Do you know what you were doing when you were two weeks old?
Not likely, but Clint Smith does. He was attending his first dirt track race as his dad, Roscoe Smith, competed—and likely won.
Since then, the Senoia resident has rarely missed a weekend of racing, first watching his dad, then competing himself starting at the age of 15, and now, at 53, competing and coaching other drivers.
After nearly 40 years of racing, Clint “Cat Daddy” Smith has achieved legendary status. He has racked up more than 295 wins, competed and won at the highest levels and, along the way, built a successful racing business that positively impacts dirt track racing throughout the country.
First things first, though. How did he get that nickname?
“Early in my career, a driver named Johnny Virden gave it to me,” says Smith. “He always had a knack for coming up with nicknames for people that included the word ‘Daddy.’ He knew that I called a lot of people ‘Cat,’ so he started calling me ‘Cat Daddy’ and it just kind of stuck.”
For decades, Clint Smith Racing has built dirt track cars and taught people how to drive them.
“It’s all I’ve ever done,” says Smith, “or wanted to do. It’s a fortunate world to be in, to be able to do what you love and help others achieve success as well.”
Smith maintains 25 or so cars and, even if you’ve never driven a race car, he can provide that experience in a two-seater that’s perfect for full-bore laps at Senoia Raceway.
The success of his racing business is closely tied to Smith’s noteworthy achievements as a driver. His numerous wins were made at tracks all across the country and led to several important championships. He’s a four-time Southern All-Stars Dirt Racing Series Champion and has more than 10 Top 10 finishes in the prestigious World of Outlaws Late Model Series point standings. The World of Outlaws series, held at tracks throughout the nation, is considered the highest echelon of dirt track racing.
While points championships and high finishes in the World of Outlaws series are important to Smith, he points to a 1993 win as his most memorable.
“I’ve won some big races, including a $25,000 win,” he says, “but in the early ’90s, winning a $10,000 event was a big deal. And in 1993, I won the Hav-A-Tampa Dirt Late Model Series race at South Hampton, Virginia. That was my first $10,000 win, and to this day it is very special.”
Smith also has driven for his country, being selected twice to a U.S. team that competed in seven races in Australia in the mid-1990s. Smith and the Americans won on each of their visits down under.
“We don’t travel quite as much as we used to,” Smith says, noting there are benefits to staying close to home. “By running at more local tracks, like North Georgia or East Alabama, we can prepare a little better, make adjustments. And, it’s definitely better for my family.”
Smith’s family includes wife Kim and daughter Jenna, who travel with him whenever possible.
“I still love to compete, and I’m going to keep racing as long as I’m capable and competitive,” Smith says. “Racing will always be a part of my life—if not competing, then helping others compete.”
That drive to compete, and the benefits of experience, was never more evident than last fall at a major event, the Southern 100, in Milton, Fla. Smith started in the seventh row at the $10,000 headliner, and in a race marred by numerous wrecks and caution flags, he worked his way all the way to fourth place.
“That Milton run really demonstrates the temperamental nature of the sport,” Smith says. “There can be bumps on the track, over aggressive drivers or equipment issues. We had a transponder malfunction, which hurt us, but we dodged the wrecks, found some traction in key spots and made a solid finish.”
The legendary driver talks about racing on his weekly radio show—another facet of the Smith racing enterprise—that airs on Newnan’s Magic 98.1. Hosted by Chris Carr, the show features conversations with the nation’s best drivers who discuss their success or failure from the prior weekend.
The show demonstrates a key element of Smith’s success: He knows racing, top to bottom, holds the respect of people in the industry and is driven to help the sport grow and prosper.
That knowledge had led to many interesting interactions with people well-known in racing and in other fields. Smith built cars for Jeff Gordon when the superstar NASCAR driver competed in the Prelude, a dirt track charity race that attracts drivers from all types of racing. In addition, the Senoian has worked with Tony Stewart and other former and current NASCAR drivers.
Despite such connections, Smith is anything but star-struck. At this point in his career, his primary focus is on helping others become better drivers and on building the sport itself.
One example: Last fall, he was chosen as an instructor at the Racewise Dirt Track Chassis School in Alabama, where hundreds of drivers attend to learn the technical side of racing and race cars.
“I really like helping people win,” says Smith. “I want my people, who are driving my cars, to have success. I want that even more than I want to win a race myself. That’s a real kick.”
What happens if those students happen to be pitted in a race with their famous instructor?
“It happens, for sure,” says Smith. “But I make it pretty clear that while I want them to win, I’m never going to give it to them. They have to earn it.”