Ollen Bruton Smith, who went by Bruton, the founder of Speedway Motorsports, Sonic Automotive and Speedway Children’s Charities (which has raised more than $61 million since its founding), has passed away at 95 years old:
Speedway Motorsports said he died of natural causes.
A native of Oakboro, North Carolina, Bruton grew up on a farm as the youngest of nine children, and built a massive empire in the world of motorsports that few can hold a candle to.
His company, Speedway Motorsports Incorporated, owns and operates 11 NASCAR tracks across the country, and is now (and has been for years) run by his son, Marcus Smith.
SMI oversees 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, Kentucky Speedway and the newly revived North Wilkesboro Speedway.
Smith was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2016. And since 2006, the winner of the massive annual Coca-Cola 600 (the longest race in terms of total miles on the NASCAR schedule) has been presented the Bruton Smith Trophy.
Bruton started out as a driver when he was a teenager, speaking a little bit about how he got his start during his 2016 Hall of Fame induction speech:
“I started driving … and it was not as difficult as I thought it was. 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.”
He went on to become a powerful promoter and advocate for racing and everyone in the world of NASCAR, especially, and most importantly, the fans.
NASCAR Chairman and CEO Jim France issued a statement on behalf of the company earlier:
“Race fans are, and always will be, the lifeblood of NASCAR. Few knew this truth better than Bruton Smith. Bruton built his race tracks employing a simple philosophy: give race fans memories they will cherish for a lifetime.
In doing so, Bruton helped grow NASCAR’s popularity as the preeminent spectator sport. His vision and legacy inspired many, and his fan-first mentality remains today through his son Marcus.
On behalf of the France family and all of NASCAR, I offer my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Bruton Smith, a giant of our sport. “