Smith's career began in a Dirt Late Model at age 15.
Few times does a first generation have such a positive influence as car builder and driver Roscoe Smith had on his Dirt Late Model-driving son Clint, a current frontrunner with the top-gun World of Outlaws series.
The native of Senoia, Georgia, will tell you that he learned a ton from his father about the hows and whys of Dirt Late Models when he was a young kid.
"I was always hanging around the family racecar business learning everything I could about the cars," Clint recalls. "Heck, when I was only 12 years old, I could put a racecar together from scratch."
He also says that his mother ran in Powder Puff races in family-built cars.
Roscoe's driving influence is still with Clint when he's behind the wheel. Recently, Clint won a UMP DirtCar race at Volusia Speedway Park, in Florida, where he started from 15th position.
"My dad won here and at Lake City (Florida) back in 1977 taking the Florida State Championship," Clint said after the win. "I'm glad to win here at Volusia because of him winning here too. It means a lot to me."
Smith once made the feature for 154 consecutive World of Outlaws events.
Racing actually began for Clint when he was 15, and it began right off the bat in a Dirt Late Model. "Oh, I did have a little yard Kart, but that was about it," he recalls. "The fact that I had been around and worked on the cars made it seem pretty easy for me to pick up."
Just one year after starting he won his first race. In 1985, he ran his first Southern All Star (SAS) race, a series where he later won four titles.
Clint ran the family cars up to 1986 and took a number of checkered flags during the period. "From about 1982 through 1988, I ran against my dad on the track," he says. "This was near the end of his career, but he was still tough. He never put any pressure on me matching his career. Heck, there were times that I would break on the track and he'd come around and stop and tell me to get into his car."
He adds that his dad was an extremely smooth driver and tough to pass. "But I wasn't anything like that and developed a very aggressive style, like wide slides and doing everything on the edge. Guess I still drive like that."
His first car owner was Buddy Green in 1987 and the results were immediate with 10 wins.
"My dad served as an advisor to me till about 1993," Clint says.
With Virginia Matthews serving as the owner in 1988, there were 15 wins and he also got his first track title, taking the championship at Seven Flags Speedway, in Georgia. He defended that title the following year with 12 wins, and another 10 in 1991.
Although he says his dad's driving style was smooth and tough to pass, Smith's is more agg
In 1992, he won his first SAS Championship and got a second in '93. But that '93 season also saw the winning of the inaugural Hav-A-Tampa (HAT) national series. That later accomplishment brought about an invitation from Scott Bloomquist to be a part of Team USA that went to Australia during the winter.
"Did pretty well," recalls Clint, "winning a dozen match races over there."
The '94 season brought a change in the powerplant under the hood, moving to owner Carlton Lamm and his Ford engines, and he says that "was the most power that I ever had." He finished Fourth in HAT points and Seventh the year after that.
Another trip to Australia took place in 1996, and during the following period he won a couple of big races at Cherokee Speedway--the Stick Elliott Memorial and the Blue-Gray 100. A couple of bad years occurred in 1998 and 1999, with the latter season being winless, a first in his career.
Things improved in 2000 when he got SAS title number three driving for owner Laddie Fulcher.
The fourth title came in 2003 under a difficult personal situation. "A friend, driver Duane Hummell, was leading the points when he had that horrendous crash and wasn't able to continue his racing career," says Clint. "With the bad luck I had later in the season, he could have won the title had that accident not happened."
There were also a pair of big wins with the Jimmy Mosteller 100 Dixie Showdown and the Boss 100.
By age 12, he says he could assemble a racecar from scratch.
Clint made a huge jump in 2004 by stepping up with the World of Outlaws group. He also switched to the Rocket brand of cars and brought home a 10th place finish in the points.
The second season produced his first two WoO wins, with his biggest victory, The Hillbilly 100, paying $25,000. The 2006 season was another solid effort with four wins and another 10th in the points.
But 2007 was the-best-of-the-best with a Third Place in the points, accomplished with four wins, 17 Top 5s, and 30 Top 10s. Overall, Clint's 10 WoO wins rate a tie for Fourth with Tim McCreadie. However, the most eye-opening accomplishment in WoO took place in a stretch of races between 2004 and 2007, when he made the feature race in 154 straight events.
To many, a Dirt Late Model driver's finishes in key races are a measure of his greatness. Two of those races are the Dream and World 100 at Eldora Speedway. In the Dream, Clint shows finishes of Fourth, Sixth, and Eighth. His best efforts in the World are a Third and Sixth. But that Sixth Place was really something.
"I started 15th in my heat race and qualified for the B Main with a Sixth Place," he says. "I then finished Third in the B Main, which got me the final 26th starting place in the feature. I moved up 20 places and finished Sixth. I rate that as my best performance even though I didn't win the race."
With a driver who has been through the growth of the Dirt Late Model sport, it's interesting to get his thoughts on the biggest changes in the sport. "Sure, the engines and tires have improved through the years, along with the suspensions," he says. "I can remember in the mid-1980s when a good engine was making about 610 hp. Today, my engines are worth about 860 horses. And the engine prices during that period have gone from $10,000 to $30,000 per engine.
The 43-year-old has performed his share of victory poses over the years.
"The biggest change, though, is in the haulers. We started with a flat-bed trailer and pick-up truck. But now, because of the long trips we have to take, having a NASCAR semi-hauler is a necessity."
Speaking of NASCAR, Clint says that he had never thought about running NASCAR. "Hey, I'm a dirt driver and it will stay that way until I retire."
And there is certainly no indication that retirement is anywhere close to happening for this 43-year-old driver.
As Told to Bill Holder
Driving - If I were to advise any young driver with a Dirt Late Model career in mind, he should start right off with a Dirt Late Model. That way, he will be going fast from the start. Get in there and go and get in as many laps as you can. Don't try to jump up too quick. Start with a small series and do your best to get the Rookie of the Year award. Your next goal should be to master that series and either win it or finish high in the points. Then, step up to a higher-level group and start over again. Develop different styles for different track types. Run high, run low, and run in the middle. Run "hard brake" and "soft brake" tracks.
Technology - Knowing the technology of your racecar and understanding how all the parts and pieces function is so important. You need to be able to relate to your crew chief, or to yourself, on what is needed to fix your car. Most of the top Dirt Late Model drivers work on their own cars, or did so in the past.