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there he went to flight school where he

earned his military pilot’s wings. He

continued flying for the rest of his life

and was adept at piloting everything

from a Piper Cub to a 707. After three

year’s active duty he remained in the

Army Reserves and continued to fly.

He ultimately retired as a major.

When Ronald Reagan was cam-

paigning for Governor of California,

Smith was his pilot. He said that each

time they landed the plane, sometimes

three or four times a day, Reagan

made it a point to stop by the cockpit

as he exited to thank the crew for a

pleasant flight.

At SAAC-1 all of the historical

race cars were parked in a foyer near

the hotel’s entrance. There weren’t

many of them back then because re-

tired race cars were just beginning to

acquire interest, value and panache.

CSX3035 was parked near a side door

of the ballroom where the dinner and

evening program were held. We con-

cocted a surprise for the start of the

program. A false wall surrounded the

ballroom, creating a ten-foot space

around its perimeter, primarily used

by the waiters and busboys. We de-

cided to roll CSX3035 in through a

service door and when the master of

ceremonies began to speak, he would

open his remarks by saying something

about Shelby American being known

for horsepower. At that point Smith

would start the Cobra and lean heav-

ily on the gas pedal. The sound of the

427’s unmuffled side pipes inside the

narrow passageway would reverberate

and shake the walls.

As soon as we heard the word


” Smith touched the 427

off and it sounded like an explosion.

People inside the ballroom were

shocked and startled until they real-

ized what had happened. Then, know-

ing smiles broke out on everyone’s

face. Everyone except for the hotel’s

banquet manager, who freaked-out.

We had not informed him in advance

because we were pretty sure he would-

n’t have allowed it. We figured it was

better to ask for forgiveness than per-

mission. We quickly pushed the Cobra

back outside and tried to act like noth-

ing had happened.

Dick Smith was a regular, racing

his Cobra at the Monterey Historics

every year and we planned our vaca-

tion around that event every August.

We spent a lot of time with Smith out

at the track, telling stories and swap-

ping lies. He was a very enjoyable per-

son to be around and always attracted

a large group of friends. At one point

he and I were discussing our time in

the Army and discovered that we had

both gone to Officer Candidate School

at Ft. Benning. In fact, we had both

graduated from the 53rd Company.

Even though we were ten years apart,

it established a bond between us sim-

ilar to that of fraternity brothers.

Smith was a popular guy and

whenever he raced he attracted a

steady stream of friends and well-

wishers who would stop by his car to

chat. When he was talking with some-

one and another person he knew

walked up, he would introduce both of

them to each other and would include

a short description to provide some

context of how he knew both of them.

This is my friend, Joe Shlabotnik. I

went to high school with him

.” Or, “


used to race against each other in the


.” Or, “

He runs the hardware

store near me.

” Smith was genuinely

happy to bring two people together

with himself as the common link. I

watched this happen over and over,

every time I saw him.

When he would introduce me, he

would say, “

We were in the same OCS


” as if that was all the expla-

nation that was needed. I never said

anything, but if the third person had

any military experience, I could see

the thought cross his mind: either

Smith was the oldest OCS second lieu-

tenant in the world or Kopec was the

youngest. It always made me smile.

Sadly, Dick died in April 2007, at

73 years old, when the small plane his

son was piloting crashed in the moun-

tains southeast of Los Angeles. Wind

shear was thought to have been the

cause, causing the plane to drop out of

the sky in the blink of an eye. His

death was a shock to everyone who

knew Dick because not being able to

control an airplane he was flying in

was simply unthinkable.


254 Fall 2015

Smith at SAAC-1 in Oakland, California in August 1976.

Colleen Kopec waits for her ride at Ontario Motor Speedway dur-

ing SAAC-3. When giving rides, Smith was always partial to fe-

males. Many a guy was left standing in the pits waiting patiently

for a ride while Smith circulated the track eliciting high-pitched

squeals of delight from his female passenger.