Russ Conway, a motor sports enthusiast, journalist and author who joined the media section of the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999, saluted his late friend Ken Smith during Monday night’s Open Mike Show over WHAV.
Conway reflected on his years as a race director, owner, promoter and working with Smith. Conway told guest host Marc Lemay how he met the future Pentucket Bank chairman who died in February.
“He actually worked for the Haverhill Gazette. He was writing automobile racing at the Pines Speedway in Groveland. How ironic this story is, and, I was writing a column for the Haverhill Journal,” Conway said.
Charlie Elliott, Conway and Smith went into business June 26, 1965, turning the Star Brick Yard in Epping, N.H., into Star Speedway. Conway said the race track was a big success.
“It became internationally famous, in Canada as well as here. An average Saturday night crowd, to get 5,000, 5,500 was nothing.”
Smith was introduced to car racing at a young age, said Conway, who was himself inducted into the New England Racing Hall of Fame in 2006.
“He grew up in Groveland. His mother took him there when John Smith built the Pines in 1939, 40. His mother took him down there—Ken’s mother did—in a carriage. He lived not far from the Pines.”
Conway shared his fondest memories of Smith. “He was so active. There wasn’t a charity he ever missed. He was active in all sorts of charities, all the racing, all fundraisers. It was amazing. The things he really accomplished…and the best characteristic of Ken Smith was he was just a down to Earth, fun, nice guy. He was just a great friend of mine. Loved racing with a passion.”
Ollie Silva, a modified and supermodified auto racing driver, also won praise.
“He won races—Ollie Silva did, the Big O. He won from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Hialeah, Fla., to California to Ohio. He won everywhere he went, and that’s quite an accomplishment for an independent driver.”
See the entire Open Mike Show below.
Visiting hours for Smith take place Tuesday, June 6, between 2 to 4 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m., immediately followed by services at 7 p.m. at the Monument Square Chapel of Paul C. Rogers Family Funeral Home, 334 Main Street, Haverhill. A Celebration of Life will be held Wednesday, June 7, between 4 to 8 p.m. at DiBurro’s Function Facility, 887 Boston Road, in Haverhill’s Ward Hill, with a period of “Reflections by Family and Friends” at 7 p.m.