event that brings roaring machines to the streets. As the event’s website states, “Yeah, it rained... [but] the Bikefest still went on!”

Price’s biography on his company’s website says he got his first motorcycle in 1963, when he was 25. His fascination with motorcycle performance stemmed from two brothers-in-law who competed with each other, but he moved the racing to the drag strip instead of the street.

After tooling up a 1966 Harley-Davidson bike in his basement, Price entered a professional race in New Jersey and won with the machine that had a smaller, but more powerful, engine than his rivals. The website says race officials took his engine apart three times trying to figure out how he had achieved so much power, and they agreed it was legal.

Price kept racing after he received a Harley-Davidson franchise in 1982, but could not sustain two full-time careers and retired from professional racing with victories at 46 national events, 51 national racing records and the sport’s 1979-80 title as national points champion.

He was forced to give up riding motorcycles in 2003 after a nitro-fueled bike he was riding in an event in Las Vegas had stopping trouble and he steered it into a safety net, sustaining left-arm nerve damage.

Price was inducted into the American Motorcycle Association Hall of Fame and the North Carolina Drag Racing Hall of Fame.

Services will be on Sunday. Visitation at Ray Price Harley-Davidson, 1126 S. Saunders St., from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.; motorcycle ride from dealership to Red Hat Amphitheater, 500 S. McDowell St., from 1-2 p.m.; memorial service at Red Hat from 2 p.m.-2:40 p.m.; motorcycle ride from Red Hat to Montlawn Memorial Park, 2911 S. Wilmington St., from 2:40 p.m.-3 p.m., graveside services at Montlawn, 3 p.m. All are open to the public.

Ray Price, 1937-2015

▪ Johnston county native

▪ Won 46 national racing events and 51 national racing records.

▪ Inducted into the American Motorcycle Hall of Fame, the North Carolina Drag Racing Hall of Fame, the Sturgis Motorcycle Hall of Fame and the East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame.

▪ Mayor Nancy McFarlane called Thursday “a sad day for Raleigh as we mourn the loss of a legend.” “Ray Price was a local business and community leader known not only for his achievements in motorsports but also for his community leadership and generosity.”

▪ Charity events included Toys for Tots run, Ray Price Easter Basket Ride and Capital City Bikefest.

▪ Survived by his wife, Jean; daughter, Robin; and grandchildren Rebecca and Jordan Richardson.

▪ Services will be on Sunday. Visitation at Ray Price Harley-Davidson, 1126 S. Saunders St., from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.; motorcycle ride from dealership to Red Hat Amphitheater, 500 S. McDowell St., from 1-2 p.m.; memorial service at Red Hat from 2 p.m.-2:40 p.m.; motorcycle ride from Red Hat to Montlawn Memorial Park, 2911 S. Wilmington St., from 2:40 p.m.-3 p.m., graveside services at Montlawn, 3 p.m. All are open to the public.

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