Steve Smith recalls brush with Eldora history

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This being World 100 week, InsideDirtRacing.com will preview the race with three pieces based on interviews with drivers who either will or have competed at Eldora Speedway. The first of these will be with Steve Smith followed by Donald McIntosh and finally Vic Hill.

Steve Smith

With the most prestigious Dirt Late Model race in America set to run this coming weekend one can’t help but recall famous moments in the history of Eldora Speedway. One east Tennessee racer who will always be intertwined with the Rossburg, Ohio track is Powell’s Steve Smith.

Although Smith is not necessarily known for the World 100, he did make history at Eldora when he came home as the runner-up in the most lucrative event ever held in Dirt Late Model racing. With $1 million on the line for the winner, Smith finished just behind Ohio’s Donnie Moran and came just short of a lottery-like payday.

Smith was driving for legendary car builder C.J. Rayburn at that time in the race known as the Eldora Million, which took place on June 9, 2001.

“There was a lot of cars there and I was with Rayburn,” Smith recalled in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com. “He was on then and we were faster than Moran, but we ran second. Everybody said that if you had another lap you could have won, but you ain’t got another lap. That’s kind of the way I looked at it.”

Smith believes he could have passed Moran late in that event had it not been for a procedure that is no longer used today.

“I started twelfth and really what I think cost me the race was that back then they put lapped cars in between the leader and the second place car(on restarts),” Smith explained. “If he lapped that car then I had to lap it, and it was good cars that we were lapping. That really slowed me down. But hey, I was thankful to run second.”

So does Smith ever think back to what might have been had he been the one who had collected the richest paycheck ever written to a Dirt Late Model driver?

“I don’t really do that,” he said. “I know I was faster at the end, the stopwatch said I was. But the bottom line is that I ran second. There’s not 101 laps. Racers like to talk that way but there’s no sense in it.”

While every driver wants to win, Smith has developed perspective since that night.

“It was a historic moment and we did beat a lot of guys, but I had number one stuff,” the veteran racer declared. “Now, I don’t have the money to travel up and down the road. I’m not poor by no means, but it takes a lot of money to race. I’d love to go back up there, but unless somebody helps me, I can’t go.”

But win or no win, Smith still has fond memories of Eldora.

“I’ve always been fast there, but I got bit a lot. One mistake at that place and you’re out. I love that place. This(Tazewell Speedway) and Eldora are my favorite places. I ran good there but I got bit a lot. I had motor troubles and stuff. It takes it all. It’s not one little thing, it’s a whole combination.”

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