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Dirt Track Diary: On The Road With ‘Cat Daddy’

| , RacinToday.com Wednesday, July 18 2012

Another night, another Late Model race at another small-town short track for Georgia driver Clint Smith, in outside lane. (Photo by Kim Smith)

By Clint Smith
Special to RacinToday.com

Editor’s note: Veteran dirt racer Clint “Cat Daddy” Smith of Senoia, Ga., has been racing and winning since 1981. He has more than 200 feature wins to his credit. Before he started driving, he worked on the car driven by his father, legendary racer and car-builder Roscoe Smith.

Clint Smith currently competes on the World of Outlaws Late Model tour as well as other races when his schedule permits.

He recently completed the World of Outlaws Wild West Tour, and the following is his account – and a glimpse of life on the road for a racing family – of the trip that carried Clint, his wife Kim and crew chief Duane Treadwell to five tracks in eight days.

Leaving Georgia, Heading North:

We left home on the afternoon of July 5, stopping to pick up a carburetor in Dalton, Ga., at RaceTek.

We were full of fuel when we left the house, so we were good to go for a while.

The first race track was supposed to be at Superior, Wis., a town in the far northern part of the state. We got up to about Bloomington, Ill., and fueled up again, where it was a little cheaper.

As we were easing on up through there, I was on the phone with fellow driver Shane Clanton. He was following me about an hour back. We try to leave and come back at close to the same time, at least within turn-around distance, so if one of us has problems we can help each other get up there and get back.

When you travel that far, it’s good to have a little back-up. We have unloaded a car out of one trailer into another where you could get a night of racing in while you’re getting your rig fixed. We’re fortunate to be from same area.

We got to about the Wisconsin state line and Shane said: “You need to hold up, there’s a big rain chance.”

I had my crew chief, Duane Treadwell, pull up the weather on his phone and he said it wasn’t but a 10- to 20-percent chance. So I said; we’re going to roll on. We decided to stop at a turning point where we could go to the Mall of America – which is near Minneapolis – if we got rained out: It did get rained out and we did get to go to the Mall of America. My crew chief had pulled up the weather for Superior, Wyo.

We had lost the first race on the tour.

We spent the day at the Mall of America. Ate at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. There were about seven rigs there. We were kind of in nowhere land, so we hung out with a lot of the other teams.

Finally, Some Racing…And A Little Wrecking

From there it was on to Deer Creek Raceway in Spring Valley, Minn. where we qualified sixth quick, which put us on the outside pole of the second heat. I beat Chad Simpson on the start, and that got us in the redraw.

In the World of Outlaws, the first two cars in each heat race draw for the first eight spots. I drew a 2 and started on the outside pole. Shane Clanton drew a 1 and started on the pole.

He beat me on the start, but I drove back under him. We ran in the top three for 30 laps right behind Shane and Darrell Lanigan. A lapped car wrecked in front of all of us. About the time Darrell came by him, he came back down – the guy didn’t have his foot on the brakes, the same thing you see sometimes in the Cup races.

He kept rolling and when I got there I hit him about wide open. Brian Birkhofer was running fourth, and he hit me about wide open. We had substantial damage, but we got it fixed good enough to finish on the lead lap, in 17th.

Ride with Clint Smith at Deer Creek:

We worked on the car three or four hours that night, then rolled on to the next race track, which was in Grand Rapids, S.D. – 500 miles away.

A Little R And R

We had an off day, so we went to Mt. Rushmore. In our travels we can see a lot of stuff that most people have to go on vacation to see. We can catch it along the way. We rode the Alpine Slide, kind of like a bobsled for one person.

We went to the Full Throttle Saloon in Sturgis. It was open, but not really busy when we were there. They were getting ready for the big rally coming up. We came by the Knuckle, another big biker bar in Sturgis.

Then we decided to ride over to Deadwood, where Wild Bill Hickok got killed. It’s pretty much a tourist deal, but they’ve got old-time gambling – $2 minimum and $25 max bets. It’s low stakes, but everybody gets to experience the Old West. Pretty cool.

Back To The Tracks

Left that night and arrived at the race track, Black Hills Speedway in Rapid City. We arrived late that night, and worked all the next day on the race car.

I ran fourth in heat, made the show, hung around 11th or 12th all night and finished 12th. It was kind of an off night for us.

We loaded up and jumped in the truck and hauled it back across I-90 all the way to I-29, traveling ‘til about 4 in the morning when we shut down in a Wal-Mart parking lot and slept. Shane Clanton, Tim Fuller and I were traveling together, so we stopped to eat, then journeyed about halfway to Fargo, N.D., when, Shane had a flat tire.

We all joined in to help. I had a spare tire with me, but he found two new ones at a store at a reasonable price.

We met Darrell Lanigan in Fargo, unloaded the cars, washed them and got ready to race. Darrell and I teamed up right there. Tim and Clanton went on up to Grand Forks and parked. We hung out with Darrell the rest of that night and ate at Red Lobster. He bought. That was nice of him.

Went on over to the Holiday Inn. They had a place to gamble…so we played for 35 or 40 minutes and had a good time there. Then we jumped in the truck and drove to Grand Forks and got there about 1 o’clock in the morning,. We got the trucks full of water for showering purposes, emptied the tanks and got set up to head to Winnipeg, Canada. We left about 2 o’clock the next day, which was Thursday. We went to Red Rivers Co-op Speedway. For some reason, everything up there is a co-op.

It looked like rain so the whole program was rushed. I qualified second up there. The car was real good. We got some stuff fixed that we didn’t get fixed on the Tuesday night race. I ran second to Darrell Lanigan in the heat race, which put me in the redraw which was just like I won it. I drew a 6. It was a one-lane track. I passed one, lost one, and ended up sixth – just like we started.

It was still a good night. We felt good about it. We were as good as anybody.

It just turned out to be a one-lane race track, and that was because the program was rushed and they didn’t do the track prep because they were afraid it was going to rain.

Right There In River Cities

We left out and went to River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, N.D.

There, we were good from the get-go. We qualified third quick. Clanton was fastest, Lanigan was second, and I was third.

We got after it in the heat race and won it over Pat Doar. I drew a 1 for the start. I jumped out there and led 49 laps. I had brake trouble all race as we just didn’t get them bled that day. I had a soft pedal and had to pump down the straightaways, which weren’t long because it was a quarter-mile track.

On the last lap, I didn’t quite get it turned. I let it push a little bit in turns 1 and 2, and Lanigan got beside me coming down back straightaway.

I tried to get back by him. We went down the front straightaway in a dead heat, but he beat me by 24-thousandths of a second.

It was one of the worst races I ever lost. I dominated the whole thing but I just didn’t get it set on the last lap. I’m not saying I made a mistake, it just wasn’t a full lap. Darrell’s good enough that you don’t even have to make a whole mistake and he’ll beat you. He got a good run, ran a perfect lap. If we’d run another lap I think I’d have beat him.

It was kind of a heart-breaker for us, but it happens. Darrell helps me out, so if I’ve got to lose to somebody I’d just as soon it be him. We’re not teammates, but we both run Rocket race cars…and we travel together. He told me some stuff to make my car better.

On The Podium In Brainerd

We were third quick at Brainerd Minn. I do tracks by towns. Sometimes I don’t even know the names of some of the tracks. [It was North Central Speedway]

I had a good car and drew 1 again. People told me I could make up for losing the night before. Then Darrell drew a 2 and I said, “Lovely.”

We started on front row. They had watered the top so it was dominant on the start. Darrell jumped the start, but I went with him. They called it a jump anyway and put him back a row and Rick Eckert beside me. I actually got a slight jump on him, but he drove back by me in turns 1 and 2 because of the track being better on the top. I slid up trying to beat him and let Darrell get by me. We went in the first corner running third. Darrell got Eckert in lapped traffic on Lap 14 and that’s the way we finished.

Heading Home Hopeful

In the last two months of racing, we should have had 10 or 11 top-fives if not for problems. Our car program has been really good. I’m feeling good about our season and how it’s hopefully going to turn out.

I had to be in court Monday morning for a traffic incident that happened two years ago, so two of us had to drive 19 and a half hours straight to get back home in time,

I was supposed to run whole Ray Cook Southern Nationals series, but since I’m going to be tied up in court unfortunately that’s not going to happen. We’ll get started back at Dixie Speedway this Saturday and go again.

| , RacinToday.com Wednesday, July 18 2012
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