NASCAR’s Bruton Smith Hall of Famer has died

Bruton Smith, who helped develop the NASCAR fan experience on his runways with visionary ideas, died Wednesday of natural causes. It was 95.

Smith founded Speedway Motorsports and has nine racetracks hosting Cup races, including the Nashville Superspeedway, which hosts the NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series this weekend.

“To me, the death of Bruton Smith is like the death of Bill France Sr. or Bill France Jr.,” NBC Sports analyst Kyle Petty said on Wednesday. “It’s the connection to the beginning of the sport, a connection to kids who had a dream and a vision and believed in what NASCAR and car racing could become. They put it all out there.

“It’s sad for me to see this generation leave. We could sit down and talk to them and listen to these stories, and now they are gone.

“I think most racing fans think he owned the Charlotte Motor Speedway and came up with Bill France, but it was a lot more. He returned to the 1940s to promote racing. Most fans see him as the titan of Charlotte and what he did in Texas and built speedways, but it was more than that. It was a pillar of the sport and part of the foundation. “

Smith tracks, which included Charlotte Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway, among others, used the slogan “first the fans” to offer unique experiences to fans, whether they were special pre-race shows, paintings mammoth video or special food. at the concession booths. It also added lights to Charlotte, making it the first 1.5-mile track to run at night, something that has become commonplace.

“I’ve told people in the past that he does not do things to win prizes,” Burton’s son Marcus Smith said of his father in January 2016. “He does not really enjoy a victory as much as a challenge. and this is probably something in common with many Hall of Famers, I would say.

“He is definitely someone who just enjoys the challenge, loves the climb and when he achieves a goal, he moves quickly to the next opportunity and the next challenge.”

“Racing enthusiasts are, and always will be, the soul of NASCAR,” said NASCAR President and CEO Jim France. “Few knew this truth better than Bruton Smith. Bruton built his tracks using a simple philosophy: to give race fans memories they will love for a lifetime. In this way, Bruton helped increase NASCAR’s popularity as the leading spectator sport. His vision and legacy have inspired many, and his first-time fan mentality remains today through his son Marcus. On behalf of the family of France and all of NASCAR, I extend my heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Bruton Smith, one of our sports giants.

Smith entered the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January 2016, participating in a class with Curtis Turner, Terry Labonte, Bobby Isaac and Jerry Cook.

“From promoting his first race before turning 18 to becoming one of the most successful entrepreneurs in all motorsport, O. Bruton Smith did more than any other human being, setting the standard for the modern track,” said Winston Kelley. Hall of NASCAR Fame Executive Director. “In 1959, he led the effort to design and build the Charlotte Motor Speedway, working with his Hall of Famer colleague Curtis Turner. The track became the flagship of Smith’s company, Speedway Motorsports, which through its vision to take over SMI publicly in 1995 has evolved into racetracks across the country.

“Smith was always trying to focus on the fans and the competitors and how he could do things better from their point of view. “Its racetracks were the first to add lights to a superhighway and add innovative amenities, such as officer towers, condominiums and high-quality restaurants – all ushering in a new track era.”

In 1959, Smith partnered with Turner to build his first permanent motor sports facility, the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The track opened in June 1960 with a 600-mile race, the largest in NASCAR history.

“His mind is constantly running. he has done so much for the sport, “Rick Hendrick said of Smith in 2016.” He is so brave that he goes out and tries things he has never tried before.… He is a smart guy. He helped build this sport and he deserves it (introduction to the Hall of Fame) “.

Smith, who founded Speedway Children’s Charities in 1984, was also inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame (2006), the International Motorsports Hall of Fame (2007) and the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame (2008).

Speedway Children’s Charities has distributed more than $ 61 million to local organizations across the country that improve the quality of life for children in need.

Smith, born March 2, 1927, was the youngest of nine children and grew up on a small farm in Oakboro, North Carolina. Survivors include sons Scott, Marcus and David. his daughter, Anna Lisa; their mother, Bonnie Smith; and seven grandchildren. Information about the funeral arrangements will be announced at a later date.

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