There are a lot of people in our racing family who don’t drive race cars. Families, sponsors, pit crews, officials, volunteers and staff at Speedway 660 play an important role in our sport. Wade Wilson recently caught up with Wayne Smith who started Speedway 660 Ministry.
Talkin with Wayne Smith
Wade: Hello Wayne. There used to be a Wayne Smith who raced on the Maritime Pro Stock Tour. Do people sometimes think you are him?
Wayne: Yes they do, but I tell them I am the real Wayne Smith. Ha, Ha.
Wade: How long have you been involved in racing and how did you get started?
Wayne: Well my first exposure to racing was over 50 years ago. Back in1963, I used to go to the old Scoudouc Dragway, on the outskirts of Shediac. I remember liking drag racing so much that I “borrowed” my Mother’s 57 Chevy and entered. Mom was not part of the plan, if you know what I mean. A few years later I joined Dale Johnson’s pit crew and went oval racing at Brookside. I’ve pretty much been involved in racing ever since.
Wade: When Speedway 660 started you were involved in Fire and Rescue for several years. You must really appreciate the work that Shane MacFarlane’s Fire and Rescue crew and Buddie Munn’s Emergency Medical team do here every week.
Wayne: Yes, they do a super job. They are well trained and dedicated to keeping everyone safe. A lot of times fans may take Fire & Rescue and the Emergency Medical team for granted, but the drivers and their families take comfort in knowing we’ve got some of the best in the business at Speedway 660.
Wade: What is it that keeps you coming back to the track after all of these years?
Wayne: It is an addiction as anyone will tell you. It gets in your blood. People who love racing keep coming out and enjoying the sport. The speed, the rivalries, the intensity are just a few things that fans find appealing.
Wade: Tell us a little bit about Speedway 660 Ministry, how it got started and what your role is here at the track now.
Wayne: After considering this for a few years, I approached Max Roy with a plan and he agreed it was a great idea. Most of the big tracks have some kind of a Ministry for the drivers. My wife Sheryl and I come each week, try to make contact with the teams and do an Invocation before each race. I see this an opportunity to have a connection with the teams that the owners may not have time for each week. For example, if someone is sick, we might visit them through the week. We’ll walk through the pits and congratulate drivers for last week’s wins and just sort of make a connection to develop a stronger community.
Wade: You know first-hand what it’s like to be sick and have a life threatening disease.
Wayne: Thirty-six years ago I was diagnosed with cancer. After two surgeries, several trips to Halifax, two years of chemo and many prayers and support from family and friends I was on my way to recovery. After three years of treatment, I was back firefighting. So many people in our racing community have been or are being affected by cancer. I personally know how much the support of friends and family means.
Back in June of 2008 Wayne Smith completed a 72 hour “Drive for Cancer” at Speedway 660. Steve and Tracey Burns, former track owners, offer congratulations after Wayne completed 3090 laps in the Geary Woods! He raised nearly $12,000 for cancer research!
Wade: This year you started doing an Invocation just before the National Anthems each week. Why do you think this is important and how has it been received by the race teams and fans?
Wayne: We believe in prayer. This is a dangerous sport and it is good to ask for God’s protection and take time to acknowledge a power higher than ourselves. We have received a lot of positive feedback from folks in our racing community.
Wade: You’ve seen a lot of changes in our sport over the years. What are some of the things you’ve observed?
Wayne: The technical side of the sport sure has changed. Today there are professional engine builders and race shops that specialize in setting up the cars. Back in the day, it was more of a backyard aspect, but in order to be competitive today, race teams really have to be on the ball.
Wayne says even though our sport is more high-tech today, it was still just as much fun to go to the races back in the day as it is today. Jim MacPherson (#28) was one of the top drivers at the old Riverglade Speedway back in the 1960s.
Wade: Racing is unlike a lot of other sports. The drivers compete hard against each other, but for the most part down in the pits, they help each other out.
Wayne: It’s unique in that this sport is a fraternity much like Firefighters, so you become family. Sheryl and I enjoy walking through the pits, talking to people and watching how everyone works together to put a good product out on the track. It really is amazing to see how race teams help each other out, by lending parts and rolling up their sleeves and pitching in to get a competitor’s car repaired.
Wade: What do you think of all of these kids that are moving up through the ranks here at Speedway 660?
Wayne: They are such a welcome addition to this sport. Their involvement means this sport will continue to thrive for many years to come. It is incredible how good they are and how quickly they improve.
Wade: Thanks for doing this Wayne and on behalf of our racing family I want to thank-you for your work in the Speedway 660 Ministry.
Wayne: You are very welcome. Sheryl and I would like to thank the Roy and Foley families, who own and operate Speedway 660 and the racing community for allowing us to do this each week.