Joyce Smith: The Backbone of Speedway Motors, Passes Away

Joyce and "Speedy" Bill Smith. Photo from Speedway Motors.

Joyce and “Speedy” Bill Smith. Photo from Speedway Motors.

We are saddened to report the passing of Joyce Smith, “Mrs. Speedway.” With her family at her side, she lost her courageous 34 month battle with cancer on Sunday.

While Joyce was a lady in a man’s world, she refused to be anything but a leader. A true “car girl,” Joyce was always with “Speedy Bill”  for 60 years – attending or working more races, car shows and trade-shows than almost anyone in America.

In 1952, fresh out of college and newlywed, Joyce Smith loaned her husband “Speedy Bill” the $300 he needed to start Speedway Motors. Throughout the years, Joyce’s outgoing and friendly nature served Speedway Customers well… “No one could sell hub caps, fender skirts and continental tire kits like Joyce,” Speedy Bill liked to say. 

In one of our first interviews with “Speedy” Bill, we found out how close the couple were. We asked if Joyce had given him the nickname “Speedy.” His answer was a quick response, “She did. I’m not too sure if that was from watching me do things on the track or somewhere else. Maybe it was from the bed, I don’t know.”

Joyce was initially Speedway’s bookkeeper, parts runner and counter gal and always served as Financial Officer, Corporate Secretary and Treasurer. In the early days she often hosted meetings with “Speedy” Bill and one of his perspective drivers in the kitchen of their small apartment. One of those racers was Tiny Lund. The Smith family and Lund had become close friends and when Lund was killed at Talledega, Joyce helped the entire family cope with the tragedy.

Somehow the petite woman managed to keep up with the energetic “Speedy” Bill, laboring at Speedway Motors speedshop for 60-plus hours a week while raising four boys and still finding time to teach Sunday school. As a respected businesswoman, she was honored to serve and direct many organizations, several as their first female board member.

According to “Speedy” Bill, Joyce was one of the few people that he listened to. “She has a good business head on her and I listen to her,” Smith told us at the time.

“She has a good business head on her and I listen to her,” said “Speedy” Bill. Here “Speedy” Bill and Joyce are pictured when Speedway Motors acquired A-FAB (AFCO) in 2008.

In the early days Joyce’s daily driver was her prized red ‘34 Ford pickup, a Rebel’s car club show winner. Since their inception, she walked the swap meet fields of Hershey, and worked the aisles of SEMA and PRI, the pits at Daytona and attended countless street rod and racing events. In 2005 she was honored as Goodguys’ Woman of the Year. As the proud co-founder of the Museum of American Speed, Joyce now shares her love and knowledge of racing and rodding history for future generations.

We always enjoyed seeing Joyce at the SEMA or PRI trade shows, where she was ever-present beside “Speedy” Bill, many times entertaining the crowd that had gathered while “Speedy” Bill was finishing a one-on-one conversation. It was readily apparent that Joyce loved people and every body that had the pleasure of knowing her, loved her in return. The automotive performance world has lost a genuine leader that was respected by all.

Join us in wishing the Smith family our deepest sympathies and condolences on their loss.

About the author

Bobby Kimbrough

Bobby grew up in the heart of Illinois, becoming an avid dirt track race fan which has developed into a life long passion. Taking a break from the Midwest dirt tracks to fight evil doers in the world, he completed a full 21 year career in the Marine Corps.
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