Bruton Smith, NASCAR Visionary and Legendary Motorsports Pioneer, Passes Away at 95

by Bryan Fyalkowski

Bruton Smith, a legendary figure in NASCAR and all motorsports, passed away on Wednesday at 95. Smith has been elected to the International Motorsports, International Motorsports Press Association and NASCAR Halls of Fame for his many pioneering accomplishments.

NASCAR chairman and CEO Ty France, along with many giants in the sport, made heartfelt statements in honor of Smith.

Speedway Motorsports, LLC has a very informative write-up about Smith and his incredibly impactful life.

Smith was born in 1927 and was the youngest of nine children in his family. He grew up in the small town of Oakboro, North Carolina – about 33 miles east of Charlotte. He started working at the young age of 12 at the local sawmill. After graduating high school, he purchased a race car for $700 in the hopes he would learn how to be a professional driver.

Smith did not end up doing exactly that, but the process of selling that car jump-started his career as a salesman. After serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he returned to selling cars and helped promote local races for an up-and-coming venture called NASCAR.

A True Visionary in the Sport

Bruton Smith – together with former driver Curtis Turner – helped build Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1959. Over the next many years, he continued to build up his legacy as a salesman and promoter. In 1995 he consolidated his capital and founded Speedway Motorsports. It became the first motorsports company to publicly trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

Speedway Motorsports currently owns and operates 11 facilities: Atlanta, Bristol, Charlotte, Dover, Kentucky Las Vegas, Nashville, New Hampshire, North Wilkesboro, Sonoma and Texas.

Smith then founded Sonic Automotive in 1997 and helped grow it into a Fortune 300 company. It is one of the largest automotive retailers in the nation, with over 160 dealerships representing 25 brands in over 23 states.

He also had an incredibly generous side to him. With Speedway Children’s Charities, Smith has helped raise and give away more the $61 million to organizations across the country. These ventures help so many young people suffering from learning disabilities, hunger, cancer and much more.

Smith will surely be honored during this weekend’s Ally 400 and other races at Nashville Superspeedway.