This week we were hit with the devastating news that Keith Szabo, the legend of small tire racing, had passed. To us at Pro Line Racing it stopped us in our tracks and made us reflect on the years that we had been associated. Not only was Keith a fellow Georgian, he was a friend and mentor to Eric Dillard and staunch supporter of Pro Line.
Eric penned these words himself and wanted to share them in this time of sadness.
When I look back on my racing career there's one competitor that always seems to come to mind, Keith Szabo. I started racing back in 2006 and Keith was in his prime. He was the guy that always did more with less.
I was just learning the ropes on how to be a competitor on and off the track. There was no one in this sport that could have accelerated that for me more than Keith Szabo. Every time I pulled in the tree with Keith I feared him because I knew he wasn't going to make it easy. Keith taught me what a "burndown" was early on and also to understand that it's just racing. The best part was that Keith was as much of a true sportsman off the track as he was a feared competitor on the track. I would get so mad at him because I didn't understand how to handle those situations at the time, and to Keith it was just him doing whatever it took to win. Keith needed to win to support his racing and it was never intended to hurt anyone else, he was just competing.
This all came full circle when I got a once in a life time opportunity to not only run my first Pro Mod race, but the US Nationals in Indy. We barely made the field with a new car and I drew Rickie Smith in Round 2. I knew Rickie was going to play games but I also knew how to handle him without flinching, all because of Keith. I went in first and Rickie held me out all 7 seconds. I was ready and waiting and left first to get that round win.
I went on to win the event and I always knew that if it wasn't for Keith racing me the way he did I would have never had the chance to win that once in a lifetime event.
Keith and I still communicated up until the week before he passed. We both stayed busy with family and work but always seemed to catch up 2-3 times a year on life and racing. Keith supported Pro Line by working with us to sell Used Parts all the way to the end. He was the best damn Used Parts man in the Biz and anyone that knew him knows that to be fact. He worked up until his last week cleaning up his affairs to make sure he left his family in the best position he possibly could. I know he was fighting through pain during that time so if that doesn't tell you what kind of person he was then I don’t know what would.
Keith Szabo is a true legend on and off the track and will be dearly missed. Godspeed to Keith and prayers for his family!!