NASCAR Hall of Famer Bruton Smith dead at 95

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — NASCAR Hall of Famer Bruton Smith, who founded Speedway Motorsports and built Charlotte Motor Speedway 63 years ago, died Wednesday. He was 95.

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The Charlotte Motor Speedway confirmed Smith died of natural causes, WSOC-TV reported.

Smith was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2016 and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2007, Motorsport.com reported.

Smith, a native of Oakboro, North Carolina, founded Speedway Motorsports in December 1994, WSOC reported. Two months later he made it the first motorsports company to trade on the New York Stock Exchange, according to the television station.

Now, Speedway Motorsports owns 11 motorsports entertainment facilities across the country, NASCAR.com reported. That includes 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, North Wilkesboro Speedway and Kentucky Speedway.

Smith added thousands of seats at Charlotte Motor Speedway as attendance soared and installed permanent lights in 1992 that allowed the track to host major races at night, NASCAR.com reported. He also built condominiums overlooking the track and a “Speedway Club” where guests could dine while watching the action on the track.

The Charlotte facility was also the first track to construct a 16,000-square-foot HDTV on which fans could see all the action, completing it in 2011, NASCAR.com reported.

After graduating from high school, Smith bought a race car for $700 and hoped to be a driver. However, he saw a better opportunity on the business side and took advantage.

Smith bought and sold cars from his mother’s front yard and promoted his first race as a teen, Motorsports.com reported.

He partnered with Curtis Turner in 1959 and built Charlotte Motor Speedway, which would host NASCAR’s longest race -- 600 miles, the website reported.

In January 1992, Smith founded Sonic Automotive, and in 2000 it was officially recognized as a Fortune 500 company based in Charlotte, WSOC reported.

“Bruton Smith is a special guy and someone who has brought so much to NASCAR,” team owner Roger Penske said during a 2016 preseason media gathering. “When you think about the Charlotte Motor Speedway and Bristol, and tracks like New Hampshire and Sonoma and Atlanta, he’s been the best. There’s no question. He set the bar.”

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