The Ole Days
Louise Smith was born in Barnesville, Ga. on July 31, 1916. She ran the Grand National Division from 1949 to 1952 having 1 win in 13 starts. From 1945 to 1956 she was a legend on the local short tracks winning 38 times in Midgets, Modifieds, and Sportsman and Late Model cars.
When she first learned to drive she ended up crashing the car into the family chicken house.
In her first race she knew green meant go & red meant stop!
"They told me if I saw a red flag to stop," she remembers. "They didn't say anything about the checkered flag." All the drivers except Louise went to the pits when the race ended. "I'm out there just flying around the track. Finally somebody remembered they told me not to stop until I saw the red flag. SO, they gave me a red flag." She finished third in that event
Louise Smith raced for the love of her sport. "Money was nothing back then," she says. "Sometimes it seemed like the more you drove the less money we had. We would have to put our money together just to split a hot dog and a Coke. I won a lot, crashed a lot, and broke just about every bone in my body, but I gave it everything I had."
She raced in the Grand National Daytona race one year unbeknownst to her husband. She had acquired a special engine, hid it in the trunk of the family car & headed to Daytona. It was a 166 mile event.
NASCAR officials assigned Louise number 13. "I went all down the line trying to trade that 13 off. They said, 'Aw, Lou, just follow us through that North Turn.' So I followed them, but when I got to the North Turn seven cars were piled up. I hit the back of one of them, went up in the air, cut a flip, and landed on my top. Some police officers turned the car back over, and I finished 13th." On the way home on the bus she was trying to think of a story to tell him about the wrecked family car. The bus made a stop & Louise went to get a newspaper. Much to her chagrin was a photo of her wrecked car with her name in the paper. So much for the hubby not knowing.
"If you won a race, you sometimes had to fight. I remember grabbing a tire one time to help Buck Baker." After another race Louise and the guys stopped at a restaurant before heading to the next race. Louise was in the ladies room when she heard chairs slamming against the door. Everyone was arrested, and Louise had to pawn her diamond ring to get them out of jail.
Louise was known for her hard-charging style and her breathtaking crashes. At Hillsborough she became airborne coming out of the second turn, and it took 36 minutes to free her with an acetylene torch. At Mobile she tangled with Fonty Flock and ended up sitting on top of her car in the middle of the lake. Before another race, Buddy Shuman said, "Lou, you see that empty house up there on the bank? Be careful. Don't go up that bank and through that house." Louise wishes he had not said that!
In 1999, Smith became the first women to be inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.