ATV Motocross

Tuesday Feature: Bob "Smitty" Smith

Tuesday, July 8, 2008 | 12:00 AM

Being a referee can be like wearing a crown of thorns at times, and Bob Smith knows this role well. We caught up with the AMA's Bob "Smitty" Smith for an inside look at what it is like being the voice of rules and reason in the 2008 ITP Tires/Moose Racing AMA/ATVA National Motocross Championship Presented by Parts Unlimited.


How long have you been working with the ATVA series, and what was your background beforehand?


I’ve been involved with the ATVA series for six years and it’s been great. I didn’t have any background in the sport when I came over, but I had been involved with motorcycles with my son. Then, the AMA approached me about this opportunity and I’ve been here ever since.


It’s been an experience. I’ll be honest. When I came over some of my friends were like, ““You must be crazy. You won’t like it over there.” But, I made it my home right away and I feel like I have done my best, working with the families and the riders. I think after a few years I began to understand their concerns and problems. I realize that our series is one of the only real racing series where they can go and ride and it is important to them.


What were some of the differences you noticed between the two-wheeled and four-wheeled community?


ATV enthusiasts have an intense passion for their sport; more so than the motorcycle demographic for sure. That has been one of the things that helped me enjoy my duties. These guys truly love what they do and are very proud of it.


What is the most common problem you encounter as a referee on a big weekend such of the one coming up this weekend in Johnstown?


That’s easy: Yellow, flags. We always have a lot of trouble with riders not cautious enough when a yellow flag comes out. I think it is just a part of the sport that is hard to perfect. I know the racers are in that ““race focus” and sometimes when they see the flag I’m not sure it clicks in their head the way it should. We try to catch all of the riders that double on a yellow flag, or pass a rider, but we can’t catch them all. It’s easily the most difficult part of my job.


We do our best to cover it in the rider’s meeting and I personally meet with all of the flaggers to make sure they know what the rule is. But, it still needs a lot of improvement.


What is the most odd protest you have received in your time as a referee?


[Laughs] I once had a protest about a rider cutting down his seat foam. Apparently, the other rider thought this was going to be a huge weight advantage and it should be deemed illegal. Needless to say, the protest was denied.


What is the most difficult aspect of your job?


I’d say that the travel is the hardest part for me. I’m always trying to keep up with what my son has going on, and my family, and all of the travel makes that difficult.


What is your favorite aspect of your job?


Just seeing all of the people and the promoters. It’s nice to be around great folks like Carrie Jo and Amy Ritchie and all of our promoters. Sam Gammon is always a treat to be around, and heck, all of the promoters are impressive to work with. Seeing all of the families involved with our racing series and being a part of it is my favorite aspect of my job by far.


The series has created a lot of buzz this year. It is all brand new to me, but I’m impressed and excited with what the future may hold. What are your thoughts on how things are going?


I agree 100%. The promoters have stepped up their programs so much it is almost shocking. To see guys like you, and Justin Anderson, and Stephani McIntyre coming to the races doing PR, and see the promoters take it so seriously has been incredible. It’s not like they didn’t take it seriously before, but it seems like they have gotten more organized and they have made an effort to get the factories involved. I think that is really what is making the series strong and will provide for an ever better future in the coming years.


Well, it takes good people all across the board to make a series great, and you play a major role. We appreciate the difficulty of being a referee. The best referee is one that is fair, and the word on the streets is you are as fair as they come.


Thanks, I appreciate that. I’m already looking forward to another big weekend in Johnstown. See you at the races!