Farewell Larry Rice

099 

(photo by Leon Hammack)

 

Some people may not know who Larry Rice was.  Some may only know him as one of the announcers on ESPN’s Thursday Night Thunder of the 1980’s.  The jovial sidekick to Dave Despain and Gary Lee in the early days of Thursday Night Thunder, Rice grew as a race car  announcer.  But Larry Rice was a fierce competitor on the USAC midget, Sprint Car, and Silver Crown circuits.  For all of Larry Rice’s successes on the dirt tracks of the U.S. and winters in Australia, he only ran at Indianapolis twice. 

In his first race at Indy, Larry put his car from a very under funded team in the show on the very back row of the 33 car field.  Just making the show was an accomplishment for this team.   But not only did Rice make the show, he finished the race in 11th place and was named co- rookie of the race with a young man named Rick Mears!  You might have heard of this 4 time Indy500  winner!

Larry Rice led a very quiet life.  Rice was liked both on and off the race track, a very rare attribute for a race car driver. The school teacher, who later became an outstanding dirt track racer, was not the boisterous, arrogant, or cocky person that is so personified by many other racer car drivers of the era!  Instead he was a very quiet unassuming man, stearing clear of the limelight!

 A scare in 2000 with tongue cancer was a set back for the Rice family, but that later went in to remission.  All the while Rice never let on that he was having health issues.  In 2005 he was diagnosed with lung cancer, and in typical Larry Rice fashion, never let on that there were any health problems. 

 According to Robin Miller, a close Rice friend  and competitor of over 40 years, only two weeks ago did Rice let anyone know of his grave health poblems.  At a luncheon with Miller, Billy Vukovich, Jr., Poncho Carter, and a few other close friends, Larry Rice let out the news about his deteriorating health.

Larry Rice lost his battle with cancer today.  The racing world has lost a true gentleman, competitor, and friend!

If you would like to read a very good article about Larry Rice, written by Robin Miller click here

Robin Miller was a fellow competitor and is an author, a contributing columnist to ESPN, SPEED TV, and the Indianapolis newspaper.   The tribute is worthy of reading!

8 thoughts on “Farewell Larry Rice”

  1. To most of you, Larry Rice was an outstanding race car driver. To me, “Mr. Rice” was an outstanding 5th grade teacher at Mt. Zion Elementary School in Crawfordsville.
    I was one of his students from 1971-1972. He was also my basketball coach that year. I was so good Mr. Rice asked me to play on the 4th grade team. I guess he recognized me as a future role model or something! We all thought it was “pretty groovy” to have a race car driver for a teacher. He would often show up for school on Monday mornings all bandaged and banged up from a weekend or racing. I last saw “Mr. Rice” when he was on a float during the Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade back in the early 90’s. As a member of the Indianapolis Police Department, I was assigned traffic control for the parade that year. He just laughed and said how much that made him feel old when I introduced myself as a former student of his. The North Montgomery Class of 1979 is holding our 30 Year Reunion next month. I’ll be proposing a toast to the memory of “Mr. Rice the Teacher.” Thank you for letting me share.

    Detective John E. Moore
    IMPD Southwest District

  2. To most of you, Larry Rice was an outstanding race car driver. To me, “Mr. Rice” was an outstanding 5th grade teacher at Mt. Zion Elementary School in Crawfordsville.
    I was one of his students from 1971-1972. He was also my basketball coach that year. I was so good Mr. Rice asked me to play on the 4th grade team. I guess he recognized me as a future role model or something! We all thought it was “pretty groovy” to have a race car driver for a teacher. He would often show up for school on Monday mornings all bandaged and banged up from a weekend or racing. I last saw “Mr. Rice” when he was on a float during the Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade back in the early 90’s. As a member of the Indianapolis Police Department, I was assigned traffic control for the parade that year. He just laughed and said how much that made him feel old when I introduced myself as a former student of his. The North Montgomery Class of 1979 is holding our 30 Year Reunion next month. I’ll be proposing a toast to the memory of “Mr. Rice the Teacher.” Thank you for letting me share.

    Detective John E. Moore
    IMPD Southwest District

  3. Det. Moore,
    I am honored that you have read my web page! I am equally honored that you choose to comment on my site about your “Mr. Rice”!
    I only knew him as one heck of a dirt car, midgets and sprint cars, racer! I also remember Larry Rice and Gary Lee on ESPN’s Thursday Night Thunder calling the races from IRP/ORP and some of the surrounding Indy race tracks. From everything that I have read about him, he was a very good man, both on and off the track.
    The racing world has lost a fierce competitor and great friend!!
    God rest his soul in peace!

  4. Det. Moore,
    I am honored that you have read my web page! I am equally honored that you choose to comment on my site about your “Mr. Rice”!
    I only knew him as one heck of a dirt car, midgets and sprint cars, racer! I also remember Larry Rice and Gary Lee on ESPN’s Thursday Night Thunder calling the races from IRP/ORP and some of the surrounding Indy race tracks. From everything that I have read about him, he was a very good man, both on and off the track.
    The racing world has lost a fierce competitor and great friend!!
    God rest his soul in peace!

  5. Mr. Rice was my 6th grade teacher at Mt. Zion Elementary School in Crawfordsville, Indiana. It was Mr. Rice in the classroom and Larry at the race track. My parents, sister and I followed Larry on the USAC Midget circuit and what fun it was! He was truly a nice guy. I don’t remember much about 6th grade but I did learn a lot about racing and feel blessed to have known not only Larry but his mom and dad also. I have only warm, loving memories of this family and it is so nice to read such loving articles about my favorite teacher who just happened to be a race car driver.

  6. Mr. Rice was my 6th grade teacher at Mt. Zion Elementary School in Crawfordsville, Indiana. It was Mr. Rice in the classroom and Larry at the race track. My parents, sister and I followed Larry on the USAC Midget circuit and what fun it was! He was truly a nice guy. I don’t remember much about 6th grade but I did learn a lot about racing and feel blessed to have known not only Larry but his mom and dad also. I have only warm, loving memories of this family and it is so nice to read such loving articles about my favorite teacher who just happened to be a race car driver.

  7. Rhonda,
    Thank you very much for taking the time to read and respond to my tribute to one heck of a race car driver. Also as you have verified, Larry Rice was a really nice guy. Race car drivers are somewhat like pilots, usually very self assured, competitive, and sometimes confused with being arrogant. However, Larry Rice didn’t exhibit the arrogance or aloofness.
    Again thanks for your input.

  8. Rhonda,
    Thank you very much for taking the time to read and respond to my tribute to one heck of a race car driver. Also as you have verified, Larry Rice was a really nice guy. Race car drivers are somewhat like pilots, usually very self assured, competitive, and sometimes confused with being arrogant. However, Larry Rice didn’t exhibit the arrogance or aloofness.
    Again thanks for your input.

Leave a Reply