Legendary ‘Speedy’ Bill Smith Dies
LINCOLN, Neb. — Legendary speed shop owner Bill “Speedy” Smith died Friday at his home here.
Smith, a member of numerous motorsports halls of fame, was 84 years old.
Smith, a racer and street rodder himself, founded Speedway Motors in 1952 in a 20 by 20-foot storefront in Lincoln, Neb., thanks to a $300 loan from his wife Joyce. The company grew quickly, eventually becoming one of the world’s largest manufacturers and distributors of parts for the racing and street rod markets.
“My customer base was pretty limited in those days,” Smith said in 2012 when the company celebrated its 60th anniversary. “It was tough going at first, but I was determined to pursue my passion for performance.”
Throughout the years Smith was involved in a number of different forms of motorsports, ranging from NASCAR to drag racing to land speed racing. He was a short track car owner for years, earning the Nebraska Modified Racing Ass’n championship with driver Lloyd Beckman in 1960, 1961 and 1971 as well as the IMCA Five State title in 1961.
Smith also partnered with a young Jan Opperman in 1969, capturing the Big Car Racing Ass’n championship. Opperman added a second BCRA title in 1975 as well as capturing a multitude of major races, including the 1976 Hulman Classic. Smith also won the 1978 Knoxville Nationals as a car owner with driver Doug Wolfgang.