GRHOF member Jack Smith honored at Talladega

Jack Smith's portrait at the Talladega-Texaco Walk of Fame.  Smith was inducted into the Walk on Oct. 31.  Photo courtesy Jackie Smith

Jack Smith's portrait at the Talladega-Texaco Walk of Fame. Photo courtesy Jackie Smith

By Brandon Reed
Posted in Feature Stories 11/13/09

On October 31, Georgia Racing Hall of Fame member Jack Smith was inducted into the Talladega-Texaco Walk of Fame.

Smith was voted in by the fans, along with long time NASCAR competitor Morgan Shepard.

Each year, the fans vote in one active driver and as many as two inactive drivers to the Walk of Fame, which was implemented in honor of the late Davey Allison.

Jack’s son, Jackie, and his daughter, Gloria, accepted the award for their father, who passed away in 2001.  Jackie has been kind enough to share  his speech with us and we’re happy to pass it on to you so that you can share in the Smith family’s happiness at the reconition Jack has received.

If my father were standing here tonight, he would first tell you how honored he is to be inducted along side of Morgan Shepherd, this man he admired so much – not just for his championships, but for his personal dedication and contributions to the betterment of all types of racing for so many years.

Congratulations, Morgan.

My father, Jack Smith, is being inducted tonight in the inactive driver category.

That means he raced in the days of Spam, Vienna sausage, soda crackers, and tow bars – not like today with the president’s boxes, tenderloin, shrimp, closed circuit TV, and huge car haulers.

Smith's daughter Gloria and son Jackie accepted the honor on behalf of their father, who passed away in 2001.  Photo courtesy Jackie Smith

Smith's daughter Gloria and son Jackie accepted the honor on behalf of their father, who passed away in 2001. Photo courtesy Jackie Smith

He raced when men raced only for the love of the sport, because there certainly was no money in it back then.

Although Dad’s racing accomplishments are impressive (we have that info at our table if any of you would like a copy), our family would like for him to be remembered also for his contribution to the safety of the sport for the drivers.

He was an innovator of several safety features as the first driver to pre-treat the driver’s uniforms with boric acid to make them more fire retardant.

He was also the first driver to use a 2-way radio in his racecar during a race because he was convinced it was dangerous for a driver to take his focus off of driving to attempt to read a pit board from the track.

He was a colorful character both on and off the track whose persistent lobbying for safety innovations to the sport made him a thorn in the side of any promoter whose priority was revenue, not safety.

He certainly did rock a few boats (or should I say racecars?) and stepped on a few toes along the way as he voiced his strong opinions about racing, but in the process he helped to make racing a safer, more competitive, more financially stable environment in which today’s drivers are free to exercise their passions for racing.

Dad was a big-hearted man, and a friend to fellow drivers and competitors.

One of my favorite quotes is from a time when the Daytona International Speedway was under construction, and the late Fireball Roberts was being interviewed about the high speeds on the new super speedways.

In that interview, he said, “There are only four drivers I think can handle these speeds – me and Jack Smith”.

Smith's "Black Widow" 1957 Chevy is on display at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame at Talladega, Alabama.  Photo courtesy Jackie Smith

Smith's "Black Widow" 1957 Chevy is on display at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame at Talladega, Alabama. Photo courtesy Jackie Smith

In the late 50’s a young hotshot by the name of Bobby Allison came up from Miami to attack my Dad’s kingdom at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta.  He wrecked his car, had no money, and no place to stay.  I remember sleeping on the floor for weeks while Bobby slept in my bed.  He moved in with us, used Dad’s garage to work on his car, won a few races ‘til he made enough money to get back to Miami and the rest is history.

Many years later Dad shared the Allison family’s pain at Davey’s funeral.

I remember my Dad saying at that time that Davey was already one of NASCAR’s greats at his young age. This honor would have meant so much to Dad because of his relationship with the Allison family.

If Dad were here, he would want to express his thanks to the many people who contributed to his racing career:

-His peers who drove beside him with fervor and grace, especially those such as Fireball Roberts and Joe Weatherly whose untimely deaths were instrumental in emphasizing the need for safer racing regulation and equipment.

-The sportswriters who believed in his talent and wrote graciously of his many accomplishments

-The supporters and promoters of racing, such as the France, Sawyer, and Joseph families, to mention just a few, who have helped to bring the sport to the spotlight it is in today.

-Every racing fan who has cheered or laughed or cried at the sport – who are really the heartbeat of racing and elected him to this honor tonight.

-And finally you, the Walk of Fame committee, for including an inactive driver in the vote each year because you recognize that every successful organization must have a strong foundation upon which to build success.

On behalf of Dad, we, his family, would like to express our heartfelt thanks to you for inducting Jack Smith into the Davey Allison Talladega Walk of Fame.

Thank you.

You can learn more about the Talladega-Texaco Hall of Fame here.

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