Getting to Know: Vern Smith


It’s always been cars and airplanes. Friday nights at Williams Grove Speedway crewing for the dealership’s 34 Chevy coupe with a stove bolt six cylinder engine in the early fifties racing on dirt. Gluing together model airplanes and flying them around my head on thin nylon lines. Drag racing became the focal point in the mid fifties to the early sixties with Brother in law Dave Strickler, Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins and the Old Reliable super stock machines. Four college years in the early sixties were mostly wasted with go kart racing, building radio controlled model airplanes and dropping parachutist (called sky divers today) all over North Carolina. The going rate was seven dollars a thousand feet double occupancy. I would rent a Cessna 172, take off the right door, and out they went.

Financial considerations and the USAF (got a draft notice my junior year) occupied the late sixties and seventies. White Rose Leasing was started in 1974 renting and leasing cars and trucks in Pennsylvania and Maryland. A bankrupt sporting goods store, Shank & Tittle, was purchased in 1978 and expanded to a 12 store regional chain when sold in 1996. SCCA driver’s schools in 1977 and Showroom Stock C were a re-entry into road racing. I was asked to leave Showroom Stock by the SCCA so on to the IMSA Kelly Girl Challenge which kept me busy until 1982.

This is where I met Tommy Riggens who cleaned my clock in every corner but was never very fast on the straights. A disastrous year in Trans Am in 1983 with Ford Motor Company and some fun years in the Firestone Fire hawk series followed. A more sedate lifestyle looked good from the early nineties to 2013 when insanity prevailed and here we are.

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