Talk about a wild ride!
Imagine, if you will, being a 13-year-old boy who has recently moved to Hollywood, South Florida, after a life of hard work in rural Virginia. Eventually, getting caught up with marijuana and partying, you fully embrace the lifestyle of the 1960s and '70s with your fellow hippie friends. Perhaps your father is less than thrilled at your new lifestyle choices, but you eventually begin selling weed to pay for your extravagant taste. Again your father expresses concerns over your life choices as he sends you to work in construction. Little did you know that this would be a blessing disguised as your co-workers becoming your core customer base, allowing you to buy a boat and quickly begin smuggling drugs. This was the childhood of racing's toughest rookie Randy Lanier, who eventually became America's most prolific drug smuggler and racing car driver. So how did this scrappy young teenager become such an icon in racing and organized crime?
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In 1978, Mr. Lanier began his foray into racing in a beaten-up old 1957 Porsche 356 Speedster which he bought with the money he had earned from drug smuggling. Just a short time before the start of his career, he had purchased a boat with his money and began trafficking marijuana at the request of a close friend. Randy didn't see much wrong with it at the time, as weed was less criminalized than even today, which is really saying something. However, it became clear that Lanier had a knack for racing as he barreled past other drivers faster than most would ever dare travel. Racing is a sport meant only for the most daring individuals, so Randy excelled at it. Eventually, Lanier found the darker side of drug dealing when he was confronted by a burglar in his home, which led him to call off his criminal ventures.
This new life of honest work didn't last long as he quickly realized that he had become addicted to racing and soon started up his old business to pay for his newfound passion. Randy won race after race, beating teams like Ford and Porsche, with the latter holding a particular disdain toward his brutish American ways. Eventually, Ford approached Randy and asked him to leave his current team, Blue Thunder Racing, named after a Government anti-drug task force, and join them at the Ford Racing team. While the offer was tempting, Lanier eventually turned them down to keep his friends by his side. Little did he know this would be the play that would seal his fate forever.
Likely from a particular disgruntled racing team bitter over Lanier's decision to stick with his team, the FBI received a tip-off of Randy's less-than-legal operations. This put Randy in a sticky position as he was soon put under investigation. One drug smuggling deal entailed smuggling 83 tons, or 166,000 lbs, of marijuana which would have been the most significant load. After the deal was complete, Randy thought about retirement as the shipment would have been worth around $55million. However, due to a leak in the area of the ship responsible for holding the weed, the pot began to break down, causing the hull to fill with methane gas. When the team retrieved the substance, the heat from the tools they used to cut through the metal ignited the gas, setting the boat on fire. Randy's last haul of weed resulted in the authorities cracking down even harder on the drug smuggling enterprise.
Due to a policy set in place by the administration at the time, drug crime had become heavily policed. Randy was apprehensive about one law that essentially gave domestic organized crime syndicate leaders a life sentence if caught. Eventually, after rounding up a few persons associated with Randy, the FBI came down like a sack of bricks on him and his crew, dishing out an extreme case against him. This even extended to involve Charles Podesta, who claimed to be his best friend, who would later testify against everyone involved to declare less strict sentencing. As a result, Randy received a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
However, Hope was not all lost for the racing legend, as he served just 27 years before being released by order of Presidential pardon in 2014. Along with some of his associates, Randy becomes a free man and plans to marry his former wife, Pam. Charles only served seven of his twelve-year prison sentence, which rightfully angered some of his former partners though Randy claims that all is forgiven on his end. Nowadays, Lanier is the face of a medical marijuana company, which is the best ending this story could have. Determined to get back onto the track, Lanier regularly teaches the ins and outs of racing while trying to keep up with his old skills. We may one day see the 68-year-old back on the track soon as he keeps in great shape through his Yoga and artistic expression.