CHARLOTTE – In a 15-minute acceptance speech showcasing wily wit and visionary flair, O. Bruton Smith entered the NASCAR Hall of Fame the same way he made an enormous impact on the sport.
The executive chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc. has made a lifetime out of building and maintaining racetracks that strove to set the industry standard for first-class amenities and facilities. SMI owns eight tracks that play host to Sprint Cup races: Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Kentucky Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sonoma Raceway and Texas Motor Speedway.
Also the founder of Sonic Automotive (which comprises several hundred car dealerships), he made SMI the first motorsports company to be publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange in 1995.
In partnership with fellow class of 2016 inductee Curtis Turner, he built Charlotte Motor Speedway, which opened in 1960 with the Coca-Cola 600 (then known as the World 600).
Born: March 3, 1927
Hometown: Oakboro, N.C.
The career: Bought his first car at 17 and promoted his first race a year later. … Credited with bringing luxury dining facilities and condominiums to tracks. … Oversaw lighting system installed in 1992 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which also added a massive HDTV video board in 2011.
The quotes: “I’m losing my bet on your speech. I told them you’d be less than 8 minutes.” – Marcus Smith, son and CEO of SMI
“Rick Hendrick said if I carried on out to 12 minutes he’d pay me for it.” – Bruton Smith
“It’s hard to encapsulate your career in eight minutes. You need to write a book.” – Marcus Smith