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O. Bruton Smith, who hails from a North Carolina farming country and parlled his motorsports love in the Hall of Fame career as one of the biggest track owners and most successful promoters in auto racing history, died Wednesday. He is 95 years old.

His death was announced by Speedway Motorsports, citing natural causes.

His son, Marcus, the current president and CEO, paid tribute to his father on social media on Tuesday: “I have a wonderful Father’s Weekend. I’m so grateful to have a father and a wonderful father,” Smith posted with photos surrounded by his family.

“Ethnic fans, and always NASCAR’s livelihood. Some people know it better than Bruton Smith,” said NASCAR chairman Jim France. “Bruton built his race tracks using a simple philosophy; provide lifelong memories for facial fans. In doing so, Bruton helped increase NASCAR’s popularity as a popular audience sport.”

Bruton Smith was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2016.

Bruton Smith was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2016.
(Streeter calculation by Getty Images / NASCAR)

Ollen Bruton Smith was born March 2, 1927, on a farm in Oakborough, 30 miles east of Charlotte, the youngest of nine children. He watched his first race at the age of 8 during depression and bought his first race car at $ 17 for $ 17.

“At the time I wanted to be a race car driver. I had learned to drive, but that career did not last long,” Smith said of his early start, noting that his mother had prayed for him to find someone else. Passion. “You can’t fight your mom and God, so I quit driving.”

Smith instead became an entrepreneur – promoting his first race at the age of 18 – and becoming one of the giants in stock car racing. Speedway Motorsports, the company he founded, was the first motorsports company to trade on the New York Stock Exchange and currently has 11 facilities throughout the United States.

The tracks run NASCAR, IndyCar, NHRA and other series in Atlanta; Bristol, Tennessee; Charlotte; Las Vegas; New Hampshire; Sonoma, California; Texas; Dover, Delaware; Nashville, Tennessee; North Wilkesboro, North Carolina; And Kentucky.

NASCAR will be racing at the Nashville SuperSpaceway this weekend, a track purchased by Speedway Motorsports late last year.

“My parents taught us what work is,” Smith said in 2008. “If I look back, it’s a gift, although I certainly did not think so at the time. Most people do not have it. The reward is because they did not grow up working. But if you’ve been on a family farm, that’s what you do. Everything is hard work.”

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Speedway Motorsports also owns and operates a number of subsidiaries. Smith founded Sonic Automotive in early 1997 and took it public 11 months later; In 2000, it became a Fortune 500 company and has hundreds of dealerships in 20 states.

Smith was on the ground floor as stock car racing became more popular, starting in the Deep South. Smith joked that he was “lucky” to be appointed by a committee of bored racers and car owners to start promoting races.

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He partnered with Curtis Turner in 1959 to build the Charlotte Motor Speedway, Smith’s first permanent motorsports facility. Launched in June 1960 with a 600-mile race, it is the longest in NASCAR history. To this day the crown is considered an ornament on the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR calendar.

Smith is known for building state-of-the-art facilities that incorporate fan experience. His tracks include condominiums and speedway clubs that offer fine dining and large, high-definition video screens.

“I love the racing business. I want to contribute more,” Smith said in 2015. “You ‘ve heard us teach about’ fan friendly ‘. I think it’s a motivation for me to do more. I enjoy the contribution I can make to the sport.”

He often flirted with NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. and his successor, Bill France Jr., and fought with the NASCAR leadership for decades to bring the Elite Cup series races to his assets. The operators of the two largest racetracks in the country rarely looked the other way, but Smith never backed down with his gold-framed shaded sunglasses and wild sport coats.

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“It’s hard to measure Bruton’s contribution to stock car racing,” said NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr. “His ambitious vision has created growth and opportunities, for which I will always be grateful.”

Eddie Gossez, who worked for Smith in Charlotte before leaving to open and guide the Texas Motor Speedway for the first 25 years, paid tribute to his former boss.

“I met American presidents and scholars, astronauts and artists. I met world-renowned musicians and athletes. But the greatest person I’ve ever met was Bruton Smith,” said Gosage, who retired last summer. “We’re so happy to work together. He always sees me as equal because he taught me lessons about business and life.”

In 2016, Smith was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame for his services to motorsports. Jim Franz called Smith a “giant in the sport.”

“Everyone knows what he did for motorsports, the NHRA and NASCAR,” said legendary drag racer John Force. “He’s like a second father to me. I met him when he opened Bristol. I absolutely loved him. I will miss him. His legacy will continue.”

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Smith has sons Scott, Marcus and David, a daughter, Anna Lisa, their mother, Bonnie Smith, and seven grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending.