As the car flipped over — one, two, three times in all — Randy Smith was worried, not about his safety, but about a championship that seemed to be flying away.
“This is no joke,” Smith said. “As I was flipping, I thought, ‘This is the end to the season.’”
Why was finishing the season foremost in his mind instead of concern over life and limb? Smith was on the verge of winning the Winged Sprint Car Championship on the dirt track at Sandia Speedway in Albuquerque last summer. After the car was hauled to the pits, there was some good news.
“We were able to get the car back together and finish the season,” he said.
With several races left, Smith maintained his points lead and secured the title on the final night of racing.
“I was relieved. At my age, at 64 years old, I know I don’t have many years left,” for racing.
The Winged Sprint Car crown goes nicely with a non-winged championship Smith won at Sandia Speedway in 2018.
“Now I have one of each,” he said. “I met my goals for racing. Everything else is icing on the cake.”
Smith is seeking a little frosting on that proverbial cake as he began defense of his title on April 29.
Aside from his hobby, Smith is well known in Valencia County as the owner of Randy’s Electric and as a councilor for the town of Peralta.
How did this passion for the sport hit the accelerator? Breaking from the norm, it was Smith who followed in the racing footsteps of his son, Ronnie, and not the other way around.
Ronnie got the racing bug in high school and was a regular at Albuquerque Speedway, soon working on a pit crew.
Eventually, Ronnie started out in what is called a “mini-sprint,” and father and son would take turns running the oval. Because “it was so much fun,” Ronnie moved on to a full-sized sprint car and won five championships.
Dad soon followed suit and bought a car of his own with wife, Bonnie, brother-in-law, Ted Schloer, and friends, Aaron Hansen and Red Harvey, as part of his team.
“It has been a family operation the whole way,” Smith said.
Sprint cars are known for their spectacular crashes, tumbling end-over-end or rocketing off the track. Check out video of NASCAR star Alex Bowman being injured in a sprint car crash earlier this spring.
“We have to know going in the risk we are taking,” Smith explained while sitting in his 20-foot tall garage, which doubles as something of a “man cave.”
The garage is complete with plenty of memorabilia, a loft and an old-school bar for when the workday is done.
“I’ve been fortunate not to be hurt,” Smith said. “For me, I really enjoy the racing and the challenge and, I guess, the adrenaline.”
Ah, the adrenaline.
“If you’ve ever driven on ice or the snow, and the car breaks traction, for us, that’s fun — you really get the car sideways going through the corners,” he said. “That counter steering is what’s fun.”
The speed adds to the excitement, going upwards of 80 miles per hour on a 3/8 of a mile track.
Smith is now a “stay-at-home” driver, not venturing outside of the metro area to race, no longer concerned with trophies and championships.
“Now, I just want to have fun and still be competitive,” Smith said. “I’ll race until it’s not fun anymore.”
Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.