When his boss Geoff Vantreight turned down the opportunity to drive in a special “Sponsor’s Race” in 1955, Al Smith stood in for him and got his very first ride in a racecar. Taking a definite liking to the experience, he started driving in the “Stockcar” class at Western the following year and soon began recording some wins and good finishes which put him into the 8th position in the points standings at season’s end.
In 1957, Al finished 9th in points which included a 2nd place finish behind Dave Cooper in the 50 lap Labour Day “Gold Cup” race. He began to hit his stride in 1958, winning his 1st main event on June 1st which he followed up with victories in the next two. He won that year’s Gold Cup as well as “Best Looking Car” and “Best Looking Crew” and finished 4th in the points race. 1959 saw Al’s victories include the July Cup and the “Championship Race” and his moving up one spot in points to 3rd. The 1960 season was Al’s best to date with him winning the “Roy White Memorial”, being voted “Most Popular Driver” by Western’s fans and emerging as the #1 Stockcar driver in points. Building a new car for 1961, Al and crew found stiff competition from the likes of Ray Pottinger, Billy Foster and Dick Varley but managed a 7th place finish in their final year in the Stockcar class.
A new “Modified Sportsman” class started up in 1962 which saw Al and crew modify their last year’s car to run in the new division. They soon found that their upgraded racer not only had major handling problems but it quickly developed a reputation for mechanical “gremlins” that resulted in them not finishing very many races. For 1963, car owner and sponsor Geoff Vantreight bought Billy Foster’s previous year’s “Daffodil Cup”- winning car for Al which definitely improved things as he set a new Modified track record at Western, competing in the newly-formed “Canadian American Modified Racing Association” (CAMRA) where he finished 5th in the year end points standings.
The off-season saw Victoria racecar fabricator Grant King, assisted by Jimmie Isacson, build 4 new sprint cars, one of which was for Geoff for Al to drive in 1964. Again following the CAMRA circuit, Al set many new track records, posting both wins and good finishes which put him into 6th spot overall in points. In addition to running some CAMRA races in 1965, Al competed in both Victoria and Nanaimo in which he finished 2nd in Island Modified points, also setting a new track record at Western.
1966 saw Al win the the “InterCity” (Nanaimo and Langley tracks) “A” modified season championship which included the “Tony Slogar Memorial” race in Nanaimo.
For the 1967 season, Al drove a new Dick Midgley-prepared car, competing on the CAMRA circuit where he finished in 3rd spot and also the InterCity tracks which now included Western Speedway. He won that year’s “Strawberry Cup” and repeated his win of the Tony Slogar Memorial in Nanaimo. Stepping back to let his younger brother Roy take the wheel in 1968, Al returned in 1969 and won his 2nd Strawberry Cup as well as winning the Tony Slogar trophy for the 3rd time.
Al subsequently retired from driving but did return for a short stint in 1975 at the wheel of Bob Vantreight’s #8 “A” modified roadster.
He was in the very first group of inductees into the “Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame” in 1984.
Al Smith passed away in March of 2017.