I looked at NASCAR's list of top 50 drivers of all time, but I did not see the name of Jack Smith. The list was chock full of good racers but very absent of one of the best. I called Jack at his transmission shop in Spartanburg, S.C. and asked to stop by to see him. I wanted to know exactly what I was missing that NASCAR apparently was not.
Jack was born in Illinois but moved to Georgia when he was two. His first race was at Thomaston, Georgia in 1946. He explained, "I used to watch those guys before the war out at Lakewood and knew I could do that. When I got old enough I entered a race in Thomaston. I qualified second to defending national champion Roy Hall but after the race started I spun out a whole bunch so I knew I had some learning ahead of me."
When I asked Jack to name the best driver in the stable of Raymond Parks, (Lloyd Seay, Roy Hall, Bill France, Bob and Fonty Flock, Red Byron, and Norman Wrigley), he replied, "It would be hard to pick becuse they had such good equipment with Red Vogt working on the cars. A lot of drivers would have won under those circumstances, but I'd say Bob Flock was the best of the group."
Smith's favorite track was the Daytona superspeedway. "It was a smooth track. Of course I had a good win there in 1960 for the Firecracker race. I led my share of the first 500 in 1959 but had ignition problems. When asked about his worst accident, he said, "Well, I guess the one that gave me the biggest problem was at Darlington in '50 when Curtis Turner and I tangled and I ended upside down with an arm full of stitches. Bad thing about that was up until 1975 I was still having problems with that arm and doctors were still taking broken glass out of it. They put over a hundred stitches in it in '50 and had to keep opening it up to pull more glass out for the next quarter of a century, but I think they finally got it all."
And finally, the reason I dropped by his office: What about the NASCAR Top 50 list? Why aren't you on it? "That's a good question," he laughed. "The credentials are there (21 Winston Cup wins, Most Popular Driver in 1958, Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame and on and on), but I can't tell you."