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Friday, October 19, 2001
'A man's man,' Smith raced and lived hard
SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- One of the early stars of NASCAR, Jack Smith has died. He was 78.
A native of Metropolis, Ill., Smith died Wednesday.
Smith won 21 NASCAR races over a 15-year career and was a member of the National Motorsports Press Hall of Fame in Darlington.
"Daddy raced in the rough and tough days," said his son, Jackie, who said his father died of congestive heart failure. "He was a man's man. He drove hard. He had broad shoulders, big arms. They raced and they fought back then."
Jack Smith's love of racing began in Georgia in the 1940s when he worked at a service station near Roswell. He began running against local bootleggers across fields, on rough dirt tracks and asphalt superspeedways.
Smith won his first race at Martinsville Speedway in 1956, won the Most Popular Driver Award in 1959 and moved to Spartanburg in 1960 to work with legendary team owner Bud Moore. His 21 wins are 24th all-time.
"Jack was a hell of a competitor," Moore said. "Jack was a good race driver back in his day. In his time, he was about as good as any of them that come along."
One of Smith's more memorable races was a loss when his car tumbled over the wall at the Darlington Raceway in 1954, as he tried to chase down race leader Fireball Roberts. He flipped five times and landed in the parking lot.
"It was hard life," Jackie Smith said. "It was barely making ends meet. They all had jobs during the week. It wasn't for the money that they raced. It was for the love of the sport."
Jackie Smith said his father will be inducted into the Daytona Beach Hall of Fame in February.
Smith is survived by his wife, Betty DeLay, three sons and two daughters.
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