He was as much a part of NASCAR as founder Bill France Sr. On June 22, 2022 Speedway Motorsports founder Bruton Smith died at the age of 95.
At the age of 88, it was revealed that Smith had been dealing with a bout of non-Hodgkin‘s lymphoma. Later that year it was announced that he had beaten the disease and was cancer free.
Smith’s Speedway Motorsports owned eleven of the tracks on the NASCAR circuit featuring 15 races – four of which help to comprise the 10 playoff races for the Cup Series championship. Along with Nashville Superspeedway – where the drivers will be racing this weekend – Smith owns Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Dover Motor Speedway, Kentucky Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, North Wilkesboro Speedway, Sonoma Raceway and Texas Motor Speedway.
In 2016, Smith was among the class to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
The youngest of nine children, Ollen Bruton Smith was born on a farm in Oakboro, North Carolina on March 2,1927. A depression era baby, Smith noted they had food, a place to live, and clothes on their back but he wanted much more than to just a simple farmer. He traded the tractor in for a racing car once he reached his teens.
In the 50’s, he turned his hand to promoting instead of driving. In 1954 he brought the first national modified championship race to Charlotte Speedway.
It all began in 1959 when Smith and Curtis Turner began construction on a mile and a half track in Charlotte. Charlotte Motor Speedway began the journey to vein one of the Crown Jewels of racing when Smith took sole ownership in 1975 and began a series of massive upgrades that included lights, more seating, a Speedway Club for dining, and condominiums that overlook the action on the track. While Daytona had been running a night race for years as a part of the 24 hour endurance race, CMS became the first track of its size to hold a race at night.
CMS hosts the longest race on the NASCAR circuit at 600 miles. The winner of the race wins a trophy that carries Bruton Smith’s name.
While giant video screens are the norm, including several of Smith’s tracks; it was CMS who got the first one with a 16,000-square-foot HDTV. When it was built in 2011, it was the largest HDTV in the world.
Charlotte Motor Speedway has been host to 34 of the 38 All Star Races.
Smith has since made similar upgrades at his other tracks including even bigger video screens for fans to watch the action on the track. Even some of the drivers can get a glimpse of the action as the drive around the track.
Automotive dealerships go hand in hand with auto racing. Along with all of his tracks and Speedway Motorsports, Bruton Smith founded Sonic Automotive – an auto dealership with more than 100 dealerships in 13 states.
Today it is an integral part of NASCAR and activities at the tracks; in 1982, Smith formed Speedway Children’s Charities to aid charities around the country. To date they have contributed over $60 million.
feature photo credit: 2018 Drive for the Cure 200 from turn 1.jpeg