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Tough Times Are Really Tough For Outlaws On The Run

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, June 16 2009
Outlaw Late Model driver Clint Smith on one of his better days.

Outlaw Late Model driver Clint Smith on one of his better days.

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Only in racing is the term “Outlaw” one that you’d want your mama to use to describe you.

Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., is one of those outlaws, a barnstorming dirt-track racer who follows the World of Outlaws Late Model tour to tracks across the U.S. and Canada.

But this year hasn’t been one of Smith’s best. Sponsors have held off on backing his team, and the results reflect it.

After winning four races a year in 2006 and in 2007 and contending for the championship both years, the results for the 44-year-old veteran dropped off some last year, with just one win and an eighth-place points finish.

This year he’s ninth in the standings, with five top-10 finishes and no WOO wins as yet, and he’s 202 points behind leader Steve Francis.

“It’s been a long year,” Smith said. “It’s been rough on me. Two big sponsors backed out, and I’ve been having to foot the bills myself.”

Last week, he and his crew regrouped at his shop in Georgia, preparing for the circuit’s Great Northern Tour. The tour begins June 18 at Ohsweken Speedway in Ontario, and concludes June 27 with a $30,000-to-win feature at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa. In between they’ll be racing at least eight nights at six different tracks.

Still, Smith and his crew knocked off early last Saturday afternoon, piled into the transporter and headed to one of his old stomping grounds, Dixie Speedway in Woodstock, Ga.

There they unloaded his back-up car, a 1999 model that had been riding for 11 months in the front overhead compartment of his transporter. Fortunately for him it hasn’t been needed since being repaired after a crash at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway last summer.

The old car showed some signs of neglect. The little-used engine puffed blue smoke during hot laps. The brake pedal went to the floor, necessitating a quick bleeding session to purge the problematic air in the lines.

But for Smith and his crew, making quick repairs on the spot is key to making a living, so in short order the car was almost up to speed.

During his qualifying lap, he bounced off the backstretch wall but still posted a good enough time to start on the front row alongside his old foe from years ago, veteran Georgia racer Ricky Williams.

After more tuning, Smith’s car was the class of the field. He bolted past Williams on the start and drove away to a flag-to-flag victory, his fourth of the year, all of which have come in non-WOO events.

“Ricky and I have raced together about a million laps so the start wasn’t a problem,” he said. “We got the lead, and this place is dominant bottom (the bottom groove is faster) and that’s kind of my style, so it was favorable for me to night.”
Afterwards he stood atop the grandstands, signing autographs and posing for pictures with his hometown fans. Nearby, his father, Roscoe Smith, a dirt-racing legend in the South, shared the spotlight, telling tales from the days when the roles were reversed and he was driving the No. 44 while his son was watching from the other side of the catchfence.

Despite the brief respite and the chance to enjoy some time among his old racing pals, the road beckons.

Smith soon will be pointing his big, blue transporter north, in search of checkered flags at tracks in towns that many of his local peers have never heard of.

It’s a lifestyle that many of the Saturday night racers can only imagine.

“We leave Tuesday,” Smith said. “We’ll go by Cleveland, and watch a race there.

“We’ll hang out at Niagara Falls on Wednesday and be in Ohsweken on Thursday.”

In some ways, racing at the track in Ontario is as encouraging to Smith as being back at Dixie, where he’s raced so many times over the years. 

“I’ve got the track record there, so maybe it will be good for us,” he said.

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, June 16 2009
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