D. William "Speedy Bill" Smith, of Lincoln, passed away at his home on May 30, 2014. He was born to Donald R. and Mabel G. (Bower) Smith in Lincoln, NE on June 22, 1929. Speedy Bill lived the American Dream.
Bill attended Hawthorne, Irving and Lincoln High School ('47). As a young boy, he was industrious and discovered a boundless passion for cars! Bill worked at the 44th & 'O' EN-AR-CO station to buy his first car ('17 Model T) which he in turn used to start his first business, "Bill's Hauling", at the age of 14. Mechanically talented, Bill paid his way through college by repairing and selling cars.
Bill attended Nebraska Wesleyan University where he pledged Theta Chi and met a smart, pretty young freshman with a beautiful smile named Joyce Uphoff. During his college days, while studying to be a teacher, Bill raced motorcycles and roaring roadsters.
After Graduating from Wesleyan with a degree in Education, Bill married Joyce Uphoff on October 26, 1952. They founded Speedway Motors as partners that same year with Joyce providing a $300 loan to open their 20x20 storefront at 2232 'O'. Bill loved the speed shop and hot rodding. But racing was his passion.
In his long, eventful racing career from 1948 to 1980 Bill hired over 90 drivers including Tiny Lund, Johnny Beauchamp, Bob Burdick, Lloyd Beckman, Jan Opperman and Doug Wolfgang. In the 50's, while continuing to build and race jalopies locally, Bill built an Olds to run on the beach at Daytona in 1954. In 1956 Bill and Bobby McKee built a Pontiac for Tiny Lund to race with NASCAR. Bill's racing interests spanned from go-karts to dragsters, roaring roadsters to Indy cars...often in royal purple, always with number 4x. Bill's most memorable racing successes include Beckman's unbeatable 1960-61 season, Opperman's victory at the 1976 Hulman Classic and Wolfgang winning the 1978 Knoxville Nationals.
Speedy Bill's racing success has been recognized by dozens of organizations with Racing Hall of Fame and Lifetime Achievement Awards from the likes of, Belleville Highbanks, Nebraska Auto Racing, National Sprint Car, NHRA, IMCA, BCRA, USAC and Model T Ford Club Racer Hall of Fame.
Through the years, while still racing, Bill's mechanical abilities plus his passion, tenacity, merchandising and marketing skills helped Speedway Motors prosper and continuously grow for 62 years. In 1961 Bill and Joyce also co-founded the commercial real estate company which came to be known as Speedway Properties and would go on to earn over ten Community Improvement Awards.
Speedy Bill was always in fast company! Bill's six-decade leadership of Speedway Motors earned him a wonderful reputation throughout the racing world and performance industries. He likely attended more races, car shows and trade shows than anyone in America. Since their inception, Bill walked the fields of Hershey, the aisles of SEMA and the lanes of nearly every National Street Rod event. His tremendous impact on the automotive community was widely recognized as he has received dozens of Industry and Lifetime Achievement Awards including the Robert E. Peterson, NSRA, NHRA, Stoker McGurk, and the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year. He was also inducted into numerous Industry Hall of Fames including: SEMA, PWA, HRIA, National Rod & Custom Car, Classic Car, Rod & Custom Magazine and Hot Rod Magazine Hall of Fame.
A desire to preserve racing history led Speedy Bill, Joyce and their four sons to found of the Museum of American Speed in 1992. This non-profit racing museum allows the Smiths to give back to automotive community and to share their profound love and knowledge of racing and rodding history for future generations.
Bill loved Lincoln! He was especially proud to have been honored with the Lincoln High School Distinguished Alumni Award, Nebraska Wesleyan Alumni Achievement Award, Nebraskaland Trailblazer Award and being inducted into the Nebraska Business Hall of Fame!
Speedy Bill loved his work. He and his wife Joyce labored 60-plus hour weeks at Speedway Motors while raising their four boys. Bill and Joyce always felt blessed with their sons, who have had the pleasure of working in the family business with their remarkable parents.
Bill is survived by sons, Carson (Jane) Smith, Craig (Cathy) Smith, Clay (Beth) Smith, and Jason (Lisa) Smith, all of Lincoln; ten grandchildren. Preceded in death by his beloved wife and partner of 61 years, Joyce Smith ("Mrs. Speedway").
Bill's Celebration of Life will be held at 5 pm on June 14th at the Museum of American Speed. In lieu of flowers, please share with us your memories of Speedy Bill: Bill Smith Memorial Museum of American Speed, 599 Oak Creek Dr. Lincoln, NE 68528, PO Box 81906 Lincoln, NE 68501.ForBill@MuseumofAme ricanSpeed.com. Arrangements by Roper and Sons Funeral Services; www.roperandsons.com