CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Bruton Smith, the founder of the company that owns nearly a dozen NASCAR tracks, died on Wednesday of natural causes. Smith was 95.
Speedway Motorsports announced Smith's passing in a press release calling the company's owner "[a] visionary and transformative figure in both business and entertainment."
Smith promoted NASCAR races in the 1950s after serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.
In 1959, Smith partnered with fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer Curtis Turner to create Charlotte Motor Speedway. The track opened in 1960 and hosted the World 600, the league's longest race. Today, Charlotte Motor Speedway hosts the Coca-Cola 600 and the Bank of America Roval 400 on the track's road course configuration.
Smith then founded Speedway Motorsports Incorporated (SMI) in 1994 as he expanded his portfolio of tracks he owned.
Over the years, SMI grew to own Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol 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.
"His mind is racing all the time; he’s done so much for the sport,” said Rick Hendrick, a NASCAR team owner, in a 2016 interview with NASCAR.com. “He’s so brave to step out and try things that have never been tried before. He helped build this sport.”
Smith was elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2016 and was also inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame.
The City of Concord Mayor and City Council released the following statement:
"Bruton Smith was a visionary. His ideas not only transformed motorsports but also our city. Through his pioneering efforts, Charlotte Motor Speedway became the envy of NASCAR, drawing thousands of fans each year to Concord for unmatched racing experiences and lasting memories. Today, the road bearing his name, Bruton Smith Boulevard, is one of the highest travelled destinations in our city with over seven million cars travelling through the corridor each year.
In all things, Bruton never settled for mediocrity, he always pushed forward towards the future. His tenacity and drive for excellence continues to inspire us, and we are forever grateful for the many ways in which he moved our community forward and contributed to Concord’s success.
We extend our deepest condolences to the Smith family during this difficult time."