Bristol Dragway and track founder Larry Carrier were recently honored as the newest inductees into the inaugural International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) Hall of Fame class.
The drag racing organization, which was first based in Bristol with headquarters now in West Palm Beach, Florida, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Part of the celebration is the formation of the Hall of Fame with a blue-ribbon panel of past and present IHRA officials, and drag racing insiders selecting those based on their IHRA accomplishments and contributions to the sport.
Bristol Dragway was chosen as the first legendary facility for the IHRA. The track first opened in 1965 as an NHRA-sanctioned track. Seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty was among the event’s first winners at the 1965 Spring Nationals.
It later hosted the American Hot Rod Association (AHRA) before Carrier founded the IHRA. Early IHRA winners included “Big Daddy” Don Garlits and Don Schumacher. Kingsport driver Shirl Greer won back-to-back Funny Car victories in the 1974-75 Spring Nationals.
At the time, Bristol Dragway featured a state-of-the-art, three-story tower. It created quite a special atmosphere along with the track carved between the mountains, which produced the sounds that spawned the nickname “Thunder Valley.” Iconic promoter Bruton Smith bought the facility in 1997, tearing down the old tower and updating Bristol Dragway to the world-class venue it is today.
As an NHRA facility, Bristol Dragway has served as host for the Winston Showdown, a unique all-star event pitting Top Fuel dragsters against Nitro Funny Cars. It’s also been home to the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals national event with such winners as John Force and Tony Schumacher.
Carrier, the founder of Bristol Motor Speedway along Carl Moore and R.G. Pope, founded the IHRA in 1970 with the first sanctioned national events in 1971. He brought R.J. Reynolds as a sponsor, but also introduced RJR and its Winston brand to the IHRA’s biggest rival in NHRA.
During Carrier’s time, the IHRA rivaled NHRA as drag racing’s top organization. Today, it remains the leading promoter of grassroots, Sportsman racing in North America with the IHRA Summit SuperSeries, the largest and most prestigious national championship in bracket racing. The IHRA also lives up to its name internationally sanctioning races in Aruba, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Carrier is a member of multiple Hall of Fames, including his induction into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1987 and the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 1995. He was also the founder of World Boxing Federation, which sanctioned fights in 49 countries at the time of his death in 2005.
His other sports ventures included owning a Bristol bowling alley, the Tri-Cities Golf Club and the owner of several world champion horses.
Carrier’s children made an impact as well with Larry Jr. a successful businessman in Atlanta and his daughter Carolyn a public relations representative for NASCAR legend Bobby Allison. Sons, Mark and Andy, were owners of the Carrier Boyz Top Fuel race team.
Mark “The Shark” Carrier was also a professional boxer, compiling a 31-2-1 record with 26 knockouts as a heavyweight.
The other IHRA Hall of Fame inductees to this point have been six-time Pro Modified champion Scotty Cannon, who set records with 28 wins and 45 final-round appearances, and Sportsman racer Anthony Bertozzi, a 16-time world champion.
Cannon’s first Pro Mod win came in the 1991 Spring Nationals at Bristol. He also scored two Top Fuel victories and finished third in the series points in 2007.
Bertozzi won a record 59 races and captured championships in Super Stock, Modified, Top Sportsman and Eliminator. He is also a two-time NHRA champion, winning the 2020 Top Dragster title.
The IHRA will continue to unveil its inaugural Hall of Fame class throughout the 2021 season.