When you think about Memphis, Tennessee, you think of Elvis Presley. When you think about Wisconsin, you think of cheese and milk and when you think about Winchester, Virginia, you think of America’s truck pulling capital and one of its patriarchs, Bob Smith - the 2008 NTPA Hall of Fame inductee.
Winchester, Virginia is nestled in the northern end of the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. At one time, Bob Smith’s renowned “Three Bears” Chevrolet Four Wheel Drive Truck was one of approximately 25 trucks within a 30 mile radius of Winchester and one of ten trucks within six miles. With names like Diehl Wilson, Bob Minnick, Willie and Mike Omps, Hylton Clark, and Smith, it is no wonder that Winchester was considered a birth place to modern day Four Wheel Drive Pulling.
Sometime in 1974, a group of individuals from the Winchester area began pulling trucks at an event being put on by a local FFA chapter. These trucks were strictly street legal trucks. Soon after, Hylton Clark asked Smith to bring his 1970 with a 454 cid engine to compete at a local Stonewall Ruritan Club event. Bob became immediately hooked, and after he only measured a meager distance of six inches on his first outing, he was determined to make some changes to the truck. The next time out, Bob swept all weight categories of his division!
By 1976, the year in which NTPA recognized the Four Wheel Drive Division, the Shenandoah Valley Pullers Club was organized. This club was primarily organized to put on an event in Winchester as well as promote the new class abroad in neighboring states. By May of 1978, Bob Smith attended his first NTPA National Event in Grantville, Pennsylvania. Two years later, Smith and fellow competitor Diehl Wilson were co-recipients of NTPA’s “Truck Puller of the Year” award. 1980 was the same year in which Smith teamed up with Lee Edwards for a potent engine combination in “Three Bears.”
By 1981, Smith won his first ever NTPA Grand National title. At the time, there were two weight breaks for the division, and Bob won the 6200 lb. class while Diehl Wilson won the 5800 lb. class. Half of the top ten finishers in Grand National points were from the Winchester area, and Smith is noted to have been the first champion in the 6200 lb. weight bracket - the same weight as current day Four Wheel Drive Trucks.
In 1982, Smith debuted a brand new Chevrolet truck with a Chevrolet body. It was featured in a Pulling Power magazine article on how to build a Four Wheel Drive Truck. Although he was unable to back up his title, Smith garnered several top-ten finishes.
In 1987, son Scott, who is also credited for the truck’s name, began driving “Three Bears” at the tender age of 16. This gave Bob and his wife Sara great joy to watch. As Scott became more comfortable and learned the ropes, Bob became a mentor and crew chief to the team.
In 1992, the Smith Family was named NTPA Family of the Year. A year later, Scott laid claim to his first ever NTPA Grand National Title, making the Smiths one of only three father - son teams to ever do so. Three more titles came to the Smiths in 1999, 2002, and 2003.
In 1993, Bob Smith was behind the wheel once again in the Enderle Pull-Off, taking the team’s first of four wins in the historic event. Overall, the Smiths have made 15 Enderle Pull-Off appearances and have four wins and five runner-up finishes to their credit.
In 30 years of competing at the NTPA National level, the “Three Bears” Team has won five NTPA Grand National Titles and an astonishing 24 top-ten finishes in the point standings, including 18 straight seasons.
Through all of these accomplishments, there is one man who has been a constant figure. From helping to establish a new division in the sport of pulling to seeing great success for himself and his son, Bob Smith certainly would be considered - in anyone’s book - a Hall of Famer.