If you get to work at automotive history, and you happen to love racing the way I do, it’s probably inevitable that eventually, you’re going to run into a person like my longtime pal Don Smyle. He lives not far from Charlotte Motor Speedway, and has more than 20 years of experience of motorsports marketing, all of it in the humming hive of all things NASCAR. And then some. I got to know Don because part of his business is maintaining the archives of some truly gifted photographers, who wanted to ensure that their work remained accessible to researchers as they got on in years. To that end, I assembled essays of vintage motorsports photography using images from Don’s holdings, including those shot by the late Don Hunter and by the pioneering drag racing photographer Don Brown.
The two Dons, Hunter and Brown, covered their respective branches of racing for literally as long as they’d been in existence. For example, Don Hunter photographed the very first NASCAR-sanctioned race in 1947, just weeks after the organization was formed a few minutes’ drive from here in the bar atop the Streamline Hotel on Atlantic Avenue in Daytona Beach. To learn fully about the sort of marketing, brand development and product awareness strategies that Smyle Media creates, check out its website. But also know that the more than 200,000 images Don manages, from a whole range of motorsport disciplines, will provide you with no end of “holy crap” moments. As evidence, we offer the Don Hunter image you see here, from the 1971 Wilkes 400 at the lamented North Wilkesboro Speedway. Richard Petty is working the outside in a 1970 Plymouth Road Runner, a body style he famously flipped down Darlington Raceway’s frontstretch the previous year. But in the inside lane are, in order, the late J.D. McDuffie, killed at Watkins Glen in 1991; the 1969 Camaro of Bob Williams, one of several pony cars from NASCAR’s short-lived Grand American division that filled out the field at this race (one of which, steered by the great Tiny Lund, took the win); and what is almost certainly the Holman-Moody Ford Torino of Bobby Allison, judging by the Coca-Cola logo on the hood. To me, memories like these are priceless.