NASCAR promoter Bruton Smith dead at 95

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Ollen Bruton Smith, founder of Speedway Motorsports, LLC, NASCAR promoter and NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee, died, Tuesday, of natural causes. He was 95 years old.

NASCAR Chairman and CEO, Jim France, issued the following statement.

Born March 2, 1927 in Oakboro, North Carolina, to a family of nine children, Smith entered the promoting business in 1949, when he took over the fledgling National Stock Car Racing Association (NSCRA). Which was an early competitor to NASCAR. Two years later, he and NASCAR founder, Bill France, agreed in principle to merge the two leagues. The deal fell through, however, when Smith was drafted to serve in the Korean War.

In 1959, he and Curtis Turner partnered to build Charlotte Motor Speedway, the centerpiece of his track empire. Though not before leaving in 1962 to pursue business interests in car dealerships. Returning to track involvement in 1974, he regained day-to-day control of Charlotte the following year.

Smith consolidated his holdings in 1994 to form SMI, where he became a mainstay in the NASCAR scene. This included buying Bristol International Raceway, Atlanta International Raceway, New Hampshire International Speedway and more.

In 1997, at the height of NASCAR’s track boom of the late ’90s, he opened Texas Motor Speedway.

NASCAR promoter Bruton Smith dead at 95

The lasting legacy

FORT WORTH, Texas – NOVEMBER 4: CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc. Bruton Smith poses for a portrait in his condo overlooking the racetrack during practice for the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Dickies 500 on Nov. 4, 2005, at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. Photo: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Beyond track building, Smith revolutionized the modern track amenities. From condominiums and suites to pre-race shows, his influence in amenities that dot both SMI and NASCAR tracks across the country.

“When you think about the Charlotte Motor Speedway and Bristol, and tracks like New Hampshire and Sonoma and Atlanta, he’s been the best,” 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee and fellow automobile dealer Roger Penske told NASCAR.com in 2016. “There’s no question. He set the bar.”

His promotion wasn’t without controversy, however. Smith took one of North Wilkesboro Speedway’s two NASCAR Cup Series races and moved it to Texas. Now Smith didn’t control both races (New Hampshire’s Bob Bahre controlled the other) and in a SiriusXM “Speedway Legends” interview with Dave Moody, he said that had he controlled both North Wilkesboro races, he would’ve moved one, but left the other.

NASCAR promoter Bruton Smith dead at 95

Regardless, Smith’s overall body of work earned him a spot in the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s class of 2016.

“You have trophies, you have championships, you have wins, but friends are what really make the difference,” fellow NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee, Darrell Waltrip, said about Smith in 2019. “Bruton Smith has been one of my heroes since I started racing in NASCAR in 1972.”

Smith is survived by his sons Marcus (CEO of SMI and Charlotte track president), David and Scott, his daughter Anna Lisa, his wife Bonnie and seven grandchildren.

At press time, SMI hasn’t announced funeral arrangements.

TOP IMAGE: Bob Leverone/NASCAR via Getty Images