You know what happens when you assume. You’re usually wrong.
I just assumed there was never a driver in the Indianapolis 500 that was born in my home state of West Virginia. Leading up to the 100th Running of the race in May, I’d become much more interested in the race and track history. I spent (well, am still spending) most of my work days listening to Donald Davidson’s “Talk of Gasoline Alley” while I work.
This year I heard him mention Paul Goldsmith and that he was born in West Virginia. I knew immediately that I should go look for an autograph or something. I was able to get one off COMC. I found out about him right as I was about to start sending some TTM autograph requests out. I picked up some cards to take to Indianapolis with me, hoping that he’d be signing there. He wasn’t, but I sent a TTM autograph request. In one week, it was returned. Enclosed was much more than I sent.
Two months ago, I didn’t know who Goldsmith was and that’s a shame. Turns out he’s one of the better drivers in motorsports history. He competed in a time when drivers were much more versatile than now. They were driving for money and would race different disciplines. Goldsmith was one of the most versatile of all.
I found a post from Robin Miller, who I have great respect for when it comes to racing history. He wrote this about Goldsmith:
“John Surtees and Joe Leonard immediately come to mind when people discuss history’s most versatile racers but Paul Goldsmith was every bit as impressive on two and four wheels.
Goldsmith was one of the pioneers of AMA flat-track racing in the 1950s and helped teach Leonard a few tricks before he moved into stock car racing with Smokey Yunick and became a NASCAR winner. The next challenge was the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and he qualified for six straight Indy 500s – taking third in 1960 and fifth in 1959.
While adapting quickly to paved ovals, Goldsmith also found time to win back-to-back USAC stock car championships in 1961 and 1962.
In an amazing career, he scored 27 USAC wins, nine NASCAR victories and five AMA Nationals – including wins on the beach at Daytona on two and four wheels and matching that feat at Langhorne’s treacherous mile.
He’s a member of the motorcycle and auto racing Hall of Fames and still going strong at age 90.”
Goldsmith started out racing motorcycles as a teen. He had five AMA national victories, including the 1953 Daytona 200. He was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999.
LINK: Paul Goldsmith AMA Hall of Fame Profile
Goldsmith later began racing stock cars for Smokey Yunick. Yunick had previously prepared motorcycles for him.
He ran 127 NASCAR races, winning nine times and finishing in the top 10 59 times. The second of the stock car pictures above is from his win in the final race on the Daytona Beach Road Course.
My interest is in the fact that he ran the Indianapolis 500 six times. He never won, but finished fifth in 1959 and third in 1960. In April, he was inducted into the Auto Racing Hall of Fame.
LINK: Paul Goldsmith to be inducted into Auto Racing Hall of Fame
Those four items above were all ones that Mr. Goldsmith included when he returned the cards that I sent. I honestly have no words for how delighted I was to receive all of these. They are postcard sized, so I already have some sheets that I can put them into.
I picked these up cheaply on COMC and sent them off. I just like the photograph on the front. It’s classic. I love the racing stripes on the driver suit. One of them is serial #31, so I picked that one up on purpose. It was the car number the first time he drove in the Indianapolis 500.
These old Pro Set cards are great for autographs. They don’t have as much of a glossy finish to them. The glossy coatings make signatures more likely to smear.
Initially, I thought he didn’t sign four of the cards, but that was fine with me. I had explained to him in my letter that I’d picked all of these up hoping to come across him in Indianapolis and that if he didn’t want to sign them all, I completely understood. The wifey was actually the one that turned one over and noticed it!
It’s going to be tough to top this success. I’m so happy to have these in my collection. The other two former Indianapolis 500 drivers from West Virginia have passed away, one in the 1920s. That one is going to be a serious challenge to find.
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Wow – looks like Goldsmith is one generous dude. Those old time racers were absolute wild men and would jump into a bicycle race if you’d let them. Hell, they’d probably race wheel chairs. Guys like Robby Gordon and Tony Stewart are kind of throwbacks, but they’ve got nothing on guys like Goldsmith.
Also, I had the opportunity to interview Donald Davidson when I worked at an NPR radio station and that was absolutely the greatest thrill in my professional life. The knowledge crammed into that man’s head is incredible!
There’s no doubt that Mr. Davidson is one of a kind. He will never be able to be replaced. Just all the men he’s met and the stories he can tell.