When the 2016 induction class for the NASCAR Hall of Fame was announced last week, Bruton Smith was not present in Charlotte, N.C. to learn that he was voted in.
“I had a phone call about it,” Smith told reporters during Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the track he founded in 1960. “I believe when they did it, I think I was in Germany or somewhere, so I got a phone call.”
Smith, the 88-year-old executive chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., will join Terry Labonte, Jerry Cook, Bobby Isaac and Curtis Turner in the seventh class inducted into the Hall of Fame. However, Smith hadn’t given his chances at induction any time soon much thought.
“I had not thought anything about it, quite honestly,” Smith said. “I think I gave up on it at least a year or two years ago. It’s amazing the reaction about this and I think that’s pretty special.”
Smith’s selection came after Brian France, the Chairman and CEO of NASCAR, spoke during the deliberation process in favor of voting for the man who for decades went toe-to-toe with his father, Bill France Jr.
In the end, Smith received 68 percent of the vote, the most of the class. That was up from 30 percent on last year’s ballot.
“Well, it’s quite nice of him; I appreciate it,” Smith said. “Brian and I get along very well and I just thought that was awfully nice of him being complementary in that tone.”
Smith’s induction was honored with a logo painted in the infield grass at the first track Smith built and one he always considered under construction.
“When I built this place, I didn’t have enough money, but I finally got it built enough that we opened it,” Smith said. “It took several years and I kept adding to it and of course 10 years later I was still adding, adding, building, building, building. I kind of took a position that Charlotte Motor Speedway was constantly under construction, so that was basically how I looked at it. It was constantly under construction because we did a lot of things here. Now I love it. It’s a great speedway; it’s one of the greatest in the world. I am very proud of it; it just took a long time getting there.”
Now SMI, which was the first publicly traded motorsports company at the New York Stock Exchange, owns and operates eight tracks that host Sprint Cup events and boasts about 15,000 employees.
“I think that we heard from an awful lot of them,” Smith said. “And today; they are still walking up, congratulating me. So, that was impressive.”