By admin | August 2, 2010
By Richard Allen
*Note: The National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame induction ceremonies will take place the weekend of August 13-15 in Union, Kentucky. Since there are two members of that Hall of Fame living within a short distance of me I thought it would be appropriate to profile each in these next two weeks. Freddy Smith is the subject of today’s piece while Herman Goddard will be next week’s feature.
When talking to Freddy Smith it seems a little hard to imagine that this quiet, humble man makes his living in the rough and tumble world of dirt racing. But not only is he a dirt racer, he is one of the most successful of all time. His name appears on the list of winners for just about every major event in the sport of dirt late model racing.
Just to name a few, Smith has claimed five Dirt Track World Championship races, the Hillbilly Hundred, The Topless 100, and he is a two time winner of ‘The Dream’ at the famed Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. As a matter of fact, he won the inaugural Dream in 1994 and added a victory in 2000.
So where does this humble man with so many wins keep his trophies? “They’re up on the hill in a 53’ foot trailer,” he said, pointing to a spot above his shop located in Seymour, Tennessee.
This summer Smith will receive yet another award when the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame presents him with the Sportsman Award. The award signifies the recipient’s dedication to the sport and willingness to assist others in need. Smith was among the very first class inaugurated in the NDLM Hall of Fame back in 2001.
What got this legend started on his way to such a successful career? “My dad was always in racing,” Smith explained. “He built motors for Holman-Moody and worked with people like Waddell Wilson.”
The legendary race car and engine building company based in North Carolina, Smith’s original home, even built one of his first cars.
Smith remembers his first race in a stock car in which he piloted a 1953 Ford. It took place in Gaffney, South Carolina in 1966. “I could have won that race,” Smith declared. “But my dad told me to stay in the back until I knew for sure what I was doing.”
By the time of his first stock car event Smith was already somewhat of a veteran racer. He had been competing in go-karts since the age of eight years old. It would have been hard to imagine back then but that race set in motion a career that has to date resulted in over 750 feature wins, including a Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series win in 2008 at the age of 61.
“Winning that first Dream race was big but all my dirt wins are special,” the 64 year old driver says when asked if there was a particular moment that stands out from the rest of his career.
Even with so many wins and accolades Smith has a regret. “I wish we could’ve got a better chance in NASCAR,” he said of the few starts he got in that form of racing. “We had a Chevy Caprice with one of those squared off noses and it just didn’t get through the air too good. Richard(Petty) and Harry(Gant) had the same trouble when they tried to use that car.”
Smith moved to this area from North Carolina to drive for Clayton Christenberry. That partnership resulted in a number of victories. He now drives for himself on the Southern All Stars Series tour out of a shop on the Christenberry property.
And what keeps Freddy Smith coming back? “I just love it,” says the man rightfully called the ‘Southern Gentleman’.