Racingkc.com enjoys inducting racers who have made an impact on Kansas City area racing. This driver was known for many things besides being a driver, he was a machinist, an engine builder, a politician, a Taystee bread man, a milk man, a race fan who traveled the country to catch a race, a fisherman, an innovator, and a person who loved to share his opinion. He was involved in our sport for 50 years and his business has been in the family for 51 years on January 16. The inductee is none other than Ray Littrell, maybe we should say ornery Ray Littrell, because the stories flowed from daughter Elizabeth and son Chris. Some stories I knew, some I was hearing for the first time, some I experienced myself, some just showed how much the Littrell family has meant to Kansas City racing!
The business was known as K&L machine shop and it first opened behind the Big Burger in the Foxwood area off of Vivion Road. I was a teenager when Dad would take heads over to get machine work done. Of the course the business moved to its current location and is now known as Clay County Rebuilders.
The sign (side of a racecar body) below has, for years, told everyone you have arrived at Ray’s business. But now for the rest of the story. It seems, like a true rule bending racer, Ray forgot to get permission to put up that sign so the city of Claycomo wanted it removed. Well now being the racer that Ray was he figured out how to keep that sign on the wall, he became a politician! Yep, by running for office it became a political sign and the town ordinance did not apply. So now you know why the sign says “Vote Ray Littrell”.
Ray became part owner of his first racecar at 15 years old. At 17 years old he got behind the wheel for the first time and he was racecar driver for the next 50 plus years. Ray raced at many tracks over the years, Riverside Stadium, Lakeside Speedway (both locations), I-70 Speedway, Valley Speedway, I-35 Speedway, Boone, Sedalia, Kilgore Texas, Adrian, and Volusia Speedway in Barberville, Florida. The old Lakeside Speedway brought the Littrell family the most fun. Ray and Chris were the first father son team to win in two different classes on the same night at the old Lakeside Speedway. The old Lakeside Speedway was their favorite time in racing, the family fun! They miss the parties afterwards which would occur on the terrace until way into the morning.
Elizabeth and Chris both mentioned Ray was a milk man, so naturally I asked if they had any other unexpected brothers or sisters? They replied they were the Taystee children.
Ray raced in numerous classes, Street Stock, Grand National, Sportsman, Late Model to name a few. What most people don’t know is the Grand National class four bar suspension was because Ray bent my ear for 30 minutes one night at Lakeside. Ray was very good at voicing his opinion, rather right or wrong, he had a passion for our sport and would let those in the positions of responsibility know his thoughts. That included the night Don Marrs pulled a bad slide job on one of his drivers.
Ray did not race a small block motor until the 1986 season. The year Chris won his Lakeside Championship rumors were flying about an engine claim so Ray built a special motor to be claimed. Different size bores, different size rods, remember he had his own machine shop, but unfortunately the claimer did not make the race to be in position to claim this special prize. Later on Ray had Hank Thompson claim Chris’ motor.
Ray was not afraid to travel purchasing racecars from Bobby Allison in Alabama, to an ARCA car from Howe in Michigan, to GRT Late Model chassis #296. He went coast to coast for racing California to the Carolinas. The same could be said about going to the races, he might load up the vehicle and go somewhere to just watch. He did not worry about getting back he worried about getting there. His truck had over 400,000 miles on it and Elizabeth said it was her inheritance. Some of those travels were out of the country to Canada and Mexico. When crossing the border to Mexico the group had placed six cases of beer underneath the raft which was tied down on top. The Mexican Border patrol was not interested in taking the raft off the top to search for anything like beer. Also on this trip Ray broke his arm. On another trip with Dean and Cory Wray, they decided to try basketball and Ray hurt his knee. Ray loved to fish, race, and old westerns, in particular his favorite was Bonanza.
Ray did seem to have an issue with racecars and trailers. At Lakeside one night the frame broke on the truck with the racecar on the back. With the bed in a V shape it made getting the racecar off the tow vehicle very difficult. Coming home from I-35 Speedway one night the car came off the trailer and wiped out a guard rail. Fortunately the officer was a race fan and instructed them to get everything loaded and get gone. Of course there was also the time the crew was on the trailer tuning the racecar headed to the race track.
Ray also added on to his shop five different times. Once again, one of the buildings was a battle with the town of Claycomo, they built a building over a building because the building inspector would not issue the approval. Eventually of course the township gave in and the remains of the old building can be seen inside the building which was constructed over it.
Ray Littrell loved the sport and he loved people. When racing at Volusia Speedway in Florida, Kenny King would travel with them. One night at I-35 Speedway he put up $300 if a young lady could win the feature and guess what she did. One of Ray’s proudest moments was to give her the money. He supported many racers over the years. He was normally at his shop 6 days a week, Monday through Saturday and he loved to listen to the Racinboys. He represented the sport very well. Today we induct Ray Littrell into the RacingKC.com Hall of Fame.