Don Smith – Media

Don Smith Jr. started his lengthy media career in 1950 at the Algona Upper Des Moines Newspaper. At this time, the Algona paper was one of the largest weekly newspapers in Iowa. In a career that spanned 45 years, Smith was often a fixture at the Algona track, covering the racing action.

Smith caught the racing bug and developed an interest in the sport when he was about 10 years old after watching racing greats such as Gus Schrader and Emory Collins compete in Algona.

His main focus at the newspaper was sports, writing stories, doing interviews and taking photographs. Smith also was involved in other aspects of the publication of the newspaper. He sold advertising, wrote other news stories, and covered council meetings and many other tasks. Smith was also known for his weekly column on sports and news, titled ‘The Periscope’, which he penned for over 35 years.

Smith began covering racing at the Kossuth County Fairgrounds in the 1950’s and was always present at the sprint car races during the fair. He felt that Bobby Grim may have been one of the most talented racers he had ever seen. Smith characterized Grim as one of the most interesting and most outstanding sports personality’s that he had ever interviewed. Smith commented that he wasn’t for certain, but said that Grim may have won every race he entered at Algona.

In the 1960’s, stock cars ruled the racing scene in Algona. Smith spent much of his time covering the races both in the pits and in the grandstand. When the green flag fell on the races each night, Smith watched from the first row of the grandstand. If an accident occurred, he would then run down on to the track to capture the incident on film.

Smith recalls many highlights from his years of covering races at the Algona speed plant. He remembers that his racing results were featured in Chris Economaki’s National Speed Sport News during the years Lamont Wellendorf ran the speedway.

He also remembers that a lot of great drivers competed in Algona. Some of his fondest memories are of the battles between two Kossuth County Racing Hall of Fame inductees, Gene Schattschneider and Les Wildin. He found it amazing that they could battle each night and never have a cross word between them.

Smith recalls fondly that Wildin always appeared to be on Sunday drive when he raced, making it look like it was effortless for him. As far as Schattschneider, Smith says one of the best races he witnessed was when Schattschneider won a race at Webster City with a six cylinder engine under the hood, besting everyone else that had the traditional V-8 power plant.

Today, Smith is retired, living in Algona with his wife Trudy. He still follows sports and has an impressive collection of wood model race cars that he built from scratch, featuring some of the legends of Algona Raceway.