Larry Roach, also widely known as ‘Axman,’ first found fame by joining the season two cast of the spin-off of the most popular TV racing series to date, entitled “Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings.” It didn’t take him long to build up the reputation of one of the most fearless racers on the track, having measured up against immortal legends of the genre, including Big Chief himself.
Aside from that, Roach is a family man, whose wife Sarah Mattox Roach equally shares the love of unthinkably fast cars speeding down lanes at a breakneck pace. They have four children together, whose interests are also deeply intertwined with what their father does for a living – it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the Roaches are a racing family through and through.
The roots of a legend
Family was indeed all that the Axman had at one point, as he expressed in an interview with dragzine.com, stating ‘Growing up where I grew up – living on a mile dirt road – we were poor, looking back. When you grow up as a kid you don’t realize you’re poor, and that you don’t have the money. I mean, we ended up playing barefooted; we didn’t have a clue! We were living it up! We had family, that’s all we had, so we lived it up!’
Larry comes from a not-so-wealthy family of logging business employees, whose steps he initially followed. He was also developing his passion at the same time, however, by following in the footsteps of his extended family members. In Axman’s own words, ‘Growing up I had a couple cousins who were about seven years older than me – I was around seven or eight and they were sixteen – and just watched them play with their cars on the street, it kinda got me wanting to outrun them. I think that’s where I got the fever from.’
As the years went by and the stakes got higher, the Axman found his cousins already racing various people for money, becoming rather envious of their position. In hindsight, though, that’s all the man really needed in order to shine – great pressure. Larry then dedicated all of his free time towards learning how to optimize a car built for speed, which eventually blossomed into a mechanic’s position paid by his cousins.
He stated ‘I was watching my cousins race, and just wanting to beat them drove me to working harder, to figure out how to get money to compete with them. By the time I was 15 years old I was working on their cars, in their garage.’ Of course, this was just the beginning of the saga that would grow to define the Axman’s life, and so he wasn’t really satisfied with newfound employment – his focus was still to out-race everyone.
Roach then revealed how the next important segment of his life unfolded, explaining ‘I would go to their garage, just trying to figure out how to make cars faster. I would pull engines down, rebuild them, try different things, call people, and try to learn everything I could about engines. And that’s where the bug really started.’
While still not really winning any races or being hailed as the world’s greatest automotive connoisseur, Larry at least had a foothold in the business, becoming instrumental to his cousins through the various speedy builds he’d come up with. Of course, this work took a great deal of time, pretty much leaving none for the extracurricular activities that any 15-year old requires.
Still, the Axman didn’t seem to mind this change, stating that ‘I wasn’t really worried about anything in life but racing. All my friends would go out to parties and do stuff. With me it was nothing about that, it was all about racing.’ With his sights set firmly on a quite hard-to-reach goal, Larry proceeded to grind his way to fame unhindered by the average wants and needs of a budding teenager.
Larry used the fact that he was already basically indispensable as a race car mechanic to fund his own career, putting most of the money he earned every day on the side so as to save up for all the required parts. The dream was to one day build a car that can easily overtake his cousins, but since he was working on their vehicles as well, a lot of genius was required to even conceive such a build.
Just do what you do, Axman
— Street Outlaws (@StreetOutlaws) May 10, 2021
After years of trying out different combinations and refining sometimes outlandish ideas, the Axman finally came up with a viable solution to all his decade-long problems, in the form of a car schematic of course. The issue then was that Larry had no means of constructing the vehicle itself, and so he had to rely on the good will and faith of another racer who did possess a production facility – fellow mechanic and race shop owner Brent Austin.
With the fearsome Megalodon car shining bright from Brent’s collection, he’s rarely if ever been challenged to a proper race, as most drivers aim to stay away from the humiliation that a vehicle this capable can inflict in a matter of seconds. The Axman was fascinated by Brent’s rather enviable career records, asking him for tips and assistance with the car he was building.
To his surprise, the automotive celebrity agreed, and so began the grueling period of saving up for every single part of the build. The Axman explained that he was unable to spend the money on literally anything else, and still needed more regardless, stating ‘For the next two years I spent every dime I made – lived with my parents – and bought parts and bought parts.
It surprisingly all worked out, and Brent soon had Larry’s childhood dream car ready to rumble on the race track. The vehicle named Nova passed a quarter of a mile (400 meters) in just over six seconds in its first run, which is better than any other 19-year-old can claim they’ve accomplished in the automotive industry.
That was just the start, however, since the second and third runs progressed much smoother, with the latter passed in the mere 5.60’s – a significant achievement in the early 2000’s, although not as impressive in early 2023. Having seen the devastating potential that Larry’s brand-new machine sported, his cousins all but lost any and all hopes of making it on the track.
In his own words, ‘So my cousins, when I made those passes, they basically quit drag racing. They have a couple of cars now – they don’t race ‘em. I mean the competition was over with as soon as that car came out.’ Having wiped out the early competition, the Axman found it much easier to focus on the higher goals that lay ahead, since he was still only at the start of his journey towards stardom.
It was then that his interest in professional racing was fully piqued, causing him to switch out his tires and enter the extremely competitive world of 10.5W racing – a specific type of drag race whose compulsory rule is for every contesting car to have tire treads that are 10.5 inches (26 centimeters) wide (W).
Regarding these face-offs, the Axman said ‘I raced until I got to where I could outrun everybody that showed up with 10.5W’s. The tracks that we raced on were just crap. I mean I hate to say that but it was back-woods, some of the worst tracks in Virginia.’
This inconsistency in track quality made it quite difficult for pretty much anyone to keep taking wins home, due to the sheer unpredictability that came with every single race. Still, somehow Larry managed to out-speed his opponents on a regular basis, earning himself a great deal of reputation there.
There were threats all around at the time, but he wasn’t really phased by them. He said ‘We always heard about all these fast cars, and about how everybody had these fast cars in North Carolina.’ In spite of the stories, barely anyone was able to keep up with the Nova once it hit the road.
His first car, however, would pale in comparison to the second – a black 1964 Chevy II with a massive screw-blower protruding through the hood, as well as 275 drag radial tires in the back for extra traction on the road.
He used this new machine to enter and win various no-time grudge races in North and South Carolina, which are car face-offs specifically designed as a sort-of free for all, allowing pretty much anyone with a car to go up against anybody who agrees to race them, without bracket constraints imposed by any particular part of a build.
All in all, no-time grudge racing lets the racers themselves dictate the terms and choose their opponents, so naturally the ‘grudge’ part of the name refers to many choosing to race their long-time rival, and thus settle whatever animosity there might be between them. His name truly rang out throughout the racing world at Shadyside Dragway in 2016, where he faced top names in the industry, such as Ziff Hudson and Barry Mitchell.
There was another event soon after that, at which point the Axman completely took Ziffman out of the competition, saying ‘That was really where my name in racing took off – when I outran Ziff. I started noticing more people were paying more attention and taking me seriously once that race was over.’
The switch to television
Having built up more than enough of a reputation, the Axman had a sudden epiphany – ‘Once I was in radial racing for a while, I realized it was basically comparing wallets. When the track was right, it was whoever wanted to throw enough money at it and blow his stuff up every pass to outrun the next one. And I knew then, that was not the type of racing I wanted to do.’
His sights were then fixated on the GALOT Motorsports Park in North Carolina’s Benson, where the filming of the first season of “Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings” (SO: NPK) was taking place. Larry fitted appropriate tires onto the champion Chevy and made his way there, hoping to race the famous crews and ‘just try to have a good time.’
Not every single race can be won, however, and so the Axman lost to Larry Larson in the competition meant to take the winner under the wing of the NPK production team. He refused to give up, biding his time until the next opportunity.
He waited until the second season’s filming was initiated at Heartland Motorsports Park in Kansas, arriving there way too early and ultimately being escorted off the premises. Regardless, the future TV star lived out of his car at a nearby Walmart parking lot for a day or two, and was eventually let into the event.
In order to even be considered for one of the show’s cast, the Axman had to win enough points in the first two racing events. He did exactly that, while making the whole process seem almost effortless. It immediately became clear that the fans love his vibe, meaning Larry was there to stay for the long haul.
The Axeman has been involved with all things “Street Outlaws” since 2018, participating in its many spin-offs other than NPK, including “Street Outlaws: America’s List” and “Street Outlaws: End Game.”
The Axman in 2023
It’s no secret that in 2023, aside from filming for various “Street Outlaws” spin-offs, the Axman is busy with a number of side gigs. The most important one is probably his own so-called amateur racing team Axman Racing, with its own website to boot.
Their schedule page simply states ‘Axman Racing will be Filming for the next Two Months, Check back Soon for Upcoming Events! Thank-you!’ in early March, clearly displaying that the crew is rather busy with all of the “Street Outlaws” projects as well as their own.
Larry and his wife also have a YouTube channel called Axman & Axlady, on which they often post various blog-style and race videos, including recaps from big race events, and even domestic animal-related content involving their four children.