It was September of 2006 when I first met Speedy Bill Smith. I had just taken the job as editor of Circle Track, and I was on a whirlwind tour of the Midwest. We stopped in Lincoln, Nebraska, to visit with Smith and tour his Speedway Motors facility.

Although I grew up in the northeast racing scene I was fairly familiar with who Speedy Bill was along with his reputation. Our first order of business was a tour of the Speedway facility followed by lunch at one of his favorite spots in downtown Lincoln. Speedy Bill made it a point to have me sit next to him during lunch so that he could “assess my racing background and determine whether or not I was qualified to run Circle Track”—his words, not mine. His passion for racing and an unapologetic competitive streak became apparent almost instantly.

After lunch I got the thrill of a lifetime when Speedy Bill offered a personalized tour of his Museum of American Speed. To say that the 135,000-square-foot museum houses an impressive collection of automotive and racing memorabilia would be the understatement of the century. The museum has everything from Joe Lencki’s 1934 Indy Championship car to Kasey Kahne’s 2010 Budweiser Ford to the five-millionth Model T ever produced. And I haven’t even mentioned the engines, toys, pedal car collection, or lunch boxes, all of which are dizzying in scope. Speedy Bill and I spent four hours in the museum—him telling stories upon stories, me listening and soaking it all in. Walking through it with the man who created it still ranks as one of the highlights of my professional career.

Over the next eight years I would visit Speedway Motors a number of additional times and I would always see Speedy Bill at the trade shows and even at certain events like the IMCA Super Nationals, which Speedway Motors has been a title sponsor of for years. When Speedy Bill published his book, Fast Company, he sent me a copy and on the inside he wrote: “enjoy the life of fun, and keep the passion.”

Speedy Bill died May 30 at his home in Lincoln just weeks before his 85th birthday. His wife, Joyce, had passed away in August of 2013, and many will tell you that Joyce Smith was much more than just a wife and mother. She was his partner and, in fact, lent Speedy $300 to start his business in 1952. Over the next 62 years, the pair would build Speedway Motors from a 20x20-foot storefront into a flourishing manufacturing and mail-order business.

Smith has been honored with hall of fame inductions and lifetime achievement awards from a number of organizations, including SEMA, NSRA, Goodguys, IMCA, and USAC. But outside the business end of Speedway Motors is where he made his mark. Fiercely competitive, Smith fielded hundreds of race cars through the years, including jalopies, Modifieds, stock cars, and more. He had a knack for putting together winning teams and hiring talented drivers to ensure victory. Tiny Lund, Johnny Beauchamp, Bob Burdick, Lloyd Beckman, Jan Opperman, and Doug Wolfgang are just a few of the 98 drivers to wheel the famous 4x.

Smith leaves a legacy that includes four sons, 10 grandchildren, a host of racing trophies, an unparalleled museum, and a successful business. But more than any of that, Speedy Bill Smith was the embodiment of a true racer. We here at Circle Track offer our sincerest condolences to the whole Speedway Motors family.