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Home » NASCAR Hall of Famer Bruton Smith Dies at 95

NASCAR Hall of Famer Bruton Smith Dies at 95

Speedway Motorsports announced that its founder died of ’natural causes’ on Wednesday.

Randy Sartin/USA TODAY Sports

One of NASCAR’s visionaries, Hall of Famer Bruton Smith, died Wednesday of “natural causes,” Speedway Motorsports announced. He was 95 years old. 

Smith was the founder and executive chairman of Sonic Automotive, Speedway Motorsports and Speedway Children’s Charities. While at the helm of the company, Speedway Motorsports became the first motorsports company traded on the New York Stock Exchange back in 1995. The company flourished, its holdings expanding to 11 facilities that host 13 NASCAR Cup Series races in 2022. This includes four of the 10 playoff races. 

Today, the operating tracks include Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Dover Motor Speedway, Kentucky Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Nashville Superspeedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, North Wilkesboro Speedway, Sonoma Raceway and Texas Motor Speedway. 

Out of them all, Charlotte Motor Speedway was the crown jewel of the portfolio. Smith helped construct the track in 1959 with fellow Hall of Famer Curtis Turner, and he regained sole control of the facility in ’75. He worked to install permanent lights and more seats as attendance skyrocketed, to name a few upgrades. 

“When you think about the Charlotte Motor Speedway and Bristol, and tracks like New Hampshire and Sonoma and Atlanta, he’s been the best,” Hall of Famer and team owner Roger Penske said to NASCAR.com in ’16. “There’s no question. He set the bar.”

Rick Hendrick, another Hall of Famer and team owner, said the same season, “His mind is racing all the time; he’s done so much for the sport. He’s so brave to step out and try things that have never been tried before. He helped build this sport.”

Smith became a member of the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame in 2006, and a year later, he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. By 2016, he joined NASCAR royalty, becoming a member of the Hall of Fame. 

He detailed in his speech at the induction ceremony how his driving career in his teens was cut short by a “higher power.”

“I started driving … and it was not as difficult as I thought it was,” he said, per NASCAR.com. “I thought, ‘OK, now I’ve got my career going.’

“My dad didn’t have a problem with it, he just said, ‘Be careful, boy.’ I was, but my mom had a problem with it, and she said, ‘I wish you wouldn’t do that’ … and my mother was a very religious person, and my mom started praying I would quit.

“Well, I knew then … it was time for me to quit because I was not going to compete with that.”

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NASCAR Hall of Famer Bruton Smith Dies at 95

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