Ray Price: A life at full throttle

Ray Price, owner of the Harley-Davidson dealership of the same name in downtown Raleigh, was a tireless advocate for good causes and one of the greatest motorcycle racers ever. After zooming at daredevil speeds into his 60s, he died in his sleep Wednesday night. He was 78.

The son of a Johnston County tobacco sharecropper, Price built a business that flourished as aging baby boomers revived sales of classic Harley-Davidson motorcycles starting in the late 1980s. He lived with his wife Jean in a residence above his showroom in a $6.5 million building he built on South Saunders Street.

A member of the American Motorcycle Hall of Fame and a few other halls of fame, Price was a champion motorcycle drag racer and an ingenious mechanic whose souped-up creations earned him the title “Father of the Funnybike.” He retired from the sport and then took it up again. He was forced out for good at age 66 when he crashed after setting a track record of 218 mph in a Las Vegas Speedway drag race.

Of riding a racing motorcycle, Price said after the 2003 accident, “I’ll always miss that ... the feeling of power that you can move your body that quickly.”

Price also organized the Capital City Bike Fest, which brought thousands of riders to Raleigh each September. But Price was the kind of man who might enjoy hanging with motorcycle riders one week and working with Toys for Tots the next. He was also a family man, a generous soul, and a willing participant in any race that had a charity’s name attached to it. He didn’t need to be personally flamboyant. The record, as they say, spoke for itself. He was a man in full, a happy fellow and a valued citizen of this community.

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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