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Smith Family Continues Building Lasting Legacy with POWRi WAR

Smith Family Continues Building Lasting Legacy with POWRi WAR

Belleville, IL. (05/01/2020) Change is inevitable, that one constant within the fast-paced world of open-wheel dirt track racing. From setup and styles to safety measures and speed, everything about the simplistic nature of a sprint car continues to evolve. Even with the ever-changing nature of the sport, two things remain the same. One is a driver who lives without fear or hesitation who knows when to wait and when to strike; the other is a car owner who is willing to suspend worry and put their wheelman into the best possible position no matter the expense. Throughout the POWRi Lucas Oil WAR Sprint League history, common themes tend to surface when it pertains to championship qualifications and car-owner conquests.

After claiming a second straight POWRi WAR Championship banner as a car owner, Rick Smith, of Richmond, Missouri by way of nearby Waverly, was caught in a moment of reflection in his preparations for the 2020 season. Reflections of over twenty-five feature victories, three championship honors as an owner, and all the memories that over thirty years competing encompasses. “We’re truly blessed to be where we are in life, through keeping sportsmanship at the forefront, the friends we’ve made through this racing family is indescribable.” Noted Smith, adding “Every success is accredited to those that taught me, from Tom McGarry with MPR, Chris Zeller with Engine Connection to Tom "Tucker" Maycock, the Lasoski’s, and so many more important people that came along at the best possible time in my life.” I feel not helping the next generation is a dishonor to those who helped me.

From operating the horn at a very young age in a custom-built push truck with his dad as the legends like Bill Utz, Tom Corbin, and Tim Green fire off at Sportsman Speedway in Marshall MO, to wheeling his own micro’s around Sweet Springs in the early nineties, Rick Smith was destined from a young age to be a mainstay among the dirt-track regulars. Seeing his amount of driving success in the Micro division, Smith would entertain the idea of moving up and trying his hand at 360 sprint cars. All it took was one race at the old Bethany Fairgrounds Speedway and Rick was hooked, selling his whole Micro operation and beginning his long-tenured journey into the full-sized machines around 1996. “There’s a certain magic to seeing something that you’ve spent time building, tuning, and trying to perfect out there competing on the top level is inspiring. Knowing that the tutelage passed on to me from my mentors isn’t lost and hopefully, I can keep those lessons circulating.”

Building his first-ever Sprint car engine and manufacturing a lot of his own equipment was just the lay of the land for Smith, “Looking back, yeah, I wish I could have used better stuff, I know I could have done better on the scoresheet with better equipment, but I was having fun and honestly with my hands-on mentality and on a self-funded/self-ran team I’m pleased with our showing.” Continuing to drive competitively for himself until 2003, Rick would eventually look to team up, as his true passion laid in working on the machines and the preparation. “It’s the tiny details, like a certain spacer here or chamfering this bolt head there. Measure and re-measure the car. Make sure you’re ready, winning is done before the car is ever loaded” said Smith. Knowing that his love of the sport ran as deep as the dirt at the old Capital Speedway, and after a Saturday night trip to the Holts Summit Mo track with conversations including his Dad, cousin Mike Key, and Tom Corbin; a new team was formed with Rick and Tom manning the crew-chief duties and up-and-comer Jon Corbin behind the wheel. "Working with Tom, one of my heroes was a dream come true and gave me as much confidence as it taught me". He claimed his first-ever 360 feature victory at the Missouri State Fairground Speedway in Sedalia, Missouri with Corbin wheeling his way to the checkers and also notching a Knoxville Raceway feature victory as crew chief.

Then as Rick so eloquently phrases it; “Life happens and gets in the way.” After working in the rebuilding process of Hurricane Katrina, Smith found himself away from the racing community for a couple of years. After some prodding from his dad to go, Rick would find himself at the high-banks of Moberly one weekend, after careful deliberations, Rick would negotiate his way into helping Austin Alumbaugh for a bottle of water as payment and a bond was formed instantly. Around this same time, the rumblings of a new non-wing sprint car series were beginning as a new plan was hatched. With Alumbaugh as the wheelman, Smith would build a new team using a new MRP Chassis with Engine Connection power following the open engine rule of WAR to establish his #26 team as a contender and force to be reckoned with from inception.

Gaining the first-ever Wingless-Auto-Racing Series Championship in 2012 the Smith and Alumbaugh connection would prove to be hard to beat with multiple feature wins over the first two seasons while always in contention. Back to back weekends at the end of the season with bad luck one for an odd part failure the other for a nasty racing incident at Airport Speedway in Springfield Mo, Smith Motorsports Team would end their repeat championship quest 2 spots shy in 2013. “I always really liked Austin's drive the shit out it style. He's one hell of a non-wing driver” said Smith.

With various drivers at the helm over the years including Mitchell Moore, Chase Briscoe, Brandon Schure, as well as original driver’s eventual wife Christie Alumbaugh; Smith Motorsports would always be looking towards the future in hopes of perhaps reaching another milestone. “When you see it, you just know. It’s those little glimpses of greatness that are within almost every driver throughout the country, a combination of smoothness and up on the wheel all at the same time” Smith would state when asked about his driver selection process.

Keeping one eye on his old racing-grounds of Sweet Springs Motorplex, Smith would take a chance at the end of 2014 on a young Riley Kreisel for a couple of races with unbelievable results. Although a mature micro driver in his own right, Kreisel was unproven in a full-size sprinter. Sticking to his intuition seemed to work out for Rick as Riley would not only go on to become the 2015 Rookie of the Year with the POWRi WAR Sprint League but would also become the youngest POWRi WAR Champion in 2018 and the first driver to ever claim the top prize back-to-back in 2019.

Stepping away from full-time competition in 2020 will bring about changes for Rick Smith as now he will serve as a mentor of sorts for other up-and-coming drivers. “Debbie and I will still be around the tracks, we just wanted to take a step back and do a few racing-related bucket list things. There’s no hard feelings or anything towards anyone.” “Riley has established himself into a force in traditional sprints and is a great friend,” Smith said on the new season, going on to add; “I wish everyone luck and I look forward helping out Riley when possible and will focus on Luke Howard Racing as well as lending a hand to Braydon Cromwell and a few other drivers out there.” I never thought I would be a hired gun/wrench so to speak and it's fun and flattering at the same time. Smith Motorsports also has a house car that we plan on running on a limited basis this season with a couple of select drivers.

When prompted about his favorite car-owning moment of the past two decades Rick would speak at length, not about victory lanes or title clinches but yet, about the process of it all. “I think one of my favorite memories that comes to mind is in 2016 going out to Terra-Haute, Indiana for Sprint Week.” “We were out there at rubbing elbows with greatness as an under-funded team, with a still learning, and really nervous driver. It was Riley’s first time out there, and he did what we came to do, he stuck it in the A-Main.” Smith would add, “It’s kind of funny how life works sometimes. My dad Donnie, wasn’t in the best of health but he insisted we go out there. He was always my biggest supporter and mentor. We all had a good time for the whole trip and when I got home and told him the stories he was all smiles. The kicker was there was this magazine that had a picture of Riley racing out there in it, and the name of the Terre Haute race, completely unrelated, was the Don Smith Classic.” I will always be in Riley’s debt for that memory.

“There’s no way to rank the drivers I’ve been fortunate to have in my cars, there’s just way too much talent. From Austin winning it up on the wheel to Riley winning by getting everything out of the car and even firing his friend Mitchell Moore, because the best he could muster was a smooth 2nd place finish 2 nights straight against JJ Yeley which is a running joke between us” Rick remarked laughingly, going on to add “Some of these drivers may have been for a week or two or even a season or two, but it all meant more than I can ever say. They all taught me something and left a valuable memory.”

With his responses, Rick hammers home what helps to add to his pit-side lore and what makes him successful. There’s a certain amount of humbleness to him with the ability to weave a racing story. Rick remains thankful for those that have given him life-lessons and willing to dish out his own style of education to those willing to listen. What the future holds for Smith Motorsports may be uncertain at the moment, the legacy will endure as it’s built on a solid foundation of values. Currently tinkering in his shop at home, busy rebuilding a rear-end from scrap to hopefully restore and put into his 2012 MRP Chassis replica car, as well as prepping Luke Howard's cars, Smith is excited about the upcoming season that kicks off Saturday, May 16th at Lake Ozark Speedway with the POWRi Lucas Oil WAR Sprint League.

This article is the first of a multi-part series highlighting car ownership within the POWRi Lucas Oil WAR Sprint League. For More information on POWRi WAR visit www.powri.com/WAR or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @POWRi_WAR.

Follow along with POWRi for more information such as race recaps, updates, full results, and press releases online at www.powri.com, on Twitter & Instagram at @POWRi_Racing or on Facebook at POWRi.

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