The “Good ol’ Gal” of racing, Louise Smith always lived her life to the maximum, competing with the “good ol’ boys” in NASCAR events, she entered the NASCAR arena during its early years. At a time when getting behind the wheel of a racecar – especially for a woman – was considered almost impossible, Louise broke many barriers to do what she loves best, racing.
Way ahead of her time, Louise raced in everything with wheels, right from Modified cars to Sportsman cars. She also participated in the Grand Nationals,(now the NASCAR Cup Series). Louise made a name for herself in the field of racing, from 1946 through 1956.
Talking about her career, Louise said, “I enjoyed every minute of it, I traveled all over North America, racing everywhere I could and I had fun with it. Didn’t make a whole lot of money, but if I could do it again today, I’d do it, and I think I’d make it.”
Considered crazy by many people around her, Louise nevertheless played a part in making NASCAR popular and in the promotion of races by Bill France Sr. Her talent and the fact that she was a novelty in the sport only added to her appeal.
Career BeginsHer driving career began when NASCAR held a race at Greenville-Pickens Speedway, her home track, and required a gimmick to promote the race. Louise was suggested as the woman driver who could “outrun every highway patrol and lawman in Greenville”. She was instantly hired and soon began her career in the sport.
Recalling that day, Louise says, “They told me if I saw a red flag to spot, they didn’t say anything about the checkered flag. I wondered where all the cars were and then as I was all alone on the track, I noticed them all in the pits. They finally threw the red flag and I pulled in. I had finished third”.
With a total of 38 wins in her career, by the mid 1970s, Louise became involved in the sport once again, and began sponsoring drivers like Bobby Wawak, Larry Peason and Ronnie Thomas. Later she also became involved in the Miss Southern 500 Scholarship Pageant, at Darlington Raceway.