Randy Thomas Lanier (born 22 September 1954) is a professional race car driver and convicted drug trafficker from the United States. He is notable for winning the 1984 IMSA Camel GT title as a wholly independent team, despite facing up to well-funded-and-supported opposition and the team's questionable source of income.
Lanier was born in Virginia to a father who was a draftsman and his mother was a caretaker at a psychiatric hospital. At age 13, he moved to Hollywood in South Florida where he attended Miramar High School. When he was caught with an ounce of cannabis, he dropped out of high school to avoid suspension but later earned his GED. Lanier worked in construction to make a living.
In 1976 he married his childhood sweetheart. They had a daughter, Brandie in 1980 and a son Glen in 1987, who was named after Lanier's younger brother who was killed in a motorcycle accident at the age of 16. He has other siblings as well.
In 1986, Lanier became romantically involved with Maria De La Luz Maggi.
Lanier began his motorsport career in 1978, following a meeting with the Sports Car Club of America at an auto show taking place in Miami Beach Convention Center on how to make a start in racing, he bought himself a 1957 Porsche 356 Speedster, where he used it to compete in E Production at the SCCA Southeast Regional Championship, eventually winning the class in 1980.
He made his IMSA Camel GT series debut at the 1981 Daytona Finale, partnering with Dale Whittington, finishing 30th. The following season at the 24 Hours of Daytona, he was approached by a crew member for the North American Racing Team to fill in for Janet Guthrie, who was unable to race due to illness. Partnering with Bob Wollek and Edgar Dören, the trio ran in 3rd place for 18 hours until their run ended when Lanier took over at dawn on his first lap, considered by fellow driver Desiré Wilson to be unsuited to drive as he had been seen previously acting nervously in the pits, he drove the car off course destroying the suspension
He was invited by the same team to partner with Preston Henn and Denis Morin at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, retiring after they ran out of fuel. At Lanier's fifth race at the 6 Hours of Mosport, he brought an ex-works March 82G Chevrolet, scoring his first podium finish with a third, and then another at the Mid-Ohio 6 Hours.
In 1984, after driving for a variety of teams in the previous seasons, including a 2nd at the 24 Hours of Daytona, he formed his own team, Blue Thunder Racing, with Bill Whittington and crew chief Keith Leyton consisting of two March GTPs.
Earlier in the season, Whittington led the season, allowing Lanier to take over after the Charlotte 500 km. With help of Whittington, who taught Lanier how to set up the car and driving, he took six wins, enough to score a driver's championship with one race to remain along with the Most Improved Driver award, despite having a lack of sponsorship and being a wholly independent team, unsupported by March Engineering. Another reason for success was that the team employed the services of talented engine builder , who rebuilt the engines after each race.
Lanier began to focus on his Indycar career, with the hope of winning the Indianapolis 500. He drove for Arciero Racing, intending to commit full-time for the 1986 season. For the following season, Lanier would also drive for Joest Racing for both Daytona 24 Hours and Miami. After a poor form in the previous year, Lanier would improve his form by finishing six of the nine races he entered including his 10th-place finish at the Indy 500, winning the Rookie of The Year honor and taking the fastest qualifying time for a rookie that year, an average of 209.964 MPH beating the previous record set by Michael Andretti in 1984. His final race was at the Michigan 500 where he collided into a wall at 214 MPH following a tire blow out, breaking his right femur and was shortly arrested. Prior to that, he drove in 18 CART races in 1985 and 1986.
A year after his release from federal custody, Lanier returned to the track, coaching and racing with Rally Baby Racing, and the Road & Track teams in BMW E30s at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in the American Endurance Racing series.
Drug conviction and imprisonment
Lanier, shortly after moving into Broward County, discovered cannabis at 14 when be began enjoying it recreationally. At 15, he began to sell drugs on the side. At the age of 20, he bought an $18,000 (equivalent to $73,000 in 2018) 27-foot-long (8.2 m) Magnum go-fast boat, for recreational use, with money he made as a marijuana dealer. Later as suggested by a friend, he took the opportunity to use this to smuggle a ton of marijuana out of the Bahamas and took this as an opportunity to make a small sideline to his personal water craft rental business.
He later took to Ben Kramer, who raced in offshore powerboat racing, as a business partner. Together, their haul grew from a 65-foot (20 m) wooden trawler that were used to carry 18,000 pounds (8,200 kg) of drugs to a fleet of tugboats that was used to haul barges.
As Lanier defeated the heavily sponsored and factory supported oppositions of the Group 44 Racing Jaguar XJR-5 and Löwenbräu-sponsored Holbert Racing Porsche 962, the sudden racing successes began to raise questions about the team's source of finance and thus Lanier was under investigation from the FBI.[Note 1] Lanier along with Eugene Fischer and Ben Kramer, owner of Apache boats; and twelve others ran a multimillion-dollar drugs empire between 1982 and 1986 when the arrest took place. Kramer was the great-nephew and one of the putative heirs of the top boss of the U.S. crime syndicate, Meyer Lansky.
A week prior to the Indy time trials, his former driving partner Bill Whittington was arrested and Lanier's name began to surface. Shortly after his Indy 500 drive, he made his largest haul of 165,000 lbs and had considered retiring from the drugs trade. Months after an Illinois dealer was arrested when a local state trooper discovered a small haul of cannabis in a broken down truck. Lanier's business partner and brother-in-law, Ronald Harris Ball, was arrested and denied bail.
Many of these narcotics were distributed in Illinois, therefore he was indicted by Judge James L. Foreman in the Southern District of Illinois in January 1987. He was convicted of importing and distributing over 300 tons of Colombian marijuana, believed to be worth $68 million by prosecutors and was due to be sentenced when he disappeared.
He was believed to had fled to Puerto Rico but he fled first to France, where he went into hiding in Monte Carlo but later went into hiding in Antigua where he kept properties, he was later arrested there on October 26 whilst fishing. Lanier had also cut a deal after his arrest for conspiracy to distribute pot, but at the last minute refused to testify against Jack Kramer, father of Ben.
Randy Lanier and his partner Ben Kramer received life without parole sentences on 4 October 1988 under the newly enacted Continuing Criminal Enterprise statute (also known as the "Super Drug Kingpin" law), owing to their refusal to cooperate with the prosecution. The Whittington brothers who were also involved received a lighter sentence. Lanier filed an appeal based on the fact that later RICO convictions were not nearly as lengthy, but lost the appeal. He was initially placed in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary and was later transferred to the higher security United States Penitentiary I in Coleman. He spent his time in prison exercising, playing chess and answering letters sent by race fans.
Maggi, who married Lanier on August 31, 1990 at Oxford Federal Correctional Institution in Wisconsin., was sentenced on April 30, 1993 to nine years in prison for money laundering. She pleaded guilty in September the year previously to conspiracy and obstruction and later successfully appealed to have it reduced from 108 months to 97.
She was released in 1999: by that time she was no longer married to Lanier.
Release from prison
Otherwise serving a life sentence, for reasons undisclosed under sealed motions, Lanier was scheduled to be released from prison, with a discharge date of October 15, 2014, which was reportedly confirmed to Autoweek magazine insiders by Jim Porter, first assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois. The Federal Bureau of Prisons website also confirmed Lanier's date of discharge conditional to the requirement that he spends a six-month duration in a halfway house before entering a three-year-long supervised release into society where will be disallowed alcohol and / or firearms. Lanier stated that he had a job awaiting him at a classic car museum in Florida, said to be for Preston Henn, owner of Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop.
Randy is currently working at a rehabilitation center in Hollywood, FL treating patients recovering from substance abuse.
Motorsports career results
American open–wheel racing results
|1985||Arciero Racing||Lola T900||Cosworth DFX V8t||LBH
|1986||Arciero Racing||March 86C||Cosworth DFX V8t||PHX
Indy 500 results
Complete 24 Hours of Le Mans results
Ferrari 4.9L Flat-12
|NART/T-Bird Racing|| Preston Henn
Complete IMSA GT results
- Lanier claimed his source of financial aid came from his Blue Thunder fabrication shop in Davie and a former watersports rental company in Hollywood.
- Ray Downs (17 March 2015). "Former Racecar Star Randy Lanier Finds Freedom After Life Sentence for Smuggling Pot". New Times Broward-Palm Beach.
- "United States of America, Plaintiff-appellee, v. Maria D. Maggi, Also Known As Maria D. Wolleter, Also known as Maria L. Maggi, Also Known As Maria M. Lanier,also Known As Maria "lucca" Lanier,defendant-appellant - 44 F.3d 478 - Justia US Court of Appeals Cases and Opinions". Cases.justia.com. Retrieved 2009-11-12.
- "IndyCar Advocate: Off Course: An Interview With Randy Lanier". indycaradvocate.com. Archived from the original on 2015-01-18. Retrieved 2015-04-13.
- Wertheim, L. Jon (2017-01-18). "Randy Lanier: IndyCar driver and drug smuggler". Sports Illustrated Longform. Retrieved 2019-06-04.
- Wilson, Alan (15 October 2011). Driven by Desire. ISBN 9781845843892.
- "Le Mans 24 Hours 1982 - Photo Gallery - Racing Sports Cars". racingsportscars.com. Retrieved 2015-04-13.
- "JOHN STARKEY CARS :: GRYFON INC". johnstarkeycars.com. Archived from the original on 2004-04-11. Retrieved 2015-04-13.
- "The Untold Story of Randy Lanier, Indy 500 Star and Drug Smuggler". maxim.com.
- "Blue Thunder Racing". Archived from the original on 2 August 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
- Prototypes: The History of the IMSA GTP Series, J. A. Martin & Ken Wells, David Bull Publishing, ISBN 1-893618-01-3
- Patrick George. "The Man Who Turned Speedboats Full Of Weed Into Indy 500 Glory". Jalopnik.
- "How I Got Back in a Race Car After Drug Trafficking Sent Me to Prison for 26 Years". 3 November 2015. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
- "United States of America, Plaintiff-appellee, v. Benjamin Barry Kramer, Randy Thomas Lanier, Eugene Albertfischer, and Kay Dee Bell, Jr., Defendants-appellants, 955 F.2d 479 (7th Cir. 1992) :: Justia". law.justia.com. Retrieved 2015-04-13.
- AP (1987-10-08). "Guilty Pleas Entered by 11 In Smuggling of Marijuana - The". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-11-11.
- "Driver Randy Lanier Gets Life in Prison". Pqasb.pqarchiver.com. 1988-12-22. Retrieved 2009-11-11.
- Umpenhour, C.M. (2005). Freedom, a Fading Illusion. BookMakers Ink. p. 438. ISBN 9780972678957. Retrieved 2015-04-13.
- "995 F.2d 662". resource.org. 12 July 1993.
- "SPORTS PEOPLE: AUTO RACING; Driver Jailed - The". New York Times. 1988-12-22. Retrieved 2009-11-11.
- "Hemp News No. 6". Crrh.org. 1993-05-01. Retrieved 2009-11-11.
- "Article: 1989.(50th Anniversary countdown) - AutoWeek | HighBeam Research - FREE trial". Highbeam.com. 2008-03-10. Retrieved 2009-11-11.[dead link]
- "SPORTS PEOPLE; Randy Lanier Sought - The". New York Times. 1987-02-06. Retrieved 2009-11-11.
- "SPORTS PEOPLE; Comings and Goings - The". New York Times. 1987-10-27. Retrieved 2009-11-11.
- Saraceno, Jon (October 27, 2014). "The 225,000 Hours of Randy Lanier". Autoweek. 64 (21): 53–55. Retrieved 2014-12-02.
- "FindLaw: Cases and Codes". Caselaw.lp.findlaw.com. Retrieved 2009-11-11.
- "Federal Bureau of Prisons". Bop.gov. 2007-03-30. Retrieved 2009-11-11.
- Allen Brown. "Where are they now? « The Indy 500 drivers (L) « OldRacingCars.com". oldracingcars.com. Retrieved 2015-04-13.
- "62 F3d 1419 United States v. De La Luz Maggi". Open Jurist. 4 August 1995. p. 1419. Retrieved 2009-11-12.
- "Federal Bureau of Prisons". Bop.gov. Retrieved 2009-11-12.
- Veksler, Marie. "Racing Sensation Turned Marijuana Kingpin Released From Prison Today". Whaxy. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 14 April 2015.
- "How I Got Back in a Race Car After Drug Trafficking Sent Me to Prison for 26 Years". 3 November 2015.
- "1977 Porsche 935 Desperado Factory Built Racecar | Mecum Auctions". mecum.com. Retrieved 2015-04-13.
- motorsport.com profile
- ChampCarStats.com statistics
- New York Times: Driver Jailed
- New York Times:Randy Lanier Sought
- Findlaw.com article on Lanier's case
- Hemp News
- Randy Lanier in the 24h of Le Mans
- Motorsport.com article on Riverside '84
- Los Angeles Times article on crime and imprisonment
- Indy Car Vice - Jon Wertheim, Sports Illustrated
| Indianapolis 500
Rookie of the Year
| IMSA GT champion