The man who convinced John Menard to give Tony Stewart a shot in Indy cars has died.
Larry Curry, 68, died Friday in Indianapolis after a series of debilitating strokes during the past two years.
Curry came to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a mechanic for Gus Hoffman’s team in the early 1970s before moving on to Rattlesnake Racing and hooked up with Scott Brayton and Dick Simon. Curry then joined Brayton at Menard’s Racing, and they captured the pole at Indianapolis in 1995.
When the Indy Racing League debuted in 1996, Menard had veteran Eddie Cheever and Brayton, but team manager Curry convinced the billionaire car owner to give USAC champion Stewart a ride as well. The future NASCAR champion was second in his IndyCar debut at Orlando.
“I’m not big on rookies but Larry was adamant we needed to give this kid a chance,” said Menard back in 1996. “And I’m glad we did.”
Brayton won the pole at Indianapolis but was killed while practicing and Stewart started from the pole and led 44 laps before blowing up. He went on to capture the 1997 IRL championship and then migrated to NASCAR full-time in 1999.
Curry spent two years in a federal penitentiary in 2001-2002 for embezzling $1 million from Menard, but returned to IndyCar racing for Tony George’s Vision Racing in 2005, then ran Dreyer & Reinbold’s IndyCar effort for five years before managing the Indianapolis Speedrome, When Mike Harding formed his IndyCar effort in 2017, Curry was hired as the team manager.
He is survived by wife Bobbie and son Matt.