Bruton Smith reveals battle with cancer in return to track

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BRISTOL, Tenn. – Unusually out of sight much of this season, Speedway Motorsports Inc. executive chairman Bruton Smith disclosed Friday he had been battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma this season.

In a Friday interview with the Associated Press and ESPN.com at Bristol Motor Speedway, Smith said he would attend Saturday night’s Irwin Tools Night Race after missing four races this season at SMI tracks.

“I hate to miss any of our races, it’s heartbreaking,” Smith said. “I enjoy what I do. I love the automobile business. I like the racing business, and I want to do more and more. That is the driver for me – to just do more things. I just like what I do.”

Smith, who turned 88 in March, said he lost 18 pounds during treatment for the cancer in June. He fell ill during NASCAR’s annual two-week speedfest at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he was conspicuously absent this year from the spotlight he craves. The flamboyant and outspoken Smith also is the chairman, CEO and founder of Charlotte-based Sonic Automotive, and he keeps his primary office at the flagship dealership in town.

Smith said he was treated with surgery and didn’t need chemotherapy or radiation.

“He’s been given a really good prognosis on his health, he’s responded to the treatment really well and beyond the expectations,” said son Marcus Smith, who took over running the day-to-day business of SMI in a restructuring that prompted questions about Smith.

“Marcus is doing such a fantastic job of running SMI that if I’m out, they don’t miss me,” Bruton Smith said. “He’s the man.”

Bruton Smith will be enshrined in the NASCAR Hall of Fame next year after receiving the highest percentage of votes during the annual vote in May.

“I think I feel a lot better than some people thought I did,” he said.