How a Race Car Driver Funded His Fast Paced Career with an International Drug Smuggling Operation.
He had a need for speed…and for weed, and combined those twin passions into a successful career as both a race car driver and a pot dealer. I’m talking about Randy Lanier, and you can watch his story in the new Netflix series “Bad Sport – Need for Weed.” The show has everything: fast cars, big bucks, mobsters, the thrill of victory but ultimately, the agony of defeat.
Lanier was a self-described “country boy” from rural Virginia, who thought his dreams of racing fast cars would go up in smoke. He caught the bug when he first heard the Indy 500 on the radio, saying in the doc, “I wanted to be a race-car driver so bad, but growing up in the country with no money, I thought it would never happen.”
But then, in 1967, his parents moved south to Florida, and this small-town boy’s world got a whole lot bigger. “I loved it from the get-go, you had the ocean…the surfers, and the girls in bikinis, it was really cool.”
They lived in a trailer park, when “sex, drugs, rock and roll” was the theme of the day. Lanier started small, selling weed at concerts and making “hundreds of dollars a week.” But, by the time he turned 17, “The weed business was booming, I was making four or five thousand dollars a week.”
He bought a boat with his profits and that boat soon turned into his own personal navy, shuttling weed from the Bahamas to the states. Lanier says “It was really easy, and the payoff was quite good too.”
After getting robbed at gunpoint in his home, with both he and his girlfriend Pam tied up by the robbers, Randy was scared and decided to get out of the weed business. He went to the Miami Beach auto show and came home with a blue 1957 356 Porsche Speedster. Pam called it a “piece of junk,” but Randy “loved it” and he was off to the races.
He started small, winning his first amateur race, but soon wanted to go big. For that, he needed a big bankroll. Fortunately, for him, he “knew how to make a lot of money.” For that, he needed a bigger boat. He bought a 65-footer, got a crew and “sent the boat off to be loaded with 15,000 pounds of grass.” The crew wound up unloading seven tons off the coast of Melbourne and they were in seventh heaven. Lanier made a little over a million dollars.
Soon after, Lanier won the Southeastern Amateur Championship and started “thinking about going professional.” The timing couldn’t be better, because the Miami Grand Prix was coming to town, and Lanier knew a guy who owned a race team. Lanier got behind the wheel, but his day ended during practice when his car broke a gear box on a rainy track. Lanier wound up watching the race from his hotel suite.
That’s when he “made up his mind” that he was going to form his own race team. He knew how to make bank, but the game was changing. A guy named Reagan was now in the White House, and “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” was being replaced by “just say no” and the “war on drugs.”
But Lanier was still scaling up his business. Lucky for him, he was introduced to a guy who owned a salvage and tug business with a 300-foot barge, and a 110-foot tug. They sent it to Colombia, and stored the pot in hollowed out ballast tanks. The first load was 110,000 pounds of weed. It cleared customs, but Lanier thought the cops were on to him, so they couldn’t unload it in Florida. A month later, it set sail for an abandoned boat yard in Brooklyn. Lanier says they had to pay “some mob guy half a million dollars” to use the spot. But Lanier says that barely ate into his $10,000,000 cut. And now, “he could afford his race car team.”
Blue Thunder Racing was born. Lanier needed a co-driver, and was able to sign up a good one – Bill Whittington – former winner of the 24 hour of Le Mans. They got a crew chief from the UK and the race was on, to get onto the track.
Their first race on the IMSA circuit was in Los Angeles and Blue Thunder came out of nowhere to win. They won the next two races and Lanier and his buddies started living like rock stars, or drug smugglers. It was life in the fast lane. “Vegas. Monte Carlo. Mounds of Caviar. Cocaine.”
Meantime, back on the track, team Porsche was throwing money at the problem, trying to unseat Blue Thunder from the winners circle. It came down to the next-to-last race of the season, at Watkins Glen, NY. If Lanier won, he’d have enough points to clinch the championship. Lanier wound up winning at Watkins Glen and also won the championship.
He was a rookie and a champion, and a big spender. He bought homes, fancy cars, even a plane. He rented an elephant for his daughter’s 6th birthday party. He had it and was flaunting it.
Now Randy wanted to join the big time: the Indy 500. That costs big money. So, he said “let’s bring in bigger loads.”
Lanier’s forays into Indy racing started winning the wrong type of attention. Members of his race team started saying they thought they were being watched and followed. The Lanier’s thought their phones were being tapped.
Then, in August of 1986 at the Michigan 500, Lanier was battling AJ Foyt when he smacked into the wall going 214 MPHs, suffering a compound fracture of his leg.
To make matters worse, when Lanier got home, Pam told him the FBI paid them a visit and was asking about Randy. “Everything was coming unglued.” So, Lanier decided to flee, becoming a fugitive.
What happened next? Check it out for yourself. You can catch the whole saga on the new Netflix doc series – “Bad Sport.”