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Matt Smith in action at the Indianapolis Speedrome. (David Sink photo)

Crowd Pleaser: Matt Smith

Late Model Figure-8 driver Matt Smith, of Fairland, Ind., grew up hanging around the Indianapolis Speedrome. His father, Richard Smith, was a crew member for Jack Dossey and Jack Dossey Jr. for many years.

“From the time I was born, I gravitated toward race cars,” explained Smith. “I always wanted to go with my dad to the race shop. I’d crawl around on the ground and get dirty. I was the nuisance little kid. I’d sit up in the stands and got to be good friends with the Tunnys over time, particularly Ben.”

Smith was only 6 years old when his father died in 1994.

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Matt Smith inside his Late Model Figure-8 race car. (David Sink photo)

“When my dad passed away, my mom used going to the track as a way of coping and helping deal with my father’s death,” Smith explained. “She enjoyed going and hanging out with friends. It helped ease the pain and I really enjoyed going to the track on Saturdays. That was the one thing I looked forward to all week.”

Smith got a late start as a driver, but not by choice. There simply wasn’t the available funding for him to participate as a youngster.

“I dabbled in some kart stuff here and there,” he said. “I did some front-wheel-drive stuff here and there. But I never really raced seriously or raced a full season in anything. I jumped into anything I could if someone would give me an opportunity. A lot of people were reluctant to give me a chance because I hadn’t done much or had anything to lean back on. I never had the money to buy anything. Growing up my mother was a single mom trying to raise me and my sister. She did what she could to provide for us, but there just wasn’t anything left to do anything in racing.

“I bought my first Late Model Figure-8 car in 2017,” Smith continued. “That was really my first serious experience at racing. I ran a couple races late in 2017 before running full time the following season. My very first race with the new car I was a nervous wreck. I had been Ben Tunny’s crew chief for years. It was kind of cool he let me go on my own and do my own thing. We went down to Kentucky to get the car and we worked on it all week to get it ready.

“Being on the track and doing what I dreamed of doing was really cool,” Smith added. “Despite never having any laps in those type of cars I qualified 10th, which really surprised me. My goal was just to finish the race and make as many laps as possible. I think I ended up 13th, which I was happy with.”

The following season Smith competed full time in the Late Model Figure-8 division at the Indianapolis Speedrome. The rookie was impressive right out of the gate. He was the division’s rookie of the year and claimed rookie-of-the-race honors in the biggest race of the year — the World Figure-8 Championship.

Smith led a few laps as a rookie in that race as well. He captured his first victory in 2019 and has won two more features since then.

“All three are special to me but it’s hard to top that first one,” Smith said. “I think the reason my transition to this type of racing has been good is because I was older than most of the other rookies at the time and I was very mature. Plus, I have been watching racing for so long and have studied the stuff. I knew what the car was supposed to do, but sometimes I struggled to get it to do what it needed to do.”

Smith has performed well in the World Figure-8 Championship, which pays $20,000-to-win the three-hour endurance race.

“I have a fourth, two thirds and a second-place finish in my five tries at that race,” Smith said. “That race is so hard to win. Just to run well is an accomplishment. You can get caught up in so many things you can’t control and it’s frustrating.”

When asked how long Smith intends to race, he had a straightforward answer.

“I’d love to do it until I can’t no more,” he said. “I don’t wanna be the old guy in the way. As long as I can afford to do it, I will. But the cost makes it hard at times. If it wasn’t for my wife, Cassy, I wouldn’t be able to do it. Sometimes during racing season, home life gets neglected a little bit. She does a great job of holding the household down.”



Birthday: July 21, 1987

Hometown: Fairland, Indiana

Series: Late Model Figure-8

Sponsors: Polk Brothers Racing, Breedlove Automotive, 5th Avenue Grill & Bar, Last Chance Wrecker, NORTON Transport, De La Fontaine, Hutchison Signs, Shuffitt Auto Repair, T8 Race Cars, Joe Williamson Racing Engines, SCH Heating and Cooling, Gunderson Speed Shop, K&R Medical.