In February 1959, Jack accepted...
In February 1959, Jack accepted the NASCAR Most Popular Driver Award.
It was then that Ray Nichels approached Jack and asked him if he would drive a Pontiac for the 1960 season. According to Jack's wife, Betty, "Jack was thrilled because all the drivers were hunting for sponsorships after the factories had gone out of direct support of the racers, and he was glad that Mr. Nichels had come along."
On February 12, 1960, Jack strapped in behind the steering wheel of a '60 Pontiac Catalina with a NASCAR 389/333hp engine, race-prepped by Nichels Engineering, and sponsored by delivering dealer, Boomershine Pontiac of Atlanta. Unsure of the Pontiac's capabilities, he entered the Daytona 500 qualifier, took First Place, and earned $1,000. He started second for the Daytona 500 two days later, led 14 laps, finished twenty-third, and earned an additional $900.
Johnny Brunner in the starters...
Johnny Brunner in the starters stand gives the green flag to the field of 37 stock cars at the start of the Firecracker 250 in Daytona Beach, Florida, on July 4, 1960. Jack Smith, shown in the No. 47 '60 Catalina, quickly got the jump on his competitors: Bobby Johns in the No. 3 '59 Catalina, Glen "Fireball" Roberts in the No. 22 '60 Catalina, and Cotton Owens in the No. 6 '60 Catalina. Jack ended up winning the race with a new speed record of 146.842 mph.
Jack considered the 21st race of the season, the Charlotte 600 on June 19, 1960, very special. He started in second position behind Fireball Roberts, took the lead on laps 141-143, and again on laps 160-352, and built a commanding lead against his competitors, with 48 laps to go. According to Betty, "The asphalt was tearing up in big chunks, and Jack ran over one and it knocked a hole in the gas tank. They tried every way to fix it, but they couldn't and he had to come in. He would have easily won the race if it wasn't for that."
One race later, he got the big win he was looking for. At the Daytona International Speedway Firecracker 250 on July 4, 1960, in front of 15,919 fans, he completed 100 laps on a 2.5-mile paved track in 1 hour, 42 minutes, and 9 seconds, earning First Place, and an $11,500 purse. Betty told HPP, "I was up in the scorer's stand, and I couldn't see him on the backstretch. I was just praying that he would come back around."
The Daytona Beach News Journal gave Jack its front-page headline, which read, "Smith Cracks Record to Win, Roars in First with Amazing 146.842 mph" and went on to say, "Smith's come-from-behind finish was as amazing as his record speed. He had to push his red '60 Pontiac Catalina to its limit-up to 170 mph on the fast backstretch-to overtake Everett "Cotton" Owens in a white '60 Pontiac. Smith closed a gap of over a quarter of a mile in the...dash and crossed the finish line just 30 feet ahead of Owens."
He competed in four more races in 1960. The most notable was the Dixie 300 at the Atlanta International Raceway on July 31, 1960, where he took Third Place behind Fireball Roberts and Cotton Owens, both driving '60 Catalinas. His earnings for the year were $24,721.
Jack smiles from the driver-seat...
Jack smiles from the driver-seat of his '60 Catalina NASCAR race car. Notice the Bud Moore Garage patch on his shirt.
In 1961, Jack fielded two nearly identical '61 Catalina 389/333hp race cars: No. 47, painted in Coronado Red, competed in 25 NASCAR races, and No. 46, painted two-tone Coronado Red/Shelltone Ivory, competed in 12 races. To allow both of his race cars to be campaigned simultaneously, Jack hired Bob Welborn, Rex White, Bobby Johns, and Larry Frank as drivers.
He placed Sixth in the Daytona 500 on February 26, 1961, and his first season win came on June 8, 1961, at the Pickens 200 at Greenville-Pickens Speedway. With Bob driving, the No. 47 Catalina took Second Place at Atlanta's Festival 250 on July 9, 1961, and with Jack driving, it earned Fourth Place at Atlanta's Dixie 300 on September 17, 1961. His earnings for the year were $21,410.
On July 29, 1961, at the Volunteer 500 at Bristol International Speedway, Jack campaigned his No. 46 Catalina and won First Place, beating Fireball Roberts driving a Smokey Yunick-prepared '61 Catalina. But it wasn't Jack who crossed the finish line. Betty explained why Jack had to make a pit stop and relief driver Johnny Allen was sent in, and won the race for him. "There was a small hole under where his feet were, and the heat from the engine blistered his foot," she said. "He had to come in to see about it. Johnny Allen took over while a doctor looked at his foot."