Powerboat Nation’s original post regarding this incident was intentionally muted as we were literally directly involved with these two, before, during, and after the incident. Out of complete respect for Jeff, Brad and their families we remained quiet and guarded regarding the loss. We are a family that is bound by the common thread of Powerboating. This is about the men and the lives of everyone they touched. The shock and devastation of the incident has trembled its way around the world already. We know everyone wants to find the answer of how and why, but for now the tragedy of the loss is what we are immediately faced with. The loss of these two men is a huge tragedy; not only the loss of life and the staggering affect to the families but also to the sport we love.
To tell you something about these two guys is to begin with how both were larger than life in their own ways. Competitive and driven like very few people you could have ever met. How can we exclaim such details? It’s easy because we were all close personal friends. We shared business, friendship, and boating like so many others that we share Powerboat Nation with. We shared numerous texts, phone calls, emails, and late night drinks discussing the how, why, what, and if’s of the performance power boating world. It was these characteristics that lead both Brad and Jeff to be clients, friends, and boaters and brought them to be such strong supporters of Powerboat Nation.
Brad Smith had become a prominent rising star in the performance engine building field. He was raised with horsepower in his veins and a research and development spoon in his mouth. Brad often tested parts to the brink of failure in the quest to define the ultimate in reliability. He was a incredible engine builder with advanced skills and forethought that only a handful of modern engine builders possess. In specific regard to fuel injection and electronics technology, Brad was charging hard in completely uncharted territory. When questions would come up as to why a product couldn’t meet a need, Brad first remark would be “then let’s build it”. Brad had endured some business ventures with shysters only to separate and shine brighter as they dwindled into dust, Brad was a winner regardless of the situation. Brad was behind the development of such things as the two speed transmissions to the most exotic turbo charged engine packages found anywhere. In most recent years Brad played a significant role in development of numerous products for marine parts manufacturer Hardin Marine.
While everything that bore the Smith Power name gleaned of a finished product equivalent to fine jewelry, it also performed at that same level. Brad wasn’t his best promoter due to his relaxed style and professional demeanor but that didn’t matter because his clients cheered on his work and his work is what established the foundation to a long time friendship with construction mogul Jeff Asbell.
Jeff was a self made man that faced the mountain then conquered it. He had built an empire of businesses and had now turned his good fortune towards the power boating industry. For all of his success he was a kind soul, a guy that you enjoyed talking too. Jeff hated the bully and he felt that the industry was being clobbered by the men in black. They had brought the success of turbo charging to all of the elite but out of the realm of the common boater. While Jeff respected the success, he believed in Brad and wanted to prove that with the proper resources an independent could compile the best parts in the industry and face off against them, building engine packages for the common performance power boater.
This leads to how the loss is well beyond the physical lives of these two great men. Big corporations can come in and throw millions at potential profit centers for their own well being and they can absorb loss. But this wasn’t the case with Jeff; he was committed to giving back to this industry for all the good fortune life had bestowed upon him. The boating world we find camaraderie in has not seen this type of commitment towards its core in a long-long time.
What was not known publicly was a special project that was in the works: Jeff had broken ground a year ago and was building an entire engine development center to house the development of an entirely new engine program patterned after today’s successful NASCAR offerings. Multiple dyno centers and a test facility had just been installed in a shop that any NASCAR team would be proud to have. Brad had designed the set up, and was driven to build something this industry had yet to see in the private sector; Jeff’s business experience showed him he knew he had the right man to make this happen as Brad was the one who had the knowledge, skill, ambition, and an overwhelming enthusiasm to raise the bar. All you had to do was ask Brad a question about a motor, tuning, development, turbo charger, whatever, and his phone would come out and the pictures and details of a motor would begin to spill out. He was truly immersed in what he loved to do. Brad had also successfully developed a number of items this industry has yet to see.
Beyond the 40SS that had just been completely redone, Jeff had just given the green light and commissioned Peter at Skater to build a new state of the art 46′ Skater that would be campaigned to race against the big black corporate giant. Ironically his goal was to develop a host of new safety devices and standards to change the safety aspect of hi performance boating. This boat was to be the safest ever built. Beyond that goal was to even the playing field showing that with the very best the aftermarket had to offer they could be a winner. The new boat would be powered by Smith Power engines, Arneson Industries drives, Hering Propellers, and Hardin Marine accessories. Jeff was a man committed to helping the smaller independent companies wage a competition similar to “David & Goliath”.
These two guys were set to make a statement and leave a mark on the future of power boating. Not only will they always hold a very special place in our hearts, we will always have to wonder just what might have been had God not taken our friends away from us so early.
As for the ugly facts of the incident we know what we have seen. That discussion and topic points will remain for another day. For everyone at and associated with Powerboat Nation this is not about news and conjecture this is about the heart wrenching loss of two great guys who were passionate about life and how they lived their lives
God Speed guys, you will forever be in our thoughts and prayers.
Update 9/11/13 – We worked very closely with Brad Smith, and as such we hosted his website for him. We’ve since turned that into a Memorial page for both Brad Smith and Jeff Asbell. We know there were others who were close to these men as well, and may want to share a message or a picture. Please visit this thread if there is a message or photo you want to add to Brad and Jeff’s Memorial Page at www.bradsmithpower.com.