This Friday night at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) is the Clyde Hart Memorial 100, a race held in celebration and memory of the famous half-mile oval’s original owner. He was also the savior of the track as he did all he could to keep the place open.
“If it wasn’t for Clyde Hart there wouldn’t be a race track here,” said current owner, and Clyde Hart’s son, Robert. “Ever since he’d been involved he’d kept it going, even when times were tough.”
Robert Hart explained that his father just wanted to help people out. Whether it was his family, or the racers, he was just a helpful person. And because of that, everybody respected him.
“He lived back in a time when a hand shake was good enough,” Hart said. “He had the respect of all the race car drivers. They knew that when they came to race at New Smyrna Speedway they would get paid.”
That’s still the way New Smyrna Speedway operates with Robert at the helm. The track’s operations manager, Kim Brown, said they’re expecting a large field of Super Late Models on Friday night, and she’s hoping that the crowd will be similar in size, especially since the race is on Friday night this year as opposed to Thursday like in the past.
“The crowds have been pretty decent in the past,” Brown said. “In past years we’ve done it on Thursday night, but I’m hoping that having it on Friday night will bring more people out since they don’t have to worry about going to work the next morning.”
On Friday night when race fans roll into the parking lot they’ll pass by an old green Ford F-150 pickup truck parked atop the banking on the outside of turn one. It’s Clyde’s truck and it’s been there for many years because this is Clyde’s place.
“He didn’t want to buy a new truck because getting a new truck would cost more than keeping an old truck,” Hart said. “When he went down in the woods to feed the cows he’d take some of the racers with him. They’d always wonder if they’d get back alive because that old truck was so beat up.”
Hart explained that the cab had been replaced twice and the bed had been replaced once, but even after all of that, his father never thought of replacing the truck itself.
“One time it was backed over by an earth-moving piece of machinery,” Hart explained with a laugh. “He just kind of shrugged his shoulders. The guy thought he was going to get fired by Clyde, but Clyde just sat back and laughed about it.”
While this race, won most recently by Steve Wallace, is a great way to honor the life of Clyde Hart, his son Robert knows that the best way to honor his father is to keep the race track open and operating, while other race tracks around the country close.
“New Smyrna Speedway will be around for a long, long time,” Hart said. “His grandson, Andrew Clyde Hart will be the one to carry on when I’m gone the way I carried on when my dad was gone.”
Hart’s favorite part about this particular race is hearing all of the stories told about his father.
“To this day I still have people tell me Clyde Hart stories and that really makes me feel good,” Hart said. “They just don’t make them like Clyde anymore.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount