In retirement, former Pentucket Bank president Kendall C. Smith is busier than a woodpecker in a redwood forest.
For openers, he’s written a book on auto racing with Russ Conway, former sports editor of The Eagle-Tribune. Smith calls it a “perfect collaboration” since the two go back to the 1960s at Star Speedway in Epping, N.H.
“The History of Auto Racing in New England” is an 80-page tribute to the Super-Modified jet set in New England. The release date is in December.
“Long overdue,” says Smith, an avid scrapbooker who calls Kingston, N.H., home. “We ran races for 35 years starting in 1965 and this covers the highlights. I owe it to a lot of people.”
But nobody more important than his late brother-in-law, Haverhill’s Ollie Silva, the cream of the crop for NESMRA (New England Super-Modified Racing Association).
His moniker was “Quick Silva,” and he was relentless behind the wheel of The Big O. The spirit lives because Smith won’t let it die.
“Since Ollie first got behind the wheel of his race car in 1949, he dedicated his entire life to auto racing,” Smith said.
In his name, Smith has organized a scholarship given annually to a Whittier Tech graduate majoring in automotives.
Silva was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall-of-Fame in 1978. Smith and Conway got the nod together in 2006 for their contributions to the sport.
An entrepreneur who never eased up on his throttle, Smith owned cars, rode them, promoted racing in every shape and form.
He’s part of a team (treasurer), again with Conway and others, who’ve fashioned the North East Motor Sports Museum, based in Loudon, near the main entrance to New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
“Anything you ever wanted to know about auto racing in New England will be found here with plenty of room for growth and flexibility,” Smith points out. “We’re just about ready to break ground.”
The 10,000-square-foot museum will include race cars of all types, motorcycles, helmets, trophies, uniforms, photography, books, and continuous footage of vintage Northeast racing.
He’ll still find time for the reunions Smith puts together at Pines Speedway in Groveland annually.
This year’s reunion on Oct. 4 will honor such legends as Jimmy Landry and Ronnie Bouchard. Over 40 restored race cars will be displayed, along with restored antique and custom cars.
Smith writes, “I arrived in this world in 1939 into my new home in Groveland and was weaned at that track. You couldn’t help but sniff the air of sweet-smelling Castor Oil burning in those mighty midget motors. It was a lot of bravado for a weekend and it hooked you big.”
For years, Smith handled the public relations from Star Speedway after serving as a Gazette columnist during the early 1960s.
With all his banking success and lifetime of public service in Greater Haverhill, Smith is still known by many for his racing ties.
He was enjoying a coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts one afternoon with this reporter and a woman sauntered up to his table unsuspectingly.
“Say,” she smiled. “Aren’t you the race guy?”
“Depends what day it is,” Smith reciprocated.
“Well, I’ve been a fan for decades. Pleased to make your acquaintance,” she said.
And with that, Smith made his way to the door, whistling a happy tune.