With nearly 40 years of racing experience to his credit, Robbie Smith continues to be a force whenever there’s a Top Gun Sprints race on the schedule.
When he was 16 years old, Robbie had the opportunity to get behind the wheel of his father’s car at Sunshine Speedway on a Saturday afternoon practice session. Later, he took his first green flag at Golden Gate Speedway and the open wheel career was underway.
The Tampa native cited the 1988 Little 500 at Anderson Speedway in Indiana as a career highlight, where he finished a career high fourth, though there are a number of top 10s in that event on his resume. That Memorial Day weekend event often brought top talent from the Tampa area to mix it up with the best the Midwest had to offer, a trend that continues as the race commemorated its 71st running last year with four Tampa area racers in the 33-car field. A highlight from his dirt racing career is the October 7, 1989 win of an American Winged Outlaw Sprints event at Alabama’s Talladega Short Track.
With a family owned business, dealing in parts for semis and the refurbishment of trucks, little time is left for anything besides racing. “We go to hockey games and I like to travel a bit. With racing, we used to travel to 50 or more shows in a year.”
While his father focused on pavement racing, Robbie drifted toward the dirt. “I was a baby when I started going to the race tracks. My father then bought his first sprint car when I was 6 years old. Most of the older racers just knew me as a racer's kid. So when I started to do my own racing, I built my own deal. I felt I was good on pavement, but dirt allowed me to do my own racing.”
Throughout most of his career, his racing number has been 6, chosen because his father raced the number 5. He has competed in other numbers for various car owners throughout his career.
For the past few years, when the team unloads equipment in the pit area, a unique multi-purpose vehicle is part of the race day equipment. “We didn’t want just a four-wheeler to push the car out to the track,” Robbie said. “We wanted to have something like the World of Outlaws, but they were very expensive. We bought a Kawasaki Mule in 2011 and decided to equip it as a combination push vehicle and tool cart. We went to the PRI show and started talking to toolbox manufacturers and began to design it with their input. We spec’ed the parts, they built them, and we put it together.”
Racing idols: Bobby Allen, Steve Kinser
Superstitions: Don’t eat peanuts in the pits (veterans will understand)
Favorite track: Ocala (won the last Sprint race before the track converted to pavement)
Toughest competitor: Sam Rodriguez, Kenny Adams, and many others!
Most important lesson: “Never stop learning. There is always a better way to win races.”