Many people in the NASCAR community and beyond are mourning the loss of legendary NASCAR Hall of Famer and owner of the Charlotte Motor Speedway owner Bruton Smith.
Smith died on Wednesday at the age of 95 and those closest to him are looking back on what they say was an extraordinary life.
Lead announcer for the Motor Racing Network Dave Moody said two words come to mind when he thinks of Smith.
“The terms ‘legendary’ and ‘giant’ are probably overused in the world of sports, but he fit the bill on both counts,” Moody said.
Moody describes Smith as being a genius.
“He was the most amazing person I’ve ever known in terms of doing thing that nobody thought would be done, lighting a mile-and-a half race track -- it had never been done before he did it here, people thought he was nuts and he did it anyway.”
Greg Walter, the General Manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway, said the track is a shrine to Smith.
“Well you think about the fact that, you had a guy who was 33 years old from Oakboro, North Carolina, the youngest of nine kids and to build a place like this, a place that has hosted millions of people from around the world here in North Carolina,” Walter said.
Walter worked side by side with Smith for years and says the loss is a personal one as well.
“He had a heart for people. He was always energized by crowds and smiled with the fans. He was a practical joker; he would tease; he would have fun; he would talk to anybody,” Walter said.
Walter said Smith would always put the fans first and always strived to give them the best experience possible.
Tom Altom is one of those fans.
“He’ll never be forgotten in this business and from the fans he’s kind of like Earnhardt,” Altom said. “When we lost Earnhardt, Earnhardt was one legacy as a driver. And Richard Petty the king is also a legacy that’s still with us fortunately. Bruton will be the legacy of the tracks for the fans. He was all about the fans.”
Walter said despite Smith’s success, he was always humble.
“He would never be too busy to talk to any of us or any fan, that humility in spite of all his success is what made him so special,” said Walter.
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