Name:

George Smith

Age:

69

Region:

Utah

Hometown:

Stansbury Park, Utah

Racing Class:

ST1, SU

Sponsors:

JDP Motorsports, Smith Marketing Services

Day Job:

Owner, Smith Marketing Services

Favorite Food:

Sushi

Favorite TV show:

“The Prophet”

Favorite Movie:

“My Cousin Vinnie”

Favorite Book:

“The One-Minute Manager”

Favorite Track:

Miller Motorsports Park

Dream Racecar:

C7R
SMS head shot

We all buy cars because we need to get around. But sometimes we buy cars because they can take us places.

That’s certainly the case for NASA Utah member George Smith. He’s owned a Corvette continuously since 1971. Smith ran the cars in autocross events and time trials until he tasted his first track day in early 1990s. After that, there was no turning back, Smith says.

“NASA is kind of responsible for my road-racing efforts actually because the first time I really got on track at (Mazda Raceway) Laguna Seca was a NASA event,” Smith says. “I think it was 1991 or 1992. I still have a T-shirt from that event. I had so much fun going nose-to-tail with a Porsche 944 around that track. I had done a lot of time trials and autocrossing up till then, and I turned to my wife and said, ’We’re going road racing. No more shagging cones.’”

That led to the purchase of a C4 Corvette and then eventually the C5 chassis he races today. That C5 has taken Smith to 97 race starts, 28 pole positions 57 career class wins, two NASA Super Touring championships and two Super Unlimited championships.

That car also has allowed him to take part in some interesting races at his home track, Miller Motorsports Park. Each year, the track plays host to the Utah Grand Prix, which brings in the likes of NASCAR and the American LeMans Series before it became the Tudor United Sports Car Championship. Smith competed in supporting races to those events and scored two wins among a field that included pro drivers in professionally built cars.

“What was really cool is that all the factory pro drivers were there,” Smith says. “Johnny O’Connell came over and shook my hand and congratulated me for the win, and that was kind of cool.”

The day after his victory on the ALMS weekend, Smith hosted a cookout at his home. Aaron Pfadt of Pfadt Engineering had just inked a deal with Johnny O’Connell for a suspension package for Corvettes. Pfadt asked if it was OK if he brought O’Connell and a few other guys from the factory Corvette Racing team to the cookout. Smith jumped at the chance to meet them.

“Guys like Johnny O’Connell coming over and cheering you on, that doesn’t happen every day,” Smith said. “I live six miles from the track, and the Corvette Racing guys from the No. 3 car, including Johnny O’Connell, the following day came over to my patio and we all sat out and had barbecue on the patio.”

And it happened in large part because he races a Corvette. Built entirely by Smith, his No. 73 Corvette started from humble beginnings. He bought it from a guy in Lodi, Calif., who used it as a track-day car. It already had a roll cage, but the car had been badly damaged in a fire. Essentially, it was just a frame and a roll cage and some usable components, but it was a good place for Smith to start. It’s not a Z06, so it has a better aerodynamic profile.

About the time Smith got the car to the point where it needed an engine, GM had begun selling the 7.0-liter LS7 — also known as a 427 — over the counter as a crate motor. So he bought one. But, of course, 505 horsepower wasn’t enough, so Smith sent it to Katech in Clinton Township, Mich., where engine output was increased to 650 horsepower. In its current tune, Smith’s car makes 700 crankshaft horsepower.

“I completely built that car myself. That’s one of the things I’m proudest of, that I’ve achieved the success that I have in a car I built myself,” Smith says. “Guys like Jordan Anthony at LG Motorsports and Sonny Whelen when he was running World Challenge, they were all very helpful guiding me in the right direction in building the car. It took two and a half years to make a racecar out of it.”

Smith hand-fabricated the radiator ducting for the hood outlet three times before he finally got it right. It’s difficult to keep all that horsepower cool at 4,500 feet above sea level, the elevation of Miller Motorsports Park. The system works well enough that other racers have borrowed the patterns to make it for their own cars.

With that radiator setup and all that power on tap, Smith was able to earn a Championship in STR1 at the 2013 National Championships at Miller Motorsports Park. It was no easy task. Due to a pass-under-yellow infraction, Smith started from way back in the field. It took him several laps work his way to the front of the STR1 field and hold on for the win and the Championship.

“I think, like a lot of club racers, especially people doing it on a real budget — because I’m running this car on what would normally be a Miata budget — the reason I’m able to do it is that I do all the work myself,” Smith says. “I’m not an arrive-and-drive guy. I’m able to squeeze quite a lot out of the dollars I spend. You want to do something, you sit down and you figure it out. You call friends. You research it and then you do it.”

In the end, Smith built a car that not only gets him around, but also has taken him places he never imagined.

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Image courtesy of Brett Becker