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BRISTOL, Tenn. - Larry Carrier, who helped start the race track now known as Bristol Motor Speedway, died Tuesday after a long illness. He was 82. A developer, Carrier worked with Carl Moore and R.G. Pope in building the half-mile oval track, which opened in 1961.

Carrier bought the track out of bankruptcy in 1985, gave ESPN exclusive rights to broadcast Bristol's night race for years, and built the seating capacity to 71,000 before selling the track to Bruton Smith in 1996 for $26 million.

Bristol now seats 160,000 and hosts two NASCAR Nextel Cup races each year.

Carrier and Moore also built the Bristol International Dragway and started their own sanctioning body, the International Hot Rod Association, in 1965. The dragway was part of the sale in 1996.

Jeff Byrd, president and general manager of Bristol, called Carrier a leader in the racing industry whose contributions were monumental.

"He had the foresight to know that NASCAR was going to be something big and he went out and built one of the greatest facilities of that time in 1961," Byrd said.

"He will certainly be missed by all that were fortunate enough to know him or work with him. Our thoughts and prayers are with Shirley and the entire Carrier family."

Carrier is a member of both the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and the Drag Racing Hall of Fame.

He is survived by his wife, Shirley, and four children. Carrier's funeral was scheduled for Thursday at 8 p.m. at First Baptist Church in Blountville, with burial on Friday.
 
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