Who was Bruton Smith? 6 things to know about the late race track billionaire

·2 min read

Much of Bruton Smith’s life was connected to NASCAR and the race tracks he owned, including Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord. But the billionaire, who died Wednesday at age 95, had many interests throughout his long life.

Here are some key facts to know:

Revved up for the stock exchange

Smith founded Speedway Motorsports, and in February 1995, it became the first motorsports company to trade on the New York Stock Exchange. It’s ticker symbol, appropriately enough, was TRK.

The company was taken private in 2019 in a deal that The Charlotte Observer reported at the time could have been worth more than $734 million.

Bruton Smith in 1997, two years after his Speedway Motorsports began trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
Bruton Smith in 1997, two years after his Speedway Motorsports began trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Are you ready for some football? Or soccer?

As much as Smith’s life was tied to NASCAR, Smith and his family also flirted with potentially owning two pro teams in Charlotte.

In 2018, Smith was linked to a group of potential buyers for the Carolina Panthers, although the team ultimately went to billionaire David Tepper. A year earlier, Smith’s son Marcus had submitted a bid to bring a Major League Soccer team to the city that ultimately went to Tepper too.

Sonic Automotive used cars

Bruton Smith founded Sonic Automotive in 1997, and the auto retailer company grew to be a Fortune 300 business. It’s one of the nation’s biggest auto dealerships, with more than 160 retail dealerships in over 23 states, representing 25 automotive brands.

A charitable side

Smith founded a nonprofit, Speedway Children’s Charities. It was launched in 1982 in memory of his late son Bruton Cameron Smith, and has distributed more than $58 million to other charities.

Elizabeth Taylor was ‘a handful’

In 1977, Elizabeth Taylor, one of the biggest movie stars in the world, was the grand marshal of the World 600 race in Concord. Smith related what happened next to Observer reporter Scott Fowler in 2013.

Smith had put her up in a condo. The night before the race, right around midnight, Taylor called Smith saying she needed a hairdresser for 8 in the morning. Smith made it happen.

He also needed to have eight security guards watch after her “because she had such a strong fear of being kidnapped or robbed.

“She was a major handful,” Smith recalled. “Bless her heart, she was drinking quite a bit during her three days with us.”

On the street with his name

Smith had a busy North Carolina road named for him — Bruton Smith Boulevard. That’s in Concord, right outside Charlotte and just off exit 49 of Interstate 85.

It stretches from his Charlotte Motor Speedway right past Concord Mills mall. (He had gotten the road naming in the wake of a fight with the city of Concord over his plans to add the zMax Dragway across from the Speedway. Smith eventually got his way.)