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 Larry Smith
Born: June 16, 1942      Died: August 12, 1973
Home: Lenoir, NC

Larry Smith , born in Lenoir, North Carolina, was a former NASCAR driver. He made his debut in the 1971 World 600 in the #92 Ford, finishing 22nd. He would go on to run three more races that year, acquiring one top-ten finish. In 1972, he was named the first NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year, running 23 races and posting seven top-ten finishes. The next year, he finally acquired major sponsorship, from Carling Black Label. Unfortunately, he was struggling severely that year and was trying to turn things around.

Untimely death following crash

Later that year, while running the Talladega 500, Smith spun his 1971 Mercury (automobile) on lap 14 and slapped the Turn 1 retaining wall. His car suffered minor damage, and his crew which the crew was repairing to return to the track. However during the ensuing caution flag, members of Smith's pit crew surprisingly discovered that the driver did not survive the impact of the crash. It is rumored, but not confirmed, that the head injuries that killed Smith came because he tore the inner-lining out of his helmet, which had been bothering him for some time. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the Talladega Superspeedway infield hospital. No other drivers were involved in the crash.

Smith is one of several drivers featured in the 1975 book The World's Number One, Flat-Out, All-Time Great Stock Car Racing Book by Jerry Bledsoe. Bledsoe describes the struggles Smith went through in his run for Rookie Of The Year in 1972.

During the 1972 NASCAR season, Carling sponsored a car driven by rookie of the year contender Larry Smith. Larry drove a jet black #92 Mercury Cyclone and went on that year to win rookie-of-the-year honors. Carling went all out during this venture with awesome looking pit crew uniforms, VIP perks, and even a cheerleader for special events known as the "Carling Darling". The next season, with Carling Black Label still sponsoring the car, but with a red paint scheme with black lettering, Larry was killed at Talladega in 1973.

 Just One of the Talladega Jinxs
 

All in all, drivers are relieved to leave Talladega. "It is," drivers say, "the most nerve-racking place we go."

That's because most tracks on the NASCAR circuit aren't considered jinxed. But Talladega has a history of mishaps and spectral occurrences long enough to make the most unsuperstitious driver rub his rabbit's foot.

The jinx started gathering speed in 1973 when rising star Larry Smith died in what appeared to be a minor crash on the banking. Track rumor had it that Smith had cut the protective inner lining out of his helmet to accommodate his long hair.

Larry Smith Winston Cup DRIVER Statistics

Year Age Races Win T5 T10 Pole Laps Led Earnings Rank AvSt AvFn
1971 29 4 of 48 0 0 1 0 896 0 5,058 54 24.0 19.5
1972 30 23 of 31 0 0 7 0 4320 0 24,215 23 17.2 22.3
1973 31 11 of 28 0 0 1 0 2103 0 14,090 33 26.9 24.5
3 years 38 0 0 9 0 7319 0 43,363   20.7 22.6


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