Ray Smith’s Speed Shop in Eaton. Greg Billing/CONTRIBUTED

Area auto racing landmark a hot spot once again

On Sunday, history roared again.

A variety of regional race car drivers – most who wheeled Smith’s rides at one time or another – reunited at the historical speed shop in Eaton to support the latest book from racing historians Bill Holder and Ronn Berry. The stories told were as plentiful as those that filled the book, “Richmond IN Race.”

The book details the rich racing history in the Indiana town from Perfect Circle Piston Rings and Crosley engines to current drivers Steve Casebolt and Duane Chamberlin. Sunday it converged at Smith’s Speed Shop. The late Ray and Cissy Smith fielded cars for a handful of Richmond drivers and a few of those rides were on display.

“It was just a great place to do it,” Holder said of Smith’s Speed Shop, located at 401 Nation Ave. “I think we got some people thinking that had no idea about Richmond’s history.”

Holder got to see many of the drivers mentioned in the book in action, including in his youth when he was able to sneak away to the track.

“There was so much going on when I was a kid but my dad would never let me go to Midget Stadium,” Holder said. “He said they were a bunch of low life’s out there racing cars.”

Holder said during the event he’d been happy if he raised $500 with proceeds benefitting the Dayton Auto Racing Fan Club’s injured drivers fund. The book had raised more than $1,000 midway through the three-hour event.

“We just went ahead and did the book. The more we researched the more that came up,” Holder said. “It’s just something I wanted to do and we have a good time doing it. I think it’s been a good showing.

“I told my wife this was (the last book). She said, ‘Yeah, right.’ There’s so little in this area on racing history available.”

As for Smith’s Speed Shop, it still stands as a racing landmark in Eaton. Joe Smith, Ray’s son, said racing fans still stop and ask if they can tour the garage that houses old trophies and plaques proclaiming many of Smith’s USAC speed and track records at Dayton Speedway, New Bremen Speedway and Winchester Speedway, among others.

“Quite frequently when I’m out mowing the lawn people will stop,” Smith said.

“I’m overwhelmed by the amount of people that wanted to see the shop and remember it. Most of it’s the way it was when the shop closed. … It’s something I kept in the family. I grew up here. It’s sort of like a house.”

As fans toured the inside, Ray Smith’s old sprinters – including his orange and white No. 14 USAC Silver Crown car now owned by Goins Bros. Racing — decorated the outside. Smith’s former F-77 Barracuda speedboat also sat on display, as did Jim Welty’s No. 5 1951 midget car, Mike Swain’s No. 23 Fankhauser Special, the late Mutt Anderson’s No. 51 H&H Machine Tool Special and several go-karts, modifieds and Chamberlain’s late model.

The No. 14, driven by greats like Tom Bigelow, Rich Vogler, Larry Rice, Johnny Parsons and Steve Kinser, still proved a popular draw. Among Smith’s former drivers in attendance Sunday were Jeff Bloom, Duke Cook, Jack Hewitt, Rich Leavell, Greg Leffler, Jim Linder, Rusty McClure and Brent Whited.

“Some of them stayed in the shop and worked in the shop during the summer,” Smith said. “Some would find a room (in the area) somewhere, but they would spend the summer here because this is where the racing was. Dad helped them out. … It’s history. Seeing the people enjoy coming through and talking about old times, that what it’s about.”

For more information or to order a book, call Holder at 937-233-0924.

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