The Ray Price name that has become synonymous with Harley-Davidson motorcycles in North Carolina is taking a final bow and stepping off the stage.
Raleigh’s Ray Price Harley-Davidson/Triumph dealership, founded 35 years ago by the legendary drag racer and Johnston County native, has been renamed by the showroom’s new owner who purchased the business last month from Price’s widow.
The new name: Tobacco Road Harley-Davidson and Triumph Raleigh.
The dealership on South Saunders Street is already using the new name in emails and social media and will officially operate under the Tobacco Road banner on Friday, said general manager Mark Hendrix.
The decision to rename the business wasn’t new owner John Marotti’s preference. Jean Price, 79, insisted on retiring her late husband’s name as a condition of selling the dealership, Hendrix said.
She owned the legal rights to the name because the racing hero had taken out copyrights on it, Hendrix said.
Marotti, who owns several Harley-Davidson dealerships in Arizona, urged Jean Price to reconsider for several weeks when negotiating the sale, but she would not relent, Hendrix said. She did not want to lose control over the way the Ray Price name might be used in the future.
“It just wasn’t available for sale,” Hendrix said. “Once she didn’t have control of the brand or the performance of the business, she didn’t want to take the chance it might not stay the way he [Ray Price] would expect.”
Hendrix noted that the Ray Price motorcycle racing team that Price had owned was retired when he died two years ago, at age 78. Not only was the name retired, but the team was disbanded and rides no more.
In Raleigh, many newcomers and old timers who knew nothing of Ray Price’s feats on the drag strip knew of his charitable activities. Price’s dealership had hosted the popular Bikefest in Raleigh for the past 13 years, attracting thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts to downtown Raleigh and raising considerable sums for local charities.
Price’s admirers can still pay homage to the racing legend with a visit to the dealership’s second-floor exhibit, which features a storyboard and six drag racing motorcycles ridden by the man himself. Price is also memorialized at the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame, the Harley-Davidson Museum in Wisconsin, and the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame in South Dakota.
Price set a number of land speed records, one of which still stands, and also brought about innovations in motorcycle racing in the 1970s. Known as “The Father of the Funnybike,” Price introduced “wheelie bars” to keep 600-horsepower machines from going airborne at high speeds.
Jean Price, through Hendrix, declined to comment.
Hendrix noted: “She wanted the name to retire when it was at the top of his game in the business world.”