~ Larry Nye~
Article Published in Volume 41 #37, December 5, 2006 in the Gater Racing News
Longtime Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo ‘The
Lip’ Durocher once said “Nice guys finish last.”
His ‘win at all costs’ mantra may have fit the bill
in professional sports but doesn’t get it in racing
where sportsmanship and ‘doing things right’ can
carry as much or more weight than any victory.
This past week I had the pleasure of talking with
one of Modified Racings longtime ambassadors
who ‘did things right’.
Larry Nye was born in Preble, NY in October of
1934 and raised on his fathers’ dairy farm where
there was plenty of work to keep him busy. He
completed his schooling at Preble and Homer
although never had time for sports as “Dad
always had something for me to do.” After his
father sold the farm in 1951 Larry continued
farming on Coldbrook Road until 1957 when he
hired on at Carrier as a welder. “I did cooper-
nickel welding on water purifiers for ships and
submarines.” And he did it for a long time too, 37
years total before retiring.
In 1955 Larry started two love affairs that remain
to this day, he married his wife Loretta and
bought his first race car, a 1936 Ford coupe for
$30.00 from Jimmy Fuller which he painted as
#25. His first race was on the quarter mile asphalt
in Brewerton and he related “I had these combat
boots on and I hit the gas and brake at the same
time, the guy ahead must’ve hit the brake ‘cause
I had to swerve to miss him but I got by and won
the first race I ever entered.” He still proudly
displays the trophy won that day, a small tin
pencil holder and ashtray. “I was hooked from
that day on.” Larry’s interest in racing in part
came from his relationship with Loretta whose
uncle was Leon ‘Sliver’ White. Leon was good
friends with Hermie Graf and Lafayette Promoter
Jack Brandt and an early pioneer of the sport.
“He used to draw a car from here to Canton. He
had a claw hammer, a crescent wrench and a pair
of vice grips, now that’s a tool box!” Leon and
Hermie were both to play integral parts not only
in Larry’s racing future but also in future
NASCAR Sportsman star Bill Wimble’s future as
well. “Hermie Graf couldn’t run Canton that good
so they talked him into letting Wimble try
because he was always running around with a
helmet under his arm. So Bill went right to the
front from the back just like lightning, it was a
good car you know. Then her (Loretta’s) uncle
Leon bought the car and that’s how Bill got a
steady ride. They went to Plattsburgh and he got
known up there in that car. And then they went
to Fonda where he got picked up by McCredy and
went on to be a star. But that ain’t much to do
with me..”
Larry continued to campaign the ’36 Ford
through the remainder of the 50’s both as the
number 25 and 56, “same car but different
number ‘cause somebody always had #25.” He hit
several tracks in the days of tow barring including
Oswego, Lafayette, Canton, Glen Aubrey,
Plattsburgh and Watertown. As the 60’s
approached Hermie Graf wanted to go sportsman
and teamed with Larry to form the C-15 team
which traveled to Monroe County and Fonda. “I
really liked Fonda and Rochester. Fonda was
tough because it was NASCAR and they’d stop
you and if your car didn’t start they’d put you last
no matter where you were. That’s why we gave up
Fonda with the C-15, I just couldn’t do nothing
there. So that’s when I went with Ender’s and
Ray never wanted to go to Fonda.
“In early ’62 I bought a lot of parts off Ray Enders
and he come over and borrowed them. Pistons,
heads, carburetor and all that. And I never
supposed I could drive the car but anyway I went
over to see if I could buy the engine back and Ray
says ‘I’ll take $500.00 for the motor.’ Well
Jeepers, we couldn’t afford $500.00 so we went
over to get my parts out of it, pistons, cam,
carburetor and intake, get my parts and come
home and build my own motor. Ray says ‘You’re
not taking that motor apart, take that motor, put
it in that car, take the whole goddamned car and
race it!’ And we went to Morris and Waterloo and
made a great going of it for the next several years
that I run with him.” Interesting how these teams
come together, sometime sunder shotgun terms.
Thus began Larry’s successful association with
Ray ‘Pop’ Enders and the #150, a striking car
adorned with flames and lightning bolts. The first
car the team campaigned for that 1962 season
was a sedan which Larry called “the back seat
driver car” and was successful in recording wins
at Midstate, Waterloo and Weedsport. The team
ended the season with Larry’s first top finish at
the State Fair, placing 9th. The successors were
to be better. “I always welded the cars, built all
the 150’s except the first one.” Loretta relates,
“That’s why I didn’t mind him racing because he
was a welder and he welded those cars together.”
The team looked for more success in 1963 and
debuted a nice looking 1934 Ford 5 window
coupe to get the job done.
We’re looking at a photo of the cockpit, there’s
valves and toggles and gauges everywhere, I had
to ask “could you see the tach?’ “Nyah, all that
stuff in there and nothing worked but the oil
gauge and the temperature gauge. And everybody
says ‘How the hell?’ I had push buttons in there,
this that and the other deal. Sammy Reakes got
in it two or three times and said ‘Jesus Christ I’d
have to be an airplane technician to ever run this
thing.’ The only thing that ever worked was, yeah,
the throttle of course, oil temp., oil pressure and
water temperature.” OK. My favorite question is
next, ‘what was the cam?’ “Iskendarian 1007LD.
Secret of it was after we got that cam I used to sit
in an armchair and hold it and roll it and Ray
used to grind it himself. BAHAHAHA. Didn’t look
good enough for him coming from the factory.
You can tell those stories today.”
“We used to go to Waterloo, come home and then
go to Morris. Something would happen to the car
(at Waterloo) and we wouldn’t get to Morris. Work
all day Sunday, Ray would say ‘Ain’t never gonna
drive that car again, you’re out, you’re done!’ ‘I
told him I’m not going to leave you with a
wrecked race car Ray.’ So we’d get it ready to go
and about five o’clock he’d say ‘Geeze, you ever
think it’ll run right again? Want to go to
Weedsport and try it?’ Load it on the trailer and
away to Weedsport we go and win the race. And
then he’s all happy again for another week until
the car got wrecked again.” “We’d run Waterloo
Saturday night then Midstate Sunday afternoon
and I have come back from Midstate, drove
straight through to Weedsport and made that
too.” Loretta interjects, “That’s when we were
young and foolish, AHAHAHAH.” “I always used to
get to Weedsport about the time the feature
started, and they had about 22 cars there. We’d
ask if we could run at the back because they
hadn’t run any heats. ‘Yeah, you can run in the
rear if you want’ they’d say. Unload the car and
go out and win it.” What was the take for a
winning weekend? “Oh, Waterloo, $200 to $225,
Morris, $40 to $45 and Weedsport $150 to $200,
to win.” The obvious follow up question is, ‘why
Morris?’  “Clean Sweep.” Loretta chimes in,
“Because Ray wanted to go down there and beat
(in unison, they are truly a couple) MOOSE
CARY! AHAHAHAHA!!” My dad always said, “We
hated to see Larry coming…he was our
competition and we didn’t like any of those guys.”
“Moose was gonna kick my ass after I got by him
in the third corner one day but then he come by
afterward and congratulated me. Everytime
anybody beat him he wanted to (get into a scrap).
When he came to Waterloo though him and I was
the greatest of friends. He wanted to know how to
get around that track and how did I get around
there so fast and he couldn’t hold a candle to us
up there. But at Morris he was a top dog.”  “ I
always liked Morris, so long as you could get
through the soap suds.” Loretta adds, “They used
to wet it down with soap suds, you know, to keep
the dust down.” “I used to go down to Song
Mountain and get those snow goggles, orange
snow goggles. I had those and I could see right
through that dust. They wondered ‘how the hell I
went so fast and could see where I was going,’
they said ‘he’s stupid running through the dust
that fast and couldn’t see.’ But, those goggles let
me see right through it.” The word “KNUCK” was
now adorning the drivers side door and I had to
ask how he got that nickname. Loretta related,
“Well, my father used to call him knucklehead.”
Can I use that? “yeah, go ahead.” Always
wondered about that.
By 1964 the Ender’s team had honed it’s skills.
Waterloo was a tough joint, Reakes, McArdell,
Allen, Roberts, an occasional trip by Kotary, and
a host of others that provided some of the
toughest competition of the flathead era in New
York State. “Waterloo was my favorite track. I
liked Fonda and Rochester too.” Waterloo was a
dust free track after 25 or 30 laps you’d pick up
the goo and track right up off your feet. Fonda
was like that too, always tacky, all night long.
Waterloo was like Fonda in reverse, turns three
and four at Fonda were like turns one and two at
Waterloo.” I interject that from what I’ve seen,
Larry ran the cushion: “I ran the track up high.
That’s what everybody used to say, ‘How come
nobody can get traction and the mud’s so deep
and here’s Larry Nye right out on the fence
putting white side walls on his tires and going
right by everybody in the mud out there. There’s
something wrong with that car.’ They just weren’t
fast enough for me is all.” “It was a good heavy
built car, it was rugged. We used good heavy pipe
and it handled well.” Larry copped his first Track
Championship at Waterloo that year, “won 50% at
Weedsport that year too” as well as some
checkers at Midstate. “I don’t remember doing
this but Gordy Smith, he always told me ‘You
smart little snot’, he always called me that, he
says ‘you went by me one day and waved at me
on the way by and then you turned right over you
shoulder and waved at me goodbye.’ I says I don’t
ever remember doing that to anybody but he said
‘Well, you did it to me!’ I’ll never forget him telling
me that. We had a lot of fun at Midstate.”  
“When I was young we always went to the State
Fair and spent the week there. It was a big deal,
so naturally I wanted to win the championship
there, everybody did. In ’64 we had the car going
real good and I had my best chance. I started 4th
and followed him (Kotary) down the backstretch
and caught him going into three. Out of four he
went to the wall and I went under him and we got
to one and I held him off. So I got the lead and I
thought to myself ‘Now don’t be an @$$&*#! and
spin.’ I got out of two and figuring I’d have to hold
him off but found I had some room so I poured
the coals to it. I had a leaky water pump that day
and everyone thought it shorted out my
distributor but what happened was I had a
Harmon Collins dual coil and one of the coil
brackets broke. It shorted one coil out and went
to four cylinders out of turn four on the fourth
lap and I was done. It was a real heartbreaker.”
“Cliff Kotary will tell you to this day that I must’ve
been turning 10,000 Rpm when I went by him at
the Fair but we weren’t, we never turned our
engines, I more or less ran a higher set of gears
than anybody else. A lot of people though we
were twisting it hard but what we had was a
special built set of exhaust pipes. It took Ray
Enders all one winter to build those pipes,
everyone was exactly the same, the ferrules were
all ground out and the center exhaust was 6
inches longer coming out the end into the
collector. When the exhaust come out the end of
these pipes, that made power. The collector
attached to the end of those shorter pipes and
was 16 inches long.” The result was an engine
that, as my father recalled, not only sounded
strong, but had the performance to back it up.
1964 was Larry’s best season to date with the
Ender’s Special but Loretta remembers “Every
time he won a championship there was never any
money in the point fund.” Larry is showing me
his ’64 championship ‘trophy’, a toy grader.
“There was $2450.00 in the point fund that year
and the track bought a grader for $1200.00. I
guess the rest went for the banquet AHAHAHA.”
1965 was another strong year for the team
although Sammy Reakes was able to claim the
Waterloo Championship in the Brazak 111. Larry
was a threat to win every time out though and
often did. Midstate was now running overheads
and my father recalls “Larry would come down
with his flathead and still give us hell.” We’re
looking over a picture of the #150 on its side at
Waterloo, “Bob Chick and I tangled, took down a
lot of fence.” They’d always have the car fixed and
back racing the next week” recalls Loretta. The
car looked like it had been through a war, and it
had been. “I worked 10 to 12 hour days, drove to
work on the car most nights and we were
building this house here all by ourselves, I didn’t
sleep much.” His thirst for a State Fair wasn’t
quenched this year either as Kotary reeled off his
sixth straight over Mike Miller, McArdell and
Larry who finished fourth. It was to be one of his
last runs in the flathead powered coupe.
“For 1966 we built the ’35 Chevy coupe with a
327 as Waterloo and Weedsport had gone
overhead. The Fair was still 280 cubic inch limit
so we couldn’t run that car at Syracuse. That’s
how a I got together with Ray Kennedy.” Ray had
built a neat 1934 Pontiac coupe with 261
Chevrolet power and the two made a good team.
“Ray was a tall, lanky guy and I was short, I had
to add two sockets under the seat just so I could
see over the steering wheel. Two weeks before the
State Fair we went up to Skyline to try it out and
then over to Morris once or twice. We ran two
seconds faster than anyone else at Skyline that
night. So Kennedy says ‘How about trying it over
to Morris Friday night’, so we went over to Morris
and got to second and the head gasket blew. We
fixed that and tried it the next week, got up to
second or third and the gasket blew again. He
says ‘By Jesus the way you’re running the car I’m
going to sign you up for the State Fair.” That’s
how I got the ride.”
“Ray took that there Spider Blower off it for the
Fair. It was out of a Corvair and ran off the
exhaust, got too hot. He had it manufactured on
there and it was fast, but didn’t last. He took that
off and put his regular head on it and it lasted all
day at the State Fair. Ray thought he had
something there but it was too hot for the head
gasket.” “Ray Kennedy was a great mechanic, a
lot better mechanic than I ever thought of being.
But he’d say ‘Here, you adjust the valves. The car
seems to go a lot faster when you adjust them.’
So I always adjusted them. I just had a looser feel
than he did, and loose is fast. I didn’t really think
I had much chance that day against all those V8’s
with that little 6 cylinder but we were in the race
and gave it our all.” At the State Fair that day
Mike Miller took the early lead and held it
through lap 20, Kotary was nursing his 60X until
the last five laps as he related later that he knew
he had a stretched rod, but as his entry had been
a ‘race day decision’, he hadn’t had time to
change it out. Kotary caught Miller entering turn
one on lap 20 but lost the engine, Miller’s luck
ran out almost simultaneously as his right rear
went down. “I was running third all day long until
Cliff and Miller broke, that’s how I won the State
Fair.” It was a popular win for the welder from
Preble and ended Kotary’s string of six straight.
“Cliff Kotary was always tough at the Fair,
everybody wanted to beat him. I look upon that
race as my biggest accomplishment.” Last year at
the Carquest Motorsports Exposition Joe Marotta
posed a question about that particular day in
1966, asking about a ‘first’ that happened that
day and there are actually two answers. The one
that Joe had in mind was that it was the first
time a driver won the State Fair while wearing a
firesuit. The ‘first’ that came to my mind was that
it was the first and only time a Midstate
registered car won the event.
For the 1967 season the team bought a former
McArdell mount from Tony ‘Popeye’ Vitti, a Falcon
that they campaigned at Weedsport and Waterloo.
They also retained the ’35 Chevy coupe but what
happened to the ’34 Ford? “Gone, Destroyed. We
always cut up the old one to build the new one.”
Larry was in his prime as a driver and the team
continued to click, copping their second
championship at Waterloo that year. The Ender’s
years were coming to a close though and when
Ray passed, Larry bought the car and continued
on his own. Larry recalls “Really, they were the
most successful years I ran.” But he wasn’t done
by a longshot and copped yet another track
championship at Waterloo in 1969 in the 150
which he now owned. He started traveling to
many tracks during this time including Lebanon
Valley, Rolling Wheels and Five Mile Point. He
even copped a top 10 at Middletown in the
Eastern States 200. In 1970 though he lost an
engine and took a ride in Don Hyatt’s #12, a
1935 Chevy coach with big block power. The new
team clicked at Waterloo almost immediately and
Larry was able to capture yet another track
championship at the Seneca County Fairgrounds
in 1971, his fourth at the famed oval. “We had a
lot of good runs with Hyatt but only the one
championship, just not the consistency as we had
with Enders.” Larry continued on with the Hyatt’s
as they changed venues. “One night we went to
Shangri-La and they really liked the tow and the
track. It was an easier tow and they immediately
started building an asphalt car.” Thus began
Larry’s love affair with the asphalt tracks and
when the Hyatt’s moved west Larry continued at
Shangri-La and Spencer until his retirement in
2001.
Through all of these years of racing Larry showed
great versatility as a driver. He was able to qualify
Herm Graf’s super at Oswego, “I was the only one
able to qualify that car in time trials.” He had a
stint in one of Joe Lawrence’s modifieds at
Lebanon Valley in a 200, wheeling the car from a
42nd starting position up to 6th before the
header came off and took two spark plugs with it,
“that car was flying, I was wondering in my mind
if I should pass Jackie Wilson (Lawrence’s regular
driver at the time) or not.” And he ran the Race of
Champions with the same dedication that he has
shown in all aspects of his life. “I’m the only one
who’s run in the Race of Champions at every
track, Langhorne, Trenton, Pocono, Flemington
and Oswego. I didn’t get the finishes I would have
liked but I made every one for 38 years.”  And he
made a lot of friends along the way, Loretta asks
“Did you ever know Richie Evans? He was quite a
guy, party guy and a lot of fun.” Larry recalled “I
always bought my tires from Richie, $40.00 a tire.
He always told me ‘you gotta have a set’ but I
couldn’t afford three and so I bought two. He
always gave me three though and said ‘you can
pay me later.’ Of course he would never take the
money later, he was good to me.” “If we didn’t
have the money to buy new tires we went around
the junk pile and got what was there and run
them.”
Larry looks back upon his career with fondness,
“We had a lot of fun in racing, we were dirt poor
and always on a shoestring but we never took any
food out of anyone’s mouth and the bills were
always paid. The early days were a lot more fun
than today. Build a car out of a junkyard and go
run it.” It’s clear that through Larry’s career that
when he had competitive equipment, he was a
front runner now matter what the venue. He
laments about the scene today, “Where does it
give anybody any skill of manufacturing a car
when everybody has to be the same?” He lived
and enjoyed the era when modified racing was
ruled by individual thought and the ability to put
these thought to use on the track. He ran 162
MPH at Pocono on the big track, ‘left my mark on
Langhorne in the third turn”, raced supers at
Oswego and jalopies at Brewerton, he saw it all
through the transitional years and his desire to
catch lightning in a bottle never waned. For his
efforts he was awarded the ‘Perseverance Award”
at Spencer Speedway in 2001. He was also
inducted into the Race of Champions Hall of
Fame in 2002 and the Central NY Old Time HOF
in 2005 as well as inductions at Shangri-La and
Waterloo. But he still considers his 1966 NYS
Fair Championship his greatest accomplishment,
as any farm boy of that era would. Larry is the
very fabric of Modified Stock Car Racing. The ‘low
buck’ working man that always made the show
richer, who’s desire and dedication was evident
through nearly 50 years of competition. He
happily sacrificed a great deal of his life for
racing, for the thrill of wheeling a modified
through tacky clay or hot asphalt. “A few years
ago I had a plaque made up of that ’66 trophy
and I took it down to Ray Kennedy’s wife before
she passed, you’d though I’d given her the world.
Said she wouldn’t have anything on her wall but
that.” And that’s what Larry did for all racing
fans, he gave of himself. Leo the Lip had it wrong,
nice guys can finish first and Larry Nye is proof of
that. It certainly was a pleasure talking with Larry
and Loretta Nye, a team that has stayed together
for over 51 years now, and I want to thank them
for sharing their time with me. Larry has some
thanks too for both Jerry Barnhart who traveled
to the ROC with him for 30 years and also to
Roger Watson who helped out for the last 10
years of his career. Was there anything else?
“Yeah, I miss it.” And racing misses you Larry.     
As you will read elsewhere in this issue of the
Gater, one of Larry’s friends, Bill Wimble, has
been diagnosed with cancer and could use our
support. In this season of giving, drop a line to let
Bill know that we’re pulling for him to win this
race, he’ll appreciate it and it’ll make you feel
good too.
In MASCC news we’ve added a limited OHV V8
this year to our rules & have received fair interest
to date. Interested parties can contact us @
midstateantiquestockcarclub.com.  
Here’s wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas,
may Santa fill your stockings with quickchange
gears and place a nice shiny crankshaft under
the tree. And maybe a nice meaty bone for your
own Belvedere, after all, they’ve been good boys,
right? Jeff Ackerman, 6256 State Route 17C,
Endicott, NY 13760.  
Larry's 1964 Waterloo championship trophy.
Weedsport 1956. Nye Collection.
A young Larry Nye in 1958. Nye Collection.
Larry displays his first trophy.
Rough ride at Glen Aubrey 1956. Nye collection.
On the farm in 1958. Nye collection.
Fonda wasn't kind to the Graf crew. Nye collection.
More tough luck at Fonda. Nye collection.
And this crash ended the Fonda experiment. Nye collection.
'Pop' Enders backseat sedan at Waterloo, 1962. Bob Hunter Photo.
The Enders coupe in 1963 at Midstate, Don Phoenix Photo.
Backyard 150, Nye collection.
Larry with the Vitti built Falcon, 1967. Bob Hunter Photo.
5-28-1966, Waterloo. Bob Hunter Photo.
Taking down the fence at Waterloo in 1965, Norm Patrick Photo.
1964 Waterloo Champ, Bob Hunter Photo.
Syracuse 1964, Kotary collection.
Bob Hunter snapped this shot in 1964 at Waterloo.
Syracuse 1964, Nye collection.
Midstate 1964, Don Phoenix Photo.
Larry met Ray Kennedy on the backstretch at Midstate in 1963, Don Phoenix Photo.
Hyatt Sedan, Waterloo 1970. Bob Hunter Photo.
Syracuse 1964, Don Phoenix Photo.
Ray Kennedy's #67, Syracuse 1966. Don Phoenix Photo.
Larry takes the checkers at the State Fair in 1966. Bob Hunter Photo.
1966, Bob Hunter Photo.
Jack Burgess interviews Larry, State Fair 1966. Bob Hunter Photo.
Pic says '65 but it's '66. Bob Hunter Photo.
Larry in '67, Nye collection.
Middletown 1968. Fred Smith Photo.
Langhorne 1968. Fred Smith Photo.
Bill Wimble in 1954, he's won his race with cancer.
Larry displays his ROC trophy.
At the ROC in 1996. Nye collection.