The NASCAR community is in mourning following the death of Speedway Motorsports founder Bruton Smith.
Under Smith’s direction, Speedway Motorsports became the first motorsports company in history to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Speedway Motorsports expanded to encompass many of the sport’s most iconic tracks, including Bristol Motor Speedway, Nashville Superspeedway, and Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Charlotte Motor Speedway also falls under Speedway Motorsports’ umbrella. Smith helped construct the facility when it was built in 1959.
From the place he started it all. Rest In Peace Bruton Smith. pic.twitter.com/YTDQWe3qPe
— Christian Espinoza (@Christian_Racin) June 23, 2022
Smith eventually became the sole owner of Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1975. After gaining ownership, Smith spent decades upgrading the track’s facilities. He added thousands of seats to the venue, which allowed for higher attendance. In 1992, permanent lights were installed at the facility…making it the first speedway of its size that could host races after dark.
Then in 2011, a 16,000-square-foot HDTV was added to the facility so fans could get a good view of the race no matter where they were seated. At the time, the HDTV at Charlotte Motor Speedway was billed as the largest in the world. Smith brought similar important upgrades to many of the tracks that fell under the Speedway Motorsports umbrella.
On top of founding Speedway Motorsports, Smith also built the company Sonic Automotive. The automotive sales company encompasses over 100 dealerships across the country.
Smith was also well-known for his charitable efforts. He founded the Speedway Children’s Charities nonprofit in 1982. According to NASCAR, Speedway Children’s Charities reportedly disturbed over $2 million in grants to over 260 charitable organizations in 2020 alone. The organization has distributed over $61 million in funds since its inception.
Smith’s accomplishments were recognized when he was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2016. But Smith had been out of the public eye for some time prior to that. In 2015, it was announced that Smith had been fighting non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was eventually declared to be cancer free.
Smith died on Wednesday (June 22) at the age of 95. His passing was announced by Speedway Motorsports. AP reports that Smith died of natural causes.
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“Race fans are, and always will be, the lifeblood of NASCAR. Few knew this better than Bruton Smith,” NASCAR chairman Jim France said in a statement quoted by AP. “Bruton built his race tracks employing a simple philosophy; give face fans memories they will cherish for a lifetime. In doing do, Bruton helped grow NASCAR’s popularity as the preeminent spectator sport.”
Smith is survived by his four children: sons Scott, Marcus, and David, and daughter Lisa. He is also survived by seven grandchildren and the mother of his children, Bonnie Smith.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Smith’s family during this difficult time. May he rest in peace.