Otis "Otie” Smith, the 1959 Middle Eliminator winner at the Nationals in Detroit, died May 23. He was 94.
Along with Art and Walt Arfons and Arlen Vanke, Smith was one of hot rodding heroes to come out of Akron, Ohio, and an early supporter of NHRA, running the regional in his hometown there before the nationals were even established and racing all over the Midwest, but also took trips to Florida, Maine, and California.
An avowed lifelong “car nut” – he began driving his father’s 1929 Model A Ford before he reached his teen years --Smith began racing in 1953, driving a 1932 Ford Roadster at the Akron airport track, and by his estimation went on to compete in about 100 NHRA events in his 13-year career. Smith also operated Otie’s Automotive Specialties in Akron for 33 years until 1988. Asked once why he liked to drive fast, Smith replied, “You got to be a little nuts. It was just fun. That's all.”
Smith is survived by wife, Betty; son Bill, daughters Debbie Hughes and Laurie Smith, six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.