Cars lined up in parking lot for a race

A Bluffton family’s need for speed

Passion, racing and the bonds that tie

Story by Sheila Paz

From a car project to forever love, Bluffton’s Taylor Smith found more than just a subject for her shoot when she met her now-fiancé, Nick Barry. Bonded by their mutual passion for the automotive world, their love story began amidst car meets in the Lowcountry.

For one Bluffton family the roar of engines and the blur of passing scenery isn’t just about racing — it’s a shared pulse that reverberates through generations. From wrenching on cars to whizzing through traffic cones, Taylor and Josh Smith have embraced the world of autocross racing, inspired by their father, Matt Smith’s lifelong love for cars.

Navigating her dad’s 2005 Chrysler Crossfire, Taylor relished her debut race, noting the car’s ride and ease of handling.

The adrenaline of autocross

Autocross, as described by the Sports Car Club of America, is a timed competition where drivers navigate a track laid out with traffic cones in a parking lot. Each race is a test of precision and skill, from casual participants in their everyday vehicles to seasoned racers in tuned-up competition cars. Most competitors dive in without prior practice, using each lap as a learning curve, steadily improving their times.

Taylor explains that the sport is about constantly adapting, “learning how to handle 180-degree turns, a cone arrangement called a box arrangement and slalom, which is going back and forth between cones.”

2008 GT Mustang
2008 GT Mustang

Journey from the passenger seat to the driver’s

Taylor’s journey began alongside her father. She reminisces about their early days working on cars and participating in ride-alongs. Racing initially in her dad’s 2005 Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6, she later developed an affinity for Mustangs and now competes in a 2008 GT Mustang. Her fascination with the mechanics and power of cars led her to intertwine her college film degree with the automotive world.

Josh, close on her heels, began racing soon after he earned his driving license. From an Infinity G35 to a Mazda RX8, he now races a spirited 2011 Mini Cooper S. The sibling rivalry has added an edge to their competitions — while Taylor held the lead initially, Josh has since clinched a few victories of his own.

Their collective journey in racing has become more than just cars and races. It has become family time that has become precious. Their father, Matt, said, “They could be playing video games or getting into trouble or hanging out with their friends. Instead, they actually get really excited to hang out with their dad.”

2011 Mini Cooper S
2011 Mini Cooper S

Diversity at the racetrack

While autocross racing was once dominated by older white men, today it has evolved into an inclusive sport, drawing enthusiasts of all ages and genders. The Smith family embodies this transformation, making lasting memories each time they hit the track.

Taylor and Josh check out a Lamborghini that showed up before one of their races. Many different models of cars can compete in autocross but are given a “handicap,” also known as Professional Autocross indeX (PAX) that allows other cars of different classes to compete against each other.

In conversation with the Smiths

What do you love most about racing? Josh: “It’s getting to spend time with my family and having something we can all do and have fun. Then it’s the thrill and enjoyment as well as the racing community, which is overall super cool and nice.” Taylor: “The community, they’re all super helpful. When I started racing, I was one of three women out there and one of the youngest. Everyone would cheer me on and give me pointers. I always joke that one of my best friends in the racing community is this 30-year-old man who drives a Camaro. Every time I race, I ride with him and he’ll tell me how to handle a corner better or tire recommendations for the track.”

Any advice for budding racers? Josh: “Start early if you have the means, do go-karting and learn to feel the car, be smooth and don’t try to force it.” Taylor: “Start early if you have the means, do go-karting and learn to feel the car, be smooth and don’t try to force it.”

This isn’t just a tale of speed and race tracks, but a testament to a family’s bond — forged in steel, fueled by passion, and driven by shared dreams.

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