D. William '52 and A. Joyce (Uphoff) Smith '53
In 1952, Bill and Joyce Smith, newly married and at the end of their college careers, took a leap of faith. Bill’s passion as a race car driver was contagious and Joyce soon developed her own affection for the sport. Together they founded Speedway Motors, “America’s Oldest Speed Shop®” and the world’s largest manufacturer, distributor and retailer of high performance specialty automotive products for the racing and street rod markets.
Bill and Joyce have spent the past 55 years together as business and life partners, raising four boys and building an empire. They say that it takes total dedication to make something like this happen for two people. Joyce says that their world revolves around their business. It is not just a job, but a hobby, and they make it work.
For both Bill and Joyce, Nebraska Wesleyan helped them develop important skills to meet the challenges of their life and career. Though Bill had majored in education, his life-long fondness for racing and fabrication fueled a strong desire to create a business. When, upon graduating from Nebraska Wesleyan, he realized that there was a demand for racing parts in Lincoln, there was no turning back. “When you’re young and inexperienced, you’ll try anything,” he said. “It’s hard to equate the times, but back then we didn’t have TV or the internet to help us gain knowledge. Everything we did came through hard work. And any knowledge you gained over the other guy was a big advantage.”
Joyce made her mark at a time when the idea of a “working mother” was uncommon. She had developed a variety of skills as an assistant to several Wesleyan professors, Drs. Callen and Mattingly, for instance. During Speedway’s early years, when the income was uncertain, she worked for the State Fair Park to pay the rent and put food on the table. Later, she put her talents to work managing numerous behind-the-scene jobs at Speedway. She now supervises the accounting department and participates in general operation and management of the company.
Speedway Motors today manufactures over 6,000 different products. The company operates from a new 42-acre, 520,000 square foot, two-building corporate campus west of downtown Lincoln. Publishing six different annual catalogs, Speedway distributes parts globally, with an average daily order of 2,000. Additionally, the Smith’s operate B & J Partnership, which owns about 150 properties in Lincoln, as well as the Smith Collection--Museum of American Speed®, with the largest collection of antique racing engines in the world and the largest collection of antique toy pedal cars in the nation.