Racing Pioneer D. J. Smith To Be Honored By Irwindale Speedway at West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame Dinner Oct. 22 Irwindale, Calif. - - He's one of those people that just about anybody who's been in racing for more than 20 years has a "really...
Racing Pioneer D. J. Smith To Be Honored By Irwindale Speedway at West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame Dinner Oct. 22
Irwindale, Calif. - - He's one of those people that just about anybody who's been in racing for more than 20 years has a "really great story" about -- And the stories are always about this guy's generosity. Stories about his kindnesses and support range back to the early forties. His influence not only launched, but has helped to keep on track, dozens of super star drivers, crew chiefs, car builders, and many others in the top ranks of NASCAR.
On Friday October 22, Delwin James Smith will accept a special award for his lifetime of service to the sport of motor racing. Irwindale Speedway's Vice President / Chief Operating Officer Bob DeFazio will present Smith with a carved crystal bowl at the annual dinner banquet of the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame.
"D.J. is a personal friend as well as one of my personal heroes," said DeFazio. "I don't know very many people in racing that wouldn't agree with us that D.J. is one of the real pillars of the sport, this is our small way of reminding him that we remember."
Robert Yates is one of the "youngsters" who remembers D.J. (who he calls him "Del" as do many of his long-time friends in racing). "I was working for Junior Johnson way back when. The great Herd Nabb was our crew chief and I had worked my way up high enough on the team to not have to drive the truck out to the race at Riverside.
So we flew out to California and we were met by this guy named Del Smith. Now, that was a long time ago, 1970 or 71 and back then we were in town at least four or five days for a race -- Well, all that time Del took us out to some of the best meals that any of us ever had in our lives!" Yates told us.
"Heck, he'd even take us out shopping!" he added. "We didn't have really nice clothes, and here he's taking us out and buying us new stuff -- He bought Herb a suit! All I can say is treated us like royalty every time we got together and I don't know anyone whose ever has ever had a bad thing to say about him or his two boys Wendell or Jimmy. Del's always welcome in my pit and, as far as I know, any other pit in NASCAR."
Others had the same sort of warmth for seventy-nine year old "D.J." including Lloyd Dane, himself a Hall of fame inductee in 2002. "We worked together for over 25 years," said Dane. "When we first met I was a car owner; I even drove for Del is some minor races on the West coast."
"When we were racing, we'd travel up and down the coast together. One time Del decided that he'd drive, he took a wrong turn heading north and we plumb missed Bakersfield!," Dane told us. "We ended up in a place called Button-willow. By the time we finally got to Fresno we really need an R&R stop at one of the local watering holes."
By the by, Dane's story was about the worse thing that anyone we talked to had to say about the redoubtable Mr. Smith.
"When he gets his award from Irwindale Speedway on Friday night," DeFazio indicated, "It'll simply be inscribed:
In Honor of A Lifetime Of Service To The Sport of Motor Racing
October 22, 2004.
Please note, he's not retiring, or even thinking about fading off into the background, we just felt like thanking him while we were thinking about it. And now the challenge is up to you, ask someone who's been around the stock car racing world for a while about D.J. 'Del' Smith. Let's see what kind of story you get about this nice man who has been there and done that (and done it very well) in western racing."