Larry McBride challenges the conventional wisdom that a stable upbringing and a formal education are the paths to success. McBride blazed his way to multiple quarter-mile world records on a Top Fuel motorcycle with common sense, hard work, talent and genius (from his brother).
McBride, a 63-year-old Poquoson native known in the racing world as “Spiderman,” said he will attempt this weekend to break his quarter-mile world record of 5.50 seconds (265 mph), established more than two years ago. his Top Fuel four-cylinder bike.
The occasion is the NHRA Virginia Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park and a series of match races against rising star Dave Vantine. It marks McBride’s return to his “home track” for the first time in over a decade and will be his first NHRA event in over 20 years.
He ran much longer than that, 47 years to be exact, becoming the first person on the planet to run a quarter mile in under 6.0 seconds, then 5.9, 5.8, 5.7, 5 .6 and 5.5. For the past 42 years, he and his older brother Steve have operated out of their motorcycle repair and build shop, Cycle Specialists in Newport News.
They’ve built some of the fastest bikes in history from the ground up, for themselves and the sport’s best riders, often designing the parts themselves. McBride has earned well over $1 million in racing, $250,000 in a single season, and continues to race thanks to the generous sponsorship of Pingel, Trim-Tex, Drag Specialties and Final Swipe Merchant Services.
All of that is remarkable on its own, but even more so when you consider that McBride dropped out of school after eighth grade and moved from Alabama to Newport News to escape a bad home life — “the best decision that I have ever taken”. Things weren’t much better with his relative from Newport News, so he moved into his own flat at 15, when he was walking to petrol pumping work at Windsor Park Exxon in Denbigh.
How did he survive?
“If you don’t have the ability to get an education, you better have some common sense,” McBride said. “Do I wish I had a high school education? Yes. Do I think a college education is important? Absolutely, and I’m proud to have sent one of my children to the university and the other in high school.
“But I had to work, and you can go a long way in the world with common sense and passion.”
McBride’s passion began at age 14, when he got his motorcycle license in Alabama. “You can’t do this anymore,” he said.
Just over a year after getting the job as a gas station attendant, Casey Cycle City at Newport News hired him to work on motorcycles, and months later he raced one for the first time. He took his motorcycle studies very seriously, going to any “school” his employers would pay to learn about the different brands.
McBride opened Cycle Specialists in 1980, and the business has flourished ever since. Older brother Steve, who dropped out of school in 10th grade, has been by his side every step of the way, in their Jefferson Avenue store and on the racetrack, making most of the parts that made McBride the motorcycle racer. faster on land. a quarter of a mile.
“He’s a genius as a machinist, mechanic and engineer, super, super smart,” McBride said. “He’s self-taught and he can do anything, so he designs every piece.
“He understands the physics and how everything fits into the chassis.”
McBride provides the talent and the courage. He has recovered from 15 broken bones in racing and third-degree burns sustained when an engine exploded seven years ago and was airlifted to hospital.
“I love racing as much as when I was younger and I love winning,” McBride said. “Winning is the only thing that matters.”
World records matter too. So when the light turns green on the tree for his match races against Vantine, a former crew member on his team, it will be all business – especially the race to “home” for the first time in one. decade.
“There’s nothing better than racing at your hometown track,” said McBride, who hasn’t raced in almost two years due to the COVID-19 shutdown and some issues. personal health. “That would mean the world would set the record there, so I’m definitely trying to do that.”
Marty O’Brien, [email protected], 757-247-4963, follow on Twitter @MartyOBrienDP