Sunday, May 3, 2015

Granny's Pantry # 26: Finding Archie Smith (A Real Life NASCAR Legend)

I thought #25 was the last Granny’s Pantry story. I was wrong.

Little did I know, when driving around looking for a thrift store in the tiny town of Denton, NC, that I was about to meet NASCAR history. Denton is the closest town to High Rock, where Granny Cole lived.    

On this Saturday in April, we had just had lunch at the little restaurant that Granny and Granddaddy Cole used to own back in the day; I was determined to find some place to ramble around in. 

And there it was, on South Main, set back from the street and with just the right touch of “junkiness” to be intriguing.
The proprietor was a senior citizen with a lively spirit, talkative personality and the most beautiful white hair. I noticed that he had racing memorabilia tucked among the other finds for sale and he noticed that I was gathering some of them up to purchase.
“I used to race cars,” he said. That piqued my immediate interest.    
“Where?” I thought he would say some local track like maybe Bowman Grey or Caraway.  No.
“I used to race NASCAR. I was in the first NASCAR race at Charlotte in 1949. Out of all the drivers in the race, I’m the only one who is still alive. My parents had to give special permission for me to race, due to my age.”
“What did you say your name is?”  Now I’m really interested, as NASCAR has been my spectator sport since 1992.
“Archie Smith.” 
“Mr. Smith, I heard there was another NASCAR driver from Denton, Buren Skeen, who died after a crash at Darlington about 1965.”  [See Granny’s Pantry #8, Finding Buren Skeen, 10/5/13
“Yes, he was my friend. I had breakfast with him before he left to go to Darlington. The funeral home here asked me to go for him after he died a few days after his wreck.
Oh, my. I was talking to History.
“Let me show you something,” and he picked up the same vintage racing picture collage I had picked up when I first walked into his store. It was stuck up on the counter with some other things…easy to miss.
“This picture is Richard Petty’s daddy, Lee, and I was right behind that car there. And here is Lee Petty’s shop.”
[* See below]
We paid for our purchases, he walked us to the car, I introduced him to my husband and we drove away from The Best Thrift Story Experience I Ever Had.
Naturally, I  Googled “Archie Smith—NASCAR”  immediately. Yep, he’s the real deal. Here’s what I found:

The inaugural season of NASCAR Strictly Stock racing was 1949 and the inaugural race was at Charlotte Motor Speedway on June 19th. Archie Smith came in 6th  (the famous Curtis Turner was 9th and Richard’s dad, Lee Petty, was 17th).  Archie drove a '46 Ford, and his share of the purse was $175. The winner got $2000. (The whole purse was $5000). Archie’s next race was on September 25th at Martinsville. He came in 10th  (right behind Curtis Turner).  You can view an interview with Mr. Smith about that race at:

I found out that Archie Smith preferred drag racing to NASCAR. He drove a ’57 Chevrolet to over 200 victories in that sport.
Mr. Smith became a builder and now, well into retirement, runs a thrift store as his hobby. He said that he still gives autographs. Real NASCAR history fans will want to stop by for a visit. 
Archie Smith has been called, “the reigning granddaddy of NASCAR.” **

                 Wisdom is with aged men, With long life is understanding.  (Job 12:12)

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