Sunday, November 11, 2018

Auto Racing and Drug Smuggling: The Stories of Bill and Don Whittington and Randy Lanier

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!979 Le Mans winning Kremer Porsche
Don (left) and Bill Whittington (center) chat with actor Paul Newman at the Le Mans race in 1979.

I continue to learn more an more about the automobile and American life. The stories of Bill and Don Whittington and Randy Lanier sound too good to be true. All three were involved in high-stakes marijuana smuggling in South Florida during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Whittington brothers won Le Mans in 1979 in a production car, the first to do so since 1953. 

 But the wheels came off in the 1980s. Bill was  sentenced to 15 years in prison for tax evasion and a conspiracy to smuggle drugs. Bill Whittington, now 59, pleaded guilty to income-tax evasion and conspiracy to smuggle marijuana in 1986. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison and ordered to surrender aircraft, race cars and boats valued at $7 million. He was released from custody in November 1990 and for a time managed a Pagosa Springs, Colorado resort. 

Don Whittington, 61, pleaded guilty to money laundering in connection with his brother Bill's illegal activity. He was released from an 18-month federal sentence in March 1988. Their Le Mans-winning Kremer Porsche was the center subsequent litigation with the Indy Museum over whether it was a gift or a loan.
Don subsequently piloted a hot-rod P-51 Mustang at Reno and other air races. Later he owned and operated World Jet, a charter and maintenance service at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport. 
Brother Dale Whittington also drove at Indy.  He did not serve time in prison, and raced sports cars as late as 2000. He was working for his brother at World Jet when his son discovered his body in his home on June 14, 2003. The Broward County, Fla., coroner attributed 43-year-old Dale's death to a drug overdose.

Randy Lanier at Watkins Glen, 1984

Randy Lanier was the highest finishing rookie driver at Indianapolis in 1986. A drug smuggler in the 1970s, he became interested in sports cares after going to the Miami Auto Show in 1979. He later bought a rusty 1957 Porsche and by 1982 found himself running dope and at Daytona and Le Mans. He established the Blue Thunder race team in 1984, funded by drug sales, nd proved to be astonishingly successful in the IMSA Camel GT Series. In March 1984 the team placed 2nd at the 13 hours of Sebring and then a month later won the Los Angeles Times Grand Prix at Riverside. Blue Thunder won half of the rest of the series races, and then in 1984 won the Camel GT Championship.

Later arrested, released and then fleeing to Barbuda, Lanier was finally apprehended by the FBI and sentenced to life without parole under the Super Drug Kingpin Law. Released in 2014, his story needs to be told in a book and perhaps a film!
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