BY: WESLEY MARTIN
David Smoot, 52, derby races not only for the “win,” but also for the youth of the Emerald Coast. The owner of Auto Repairs of Florida and Gulf Coast Racing isn’t sure what came first: racing or working on cars. “I’ve been doing both all my life,” Smoot said. “I was basically bred for this.”
According to Smoot, his grandfather, also an auto mechanic taught him how to fix cars when he was between ages seven or eight.
“He’d always take me to auto car races,” added the Inglewood, C.A. native. “My grandfather got me involved in Go-kart and motorcycle racing before I was 10.”
Smoot says he began racing Go-karts and motorcycles in sanctioned events at 11 years old. By age 13, he’d won his first American Motorcyclist Association, AMA, affiliated race. He was even president of his High School’s motocross club and organized the first High School motocross event in the United States in 1976.
Though he had more exposure and access than others, he did not have the financial backing as his counterparts.
About the age of 17 Smoot was introduced to illegal drugs.
“The guy that introduced me was rich kid and a champion,” he said. “I thought [doing drugs] was the thing to do.”
Smoot says he believed associating with his more privileged peers would prove helpful to his career as a motorsport athlete.
But his plan flopped. The sponsors never came. And sadly, Smoot began to heavily abuse alcohol and illegal drugs.
“If I would have kept my nose to the grindstone, the sponsors would have came around,” Smoot said.
After enrolling in Alcoholics Anonymous and getting sober, he says becoming active in organizations like Racing Against Alcohol Drug Abuse, a drug and alcohol prevention program which also teaches youth about auto racing, helps him stay clean.
Bill Green, RAADA founder, shares many of Smoot’s experiences with not only racing, but alcohol abuse as well.
“I had a hard time recovering from alcohol and (RAADA) is just my way to help others,” Green, 61, said. “You don’t have to use drugs or alcohol to have a good time. There are other things you can do to enjoy life.”
The owner of Savers Transmission Exchange says Smoot’s involvement has been genuine and passionate. “He’s trying to get the youth to understand the types if things he had to get a way from,” said Green.
Smoot, who recently competed in Pensacola’s 44th Annual Snowball Derby this past December, has teamed up with local businesses like Kikers Auto Parts, O’Reilly’s, Daylight Donuts and Boyd Radiator Service to assist in sponsoring the program.
“We all have to have opportunities in our lifetime, said owner of Boyd Radiator Service, Rocky Boyd. “You have to give somebody a chance.”
(Boyd, 50, a lifelong resident of Pensacola, leant his automobile to Smoot to race in last year’s Snowball Derby).
“Racing is not what is used to be,” says Boyd, alluding to the low ethnic diversity traditionally associated with motorsports. He says that the RAADA program is a great way to not only expose less fortunate youth to other activities, but it can boost diversity as well.
Smoot agrees. “I wasn’t able to compete because my parents and I did not have the funds,” he said. “Now, I’m just trying to help others.”