Bruton Smith: 1927-2002
Remembering NASCAR Hall of Famer Bruton Smith
Born into a family that grew cotton, corn and wheat in rural North Carolina, Ollen Bruton Smith grew up to be a visionary and feisty businessman and member of the NASCAR Hall of Famer.
He died Wednesday, announced his company, Speedway Motorsports Inc. He was 95 years old.
Here is a timeline of Smith’s life:
March 2, 1927: Born in the Stanly County town of Oakboro. He was the youngest of nine children.
1949: Formed the National Stock Car Racing Association, one of NASCAR’s earliest competitors which held races in North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee.
1951: Drafted into the US Army during the Korean War and trained as a paratrooper. Smith was never deployed overseas.
1953: Leaves the military and learns his racing organization has been disbanded due to mismanagement in his absence.
1959: Smith and NASCAR driver Curtis Turner begin construction of Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord’s 1.5-mile track.
1960: Speedway hosts the first World 600 on June 19. The race is now known as the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR’s longest race of the season.
1961: Smith and Speedway file for bankruptcy due to construction debt.
1966: Opens Frontier Ford in Rockford, Illinois, its first car dealership.
1967: A group led by businessman Richard Howard of Denver, North Carolina rescues Speedway from bankruptcy.
1975: Smith regains control of the track after incremental stock purchases.
1982: Founded Speedway Children’s Charities in 1982 in memory of his deceased son, Bruton Cameron Smith. The non-profit organization has distributed more than $58 million to charities over the years.
1992: Lights are installed on the speedway, setting up the track’s first night races in May.
1994: Consolidates motorsports holdings to form Speedway Motorsports.
1995: Took SMI public in 1995 to become the first motorsports company to list on the New York Stock Exchange. The company now has 11 racing venues.
1997 : Starts Sonic Automotive in January and takes the Charlotte-based company public in November.
2000: Sonic becomes a Fortune 500 company. The company now has 160 dealerships in over 23 states.
2004 : Speedway illegally cuts 166 trees around a new parking lot on the property. After being ordered to replace the trees, Smith sold the property instead.
2006: Named to the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame.
2007: Concord City Council voted to block Smith from building what is now zMax Dragway. The council backs down after he threatens to shut down the expressway and build another elsewhere. Concord sweetens the deal with $80 million in incentives.
2008: Concord is renaming the road connecting Concord Mills Mall and Interstate 85 to the freeway to Bruton Smith Boulevard.
2011: Speedway installs a 16,000 square foot high-definition video screen, then the largest in the world, but since eclipsed by the “Big Hoss” screen at Smith’s track in Texas.
2013: Smith threatened to move the fall race from Charlotte to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, another SMI track.
2014 : Creates EchoPark Automotive, a used vehicle dealer.
2015 : Received a clean bill of health after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
2016: Inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
June 22, 2022: Died at 95.
This story was originally published June 22, 2022 6:01 p.m.