O. Bruton Smith, chairman and chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports Inc., bought his first race car at the age of 17 and a year later promoted his first stock car race in Midland, N.C.
- Inducted: 2016
O. Bruton Smith bought his first race car at the age of 17 and a year later promoted his first stock car race in Midland, N.C. Smith’s early endeavors included operating the National Stock Car Racing Association—seen as an early competitor to NASCAR—and building Charlotte Motor Speedway.
CMS became the foundation of Speedway Motorsports Inc., which currently owns eight NASCAR tracks hosting 12 NASCAR Cup Series events, the NASCAR All-Star Race and additional high-profile motorsports activities. Smith took SMI public in 1995 to become the first motorsports company to be traded at the New York Stock Exchange. Smith founded Sonic Automotive, a group of several hundred auto dealerships across the United States. Smith was active in child-related causes with his philanthropic foundation Speedway Children’s Charities. He was inducted into the North Carolina Business Hall of Fame and National Motorsports Press Association’s Hall of Fame, both in 2006; and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2007.
In 1959, when construction of Charlotte Motor Speedway began, O. Bruton Smith realized his dream of building his own track. With a passion for construction and an eye for detail, he oversaw all aspects of the project. Here he is seen in victory lane with the winner of the first race held at the new track, the 1960 World 600. Photo courtesy of Charlotte Motor Speedway Archives.
In addition to building tracks, O. Bruton Smith has acquired existing tracks and expanded their offerings. In 1996, he purchased the iconic Bristol Motor Speedway, adding seating, luxury sky boxes, a new victory lane, a pedestrian tunnel and more. Here he is in 1996 celebrating the new changes with inaugural inductee Dale Earnhardt. Photo courtesy of Charlotte Motor Speedway Archives.
O. Bruton Smith has worked tirelessly to improve amenities for both participants and spectators of races. He has a reputation for innovation, developing concepts that have often come way before their time and wowing fans. In December 1985, Smith (right) explains the Smith Tower to Darrell Waltrip (left). Photo courtesy of Charlotte Motor Speedway Archives.