‘Survival of the Quickest’, the Randy Lanier Story

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Photograph: Elizabeth Blackstock

The Nineteen Seventies and ‘80s have been a wild time within the sporting worlds. Big rivalries, career-defining moments, and quickly evolving applied sciences paved the best way for a wild period, however there’s one a part of the motorsport world that stands simply as prominently within the minds of followers: drug smuggling. Into that chaos got here Randy Lanier, who — together with A. J. Baime, of Go Like Hell fame — simply printed an autobiography titled Survival of the Fastest: Weed, Speed, and the 1980s Drug Scandal that Shocked the Sports World. And if that title tells you something, this e book is a stellar one.

The mark of an incredible e book is its potential to reel you in and by no means allow you to go, and Survival of the Fastest does precisely that. From the prologue that particulars the second Lanier was caught to the epilogue about his activism now that he’s served his jail time, I by no means wished to place this e book down. And I didn’t — I devoured it in underneath 48 hours, sneaking in somewhat e book time within the wee morning hours and on my lunch break simply to see what was going to occur subsequent.

In fact, in case you’re a motorsport fan, you in all probability already know a few of the broad strokes of Lanier’s story. He began racing in 1978, taking an SCCA E Manufacturing class win within the 1980 season. He debuted within the IMSA collection the next 12 months, then competed within the 1982 24 Hours of Daytona to exchange an unwell Janet Guthrie. He competed at Le Mans, then went on to kind his personal race crew, Blue Thunder, in 1984 — dominating the championship as a sponsor-free, impartial crew. He went on to compete within the CART collection, successful Indy 500 Rookie of the Yr in 1986. And he did all of it whereas smuggling large quantities of marijuana into numerous ports round the US.

In Survival of the Quickest, Lanier talks about discovering weed when he was 14, happening to promote the plant on the aspect throughout his building job by the point he was 15. By 20, he had the cash to purchase a Magnum go-fast boat — and shortly realized he may use that as a vessel for smuggling weed. Earlier than lengthy, Lanier had established himself as a formidable kingpin in South Florida drug scene, together with his marijuana distribution community reaching throughout the nation.

Despite watching just about every possibly documentary I could on Lanier throughout the years, I didn’t really realize the scope of his smuggling until reading this book, when his operations were laid out in detail. Suddenly, you start to realize that one single smuggling operation is not only the work of several months, but of an entire lifetime. In order to smuggle 165,000 pounds of weed into America, Lanier needed to know people around the world. He needed those people to be both loyal and quiet. He needed them to have the right legitimate connections. He needed to have successfully completed all those smaller hauls.

For me, though, the most interesting thing is the peek behind the emotional curtain. Other stories or documentaries on Lanier have never really captured his headspace in the way that Survival of the Fastest does. When Lanier talks about his youth and his initial smuggling operations, there’s a sense of nostalgia to them — but as both his racing and his smuggling grew in intensity, his emotions got more conflicted. Both motorsport and drug running could be a full-time career; Lanier was trying to do both at the same time, all while managing a family and indulging in the high life his massive amounts of money allowed for.

The highlight of this book for me is Lanier’s Indy 500 debut. He was competing in the biggest race in the world knowing that it would likely be his last chance to do so; he’d already been indicted in drug investigations, and the feds were breathing down his neck. Prison time was imminent, and with the Reagan administration’s push to end the so-called “War on Drugs,” Lanier knew there was a chance he’d never actually live a free life again once he was behind bars. His friends and fellow racers were being arrested left and right. His wife was pregnant with twins, one of whom had died while the other was still healthy enough to carry to term, and she knew nothing about what was going on; meanwhile, Lanier was trying to hide money and assets to set her up with a good life without him. All this while trying to practice, qualify, and compete in the Indianapolis 500.

You really get the bittersweetness that Lanier was feeling. With all this going on, he wasn’t able to enjoy the very race he’d longed to compete in. So much of his smuggling was designed to earn him the money to establish his racing career so he could contest the Indy 500 — and there he was, anxious, jaded, paranoid, and unable to soak up the experience.

It is, truly, an incredible story, especially for the fact that Lanier used his prison time to its fullest. He writes that he regularly volunteered in prison psychiatric units, spending hours speaking to suicidal inmates while learning how to appreciate the little things in life that made he never would have noticed while free but that made prison life bearable. Upon his release, he remarried his childhood sweetheart and ex-wife Pam and has become an activist for the release of nonviolent marijuana prisoners.

Survival of the Fastest is, without a doubt, one of the most incredible motorsport books I’ve ever read. I can’t recommend it enough — but if you’re not totally convinced, we’ve printed an excerpt right here on Jalopnik. It ought to be greater than sufficient to alter your thoughts.

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