MECHANICSBURG, Pa. – Williams Grove Speedway will present the biggest race of Pennsylvania Speedweek presented by Red Robin Friday night, when the 32nd annual H&N Landscaping Mitch Smith Memorial for 410 sprint cars hits the half-mile dirt track.
Known for decades as the crown jewel of PA Speedweek, the Mitch Smith Memorial will pay a hefty $15,000 to win out of a total purse worth nearly $40,000, thanks in part to contributions from the Smith family.
The H&N Landscaping Mitch Smith Memorial honors the late Richard “Mitch” Smith of Linglestown, who succumbed to a massive heart attack in 1988, some 10 years after retiring.
Smith left the sport in 1978 after a four-decade long career where he scored 27 sprint car wins and nine super modified victories at Williams Grove alone, part of a whopping 179 overall checkered flags.
Time trials will set the starting grids for the Smith Memorial, with the main event going 30 laps in distance. The fastest driver in qualifying time trials will earn the $300 Fast Tees Fast Time Award, courtesy of Fast Tees Screenprinting of Thompsontown.
The Smith Memorial will also be part of the 2020 Hoosier Diamond Series at the track.
The special Speedweek event will be a stand-alone sprint car program, focusing solely on the 410 sprint cars, and pays tribute to the life and legacy of Smith, who was the original “Mr. Excitement” of Pennsylvania sprint car lore.
The name Mitch Smith became cemented nationally when, in 1971, the “little guy” from Linglestown trounced the traveling stars of the United States Auto Club not once, but three times when they towed into the region.
In 1971, USAC was to sprint car racing what the World of Outlaws is today. USAC competition was the way to Indy. The USAC circuit groomed its drivers to sit on the Indy 500 starting grid. And start they did.
But on June 19 and Sept. 25 at Williams Grove Speedway in 1971, and again on July 17 at Selinsgrove Speedway, Smith used a rarely-doled-out temporary racing permit – issued by USAC to just a few local drivers – to beat the traveling band, badly.
The USAC stars were furious. Protests were lodged and tear-downs were performed. All was legal.
Smith had beaten the unquestionable best in the sprint car business not once, not twice, but three times. The word went out quickly that the “Linglestown Leadfoot,” Mitch Smith, had trounced USAC in Central Pennsylvania. His legend was cemented forever after that.
Smith retired from the sport in 1978, and in 1988 was felled by a massive heart attack at the age of 58. In 1995, Smith was inducted posthumously into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Iowa.
First run in 1989, Stevie Smith won the very first Smith Memorial before returning for wins again in 2012 and 2014.
No driver owns more wins in the Smith Memorial than five-time victor Lance Dewease (1992, ’95, ’97, ’01 & ’18), but Danny Dietrich is the defending event champion and a three-time Smith Memorial winner in his career.
Other previous winners include Joey Allen, Alan Krimes, Daryn Pittman, Trey Starks, Don Kreitz Jr., and Doug Esh.
Racing begins Friday night at Williams Grove Speedway at 7:30 p.m.
SPEED SPORT’s PA Speedweek coverage is presented by Diversified Machine Inc., one of the leading machine shops in the Central Pennsylvania region. Through the DMI and Bulldog component lines, Diversified Machine Inc. has grown from modest beginnings to become one of the premier rear end manufacturers in the motorsports industry.
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