CHARLOTTE — NASCAR Hall of Famer and Charlotte Motor Speedway owner Bruton Smith has died at the age of 95, according to officials.
Charlotte Motor Speedway confirmed he died Wednesday of natural causes.
“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.”
Smith built Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1960 and was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s 2016 class.
He founded Speedway Motorsports in December 1994, and in February 1995, he made it the first motorsports company to trade on the New York Stock Exchange.
Now, Speedway Motorsports owns 11 motorsports entertainment facilities across the country, including 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, Nashville Superspeedway, North Wilkesboro Speedway and Kentucky Speedway.
“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.”
Then in January 1992, Smith founded Sonic Automotive, and in 2000 it was first officially recognized as a Fortune 500 company based in Charlotte.
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.
“His mind is racing all the time; he’s done so much for the sport,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports and fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer, in a 2016 interview with NASCAR.com. “He’s so brave to step out and try things that have never been tried before. He helped build this sport.”
Smith was born March 2, 1927 on a farm in Oakboro, 30 miles east of Charlotte. Smith was the youngest of nine children. He watched his first race as an 8-year-old during the Depression and bought his first race car at the age of 17 for $700.
Smith is survived by sons Scott, Marcus and David, daughter, Anna Lisa, their mother, Bonnie Smith and seven grandchildren.
Charlotte Motor Speedway said information regarding funeral arrangements will be released later.
Statement from the Concord mayor and city council:
“Bruton Smith was a visionary. His ideas not only transformed motorsports but also our city. Through his pioneering efforts, Charlotte Motor Speedway became the envy of NASCAR, drawing thousands of fans each year to Concord for unmatched racing experiences and lasting memories. Today, the road bearing his name, Bruton Smith Boulevard, is one of the highest travelled destinations in our city with over seven million cars travelling through the corridor each year.
“In all things, Bruton never settled for mediocrity, he always pushed forward towards the future. His tenacity and drive for excellence continues to inspire us, and we are forever grateful for the many ways in which he moved our community forward and contributed to Concord’s success.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the Smith family during this difficult time.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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