NACAR Hall of Famer Bruton Smith, founder and executive chairman of Speedway Motorsports which owns Nashville Superspeedway, died Wednesday. He was 95.
Speedway Motorsports purchased Nashville Superspeedway from Dover Motorsports in December.
A tripleheader NASCAR weekend will take place at the venue this weekend with the Camping World Truck Series Rackley Roofing 200 set for Friday (7 p.m., FS1), Xfinity Series Tennessee Lottery 250 Saturday (2:30 p.m., USA) and Cup Series Ally 400 Sunday (4 p.m., NBC).
Smith had trailblazing careers in motorsports, philanthropy and automotive retail. Along with his position with Speedway Motorsports he was founder and executive chairman of Sonic Automotive and Speedway Children’s Charities
He was the youngest of nine children and grew up on a small farm in Oakboro, North Carolina before building his business empire.
Nashville Superspeedway president and general manager Erik Moses called Smith ” “A true visionary,” in a tweet.
Smith founded Speedway Motorsports by consolidating his motorsports holdings in December 1994, and in February 1995, he made it the first motorsports company to trade on the New York Stock Exchange.
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The company now owns and operates 11 motorsports tracks. Along with Nashville Superspeedway the facilities include Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sonoma Raceway, Texas Motor Speedway, Dover Motor Speedway, North Wilkesboro Speedway and Kentucky Speedway.
Bristol Motor Speedway president Jerry Caldwell, who is trying to bring NASCAR back to the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, said he learned the business under Smith.
“It has been a true honor and privilege to have grown my entire career working for and being mentored by entrepreneur titans, Bruton Smith and his son, Marcus,” Caldwell said in a statement.
“Together they have created a family-like atmosphere at Speedway Motorsports, making today’s news of Bruton’s passing a sad day for all of us at Bristol Motor Speedway and Dragway. The impact of Bruton’s contributions to the sports and entertainment world are too many to name, but his lasting legacy of building world-renowned destinations will stand the test of time.”
Speedway Motorsports also owns and operates subsidiaries SMI Properties, U.S. Legend Cars International, Performance Racing Network and zMAX Micro Lubricants.
“I love the racing business. I want to contribute more and more,” Smith said in 2015. “You hear us preach about ‘fan friendly.’ I think that is a driver for me to just do more things. I enjoy the contributions I’ve been able to make to the sport.”
Under Smith, Speedway Motorsports facilities were the first in racing to add condominiums, fine-dining Speedway Clubs, superspeedway lighting and giant high-definition video screens.
“When you think about the Charlotte Motor Speedway and Bristol, and tracks like New Hampshire and Sonoma and Atlanta, (Smith’s) have been the best,” NASCAR Hall of Famer Roger Penske told NASCAR.com in 2016. “There’s no question. He set the bar.”
Smith was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2016. In 2007, he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and he became a member of the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame in 2006.
Under Smith’s leadership, Speedway Children’s Charities has distributed more than $61 million to local organizations across the country which improve the quality of life for children in need.
Even with his many accomplishments in motorsports, Smith often commented that the auto retail business was his first love and maintained his primary office at his Town & Country Ford dealership in Charlotte throughout his distinguished career.
Even with his many great successes Smith never got too big for his friends, said Franklin resident and NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip.
“You have trophies, you have championships, you have wins, but friends are what really make the difference,” Waltrip said. “Bruton Smith has been one of my heroes since I started racing in NASCAR in 1972.”
Survivors include sons Scott, Marcus and David; his daughter, Anna Lisa; their mother, Bonnie Smith; and seven grandchildren.
Information regarding funeral arrangements will be released at a later date.
Reach Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism