HALL OF FAME INDUCTION WAS SURPRISE FOR CURTIS SMITH
Last month, Curtis Smith received a prestigious honor he never saw coming.
Smith, a star Sportsman driver, was inducted into the North Carolina Drag Racing Hall of Fame on Jan. 14 at the Greensboro Coliseum.
“It was great you know,” said Smith in an interview with Competition Plus about receiving the honor. “I lost my father-in-law Eugene Carlsward (in July of cancer) and I was kind of down and out. Then, my wife (Ingrid) called me, not long after my father-in-law passed away, and told me I was inducted into the North Carolina Drag Racing Hall of Fame, and it really perked me up. I really wasn’t expecting it and I had no clue it would happen.”
Like so many racers, Curtis was introduced to the sport of drag racing by his father, Earl Smith who was in the Junior Stock class.
“I used to go to all the races with my dad and over the years I got to where he used to let me warm his car up,” Curtis said. “That’s when it all started and I got hooked.”
Curtis, a native of Clinton, N.C., began his racing career in 1974. Smith made a name for himself by winning 17 combined national events on the IHRA and NHRA circuits in the Stock Eliminator class. Smith was best known for driving his 1967 Camaro he called “Hot Stuff.”
“Stock Eliminator was old school racing and I just liked that,” Smith said. “As for the name of my car, I heard the song called Hot Stuff and I just thought it would be a good name for a race car.”
Although Smith had countless memorable moments in his racing career, some stood out more than others.
“My first big memory was winning Englishtown (the 1984 NHRA Summer Nationals),” Smith said. “Then in 1985, I became the first IHRA Sportsman driver to win three national events in a row.”
By 1996, Smith reached a pinnacle of achievement as he captured IHRA’s Stock Eliminator world championship title.
“That was the last year I ran a full season,” said Smith, who owns the Curtis Smith Trucking business. “Once I got my business, it took so much of my time I could not travel anymore to the races. It is a shock that I made the North Carolina Drag Racing Hall of Fame. When I started racing, I never thought this would happen. I’m thankful that I got in. The sport has been real good to me. I met a lot of nice people in racing and I had a lot of people really help me to the end like my father Earl, and my mother, Christine, and my wife (Ingrid) and my father-in-law Eugene and mother-in-law Dotty.”
Smith still does race every once and awhile, but usually when he is at the track these days it is to watch his son, Curtis Smith Jr. The younger Smith pilots his dad’s legendary “Hot Stuff” 1967 Camaro in the Stock Eliminator ranks. Smith’s daughter, Catherine, 12, goes to the races now for support.
“My son is 20 years old and he pretty much races at the local tracks around Clinton, N.C.,” the elder Smith said. “I really enjoy watching him compete.”