Bruton Smith

Ollen Bruton Smith (born 1927 in Oakboro, North Carolina) is a promoter and owner/CEO of NASCAR track owner Speedway Motorsports, Inc. The billionaire was ranked #207 on the Forbes 400 list with an estimated worth of $1.5 billion in 2005,cite web |url=http://www.forbes.com/lists/2005/54/HU32.html |title=#207 Ollen Bruton Smith |accessdate=2007-05-03 |work=Forbes] and fell to #278 (worth an estimated $1.4 billion) in 2006. [cite web |url=http://www.forbes.com/lists/2006/54/biz_06rich400_Ollen-Bruton-Smith_HU32.html |title=#278 Ollen Bruton Smith |accessdate=2007-05-03 |date=September 21 2006 |work=Forbes] He is divorced with four children. He was inducted in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2007.

Background

Bruton Smith watched his first race as an eight year old. He bought his first race car at 17.cite web |url=http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2005/Jun-05-Sun-2005/sports/26631407.html |title=Bruton Smith makes motorsports his playground |accessdate=2007-05-03 |date=June 5 2005 |work=Las Vegas Review-Journal |author=Jeff Wolf] He began promoting stock car event as an 18 year old at Midland, North Carolina. He claims that he beat NASCAR legends Buck Baker and Joe Weatherly. He quit racing because his mother wanted him to quit.

Business Involvement

peedway Motorsports

Smith built Charlotte Motor Speedway (now Lowe's Motor Speedway) in 1959 for $1.5 million, with financing from his wealthy brother-in-law. [http://www.fastmachines.com/archives/nascar/002867.php Bruton Smith on Racing's Past, Present & Future] (interview with Bruton Smith); May 6 2005; Retrieved October 5 2007] Well-known racer Curtis Turner helped with promoting the track. Smith went bankrupt two years later. The track was turned over by Judge J.B. Craven to local furniture store owner Richard Howard, who ran the track and worked it out of its debts (the mortgage was burned publicly in 1967) while Smith moved to Illinois, eventually buying out other shares of stock in the track to regain control in the early 1970s. [See Benyo, Richard, SUPERSPEEDWAY: The Story Of NASCAR Grand National Racing, 1977]

He later founded Speedway Motorsports, Inc. (SMI), which owns eight NASCAR tracks that host eleven NASCAR Sprint Cup events. Speedway Motorsports owns Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Infineon Raceway, Kentucky Speedway,. [http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=99758&p=irol-newsArticle&t=Regular&id=1150004& SMI Purchasing of Kentucky Speedway] ] Las Vegas Motor Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, [http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=99758&p=irol-newsArticle&t=Regular&id=1071914& Speedway Motorsports Purchases New Hampshire International Speedway] ] and Texas Motor Speedway. cite web |url=http://www.al.com/sports/birminghamnews/index.ssf?/base/sports/1177575348295170.xml&coll=2 |title=Bruton Smith pioneered the art of race promotion |accessdate=2007-05-03 |date=April 26 2007 |work=The Birmingham News |author=Jim Dunn |page=1] He shook up the motorsports world in 1995 when he took the company public and traded it at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). SMI was the first motorsports company traded at the NYSE. cite web |url=http://www.motorsportshalloffame.com/halloffame/2007/Bruton%20Smith_main.htm |title=Bruton Smith |accessdate=2007-05-07 |date=2007 |work=International Motorsports Hall of Fame] Smith is the current chairman and chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports.

Lowes Motor Speedway Controversy

Controversy broke out in September/October 2007 when Smith revealed plans to build a drag racing strip on land close to Lowes Motor Speedway. Many residents near the speedway in the city of Concord, NC opposed this move, stating that it would cause excessive noise and traffic. The city of Concord then changed the zoning around the track, essentially preventing him from being able to build the drag strip. On October 2, 2007, Smith demanded that the Speedway and his surrounding land be unannexed from the city of Concord or he would shut down Lowes Motor Speedway, taking hundreds of millions of dollars away from Concord and businesses surrounding it, and move it to a different plot of land within the city of Charlotte, North Carolina. He said that he would be able to finish such a project with $350 million and 11 months. [http://www.charlotte.com/109/story/303156.html] At that time the city council reversed it's decision under pressure from both the mayor and NC Gov. Easley. The local government of Concord recently suggested renaming a major street "Bruton Smith Blvd."

On November 26, 2007, Mr. Smith announced his intent to retain Lowes Motor Speedway in its current location in Concord, NC. His decision was an apparent response to an incentive package offered by the city, county, and state, worth approximately $80 million. In the incentives, Speedway Boulevard will be renamed to Bruton Smith Boulevard, and will be re-aligned or widened. The package includes three other major road projects near the speedway. Sources of funding for the projects are still under discussion, but could include a sales tax increase for local residents. (source: Charlotte Observer, 11/27/2007, page 1)

Car dealerships

Smith founded Sonic Automotive, a group of 200 car dealerships across the United States.

Minor league baseball

Smith was a part-owner of the Kannapolis Intimidators minor league baseball team with Dale Earnhardt until Dale Earnhardt's unexpected death at the 2001 Daytona 500.

Philanthropy

Smith supports child-related causes with his charity Speedway Children's Charities. He pledged $50 million for a monorail project near the original Charlotte Speedway (the site of NASCAR's first race). The monorail was part of Charlotte's successful bid to secure the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The monorail would connect the Hall of Fame to Lowe's Motor Speedway, which is owned by Smith's SMI. [cite web |url=http://www.usatoday.com/sports/motor/nascar/2005-05-24-lowes-hall_x.htm |title=Smith proposes monorail in N.C. Hall of Fame push |accessdate=2007-05-03 |date=May 24 2005 |work=USA Today]

Criticism

Smith purchased a half-interest in the historic North Wilkesboro Speedway with Bob Bahre in 1996. The Speedway was the first to hold a NASCAR race, and was a popular track with many fans due to its history and the short track, which provided many chances for the "bumping" and "banging" associated with the early days of the sport. However, Smith and Bahre created a controversy when, citing the Speedway's age, lack of modern amenities, and relatively small stadium area, they decided to transfer its two Winston Cup events to Bahre's New Hampshire International Speedway and Smith's Texas Motor Speedway. This move came under criticism from many NASCAR traditionalists, who felt that Smith was moving NASCAR away from its small-town roots in North Carolina, and that he was slighting smaller-venue short tracks, which traditionalists believe better reflect the history of the sport, in favor of the large tracks which allow more fans but provide a less-intimate fan experience. The process of moving NASCAR races away from smaller but historic tracks in the small-town South to much larger tracks nationwide continues to be a source of controversy.

Other criticisms of Smith stem from controversies involving his other speedways. When Atlanta Motor Speedway was reconfigured there was a series of hard crashes in March 1998 and in several race weekends thereafter. His Lowe's Motor Speedway underwent a process called "levigation" for 2005 but the result was a NASCAR-record 22 cautions, mostly for crashes, in the Coca-Cola 600. The initial two seasons of Texas Motor Speedway were riddled with multicar crashes that led to some spectulation (reported on ESPN at the time) the track would lose its NASCAR dates. That Smith owns so many speedways is also a target of criticism from fans who feel independent track owners should not be crowded out of the sport.

Awards

*Smith was inducted in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2007.
*He was inducted in the [http://www.nchalloffame.com/index.htm North Carolina Business Hall of Fame] in 2006.
*He was inducted by the National Motorsports Press Association to the Stock Car Racing Hall of Fame in 2006. [cite web |url=http://www.accessmylibrary.com/comsite5/bin/pdinventory.pl?pdlanding=1&referid=2930&purchase_type=ITM&item_id=0286-12419304 |title=Bruton Smith worthy of Hall honors |accessdate=2007-05-03 |date=January 21 2006 |work=Charlotte Observer]

Additional reading

* [http://www.nascar.com/2006/news/features/conversation/05/30/bsmith.conversation/index.html] May 30 2006 interview at NASCAR.com

References

External links

* [http://www.speedwaymotorsports.com Official website of Speedway Motorsports]
* [http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=TRK Speedway Motorsports Company profile] on Yahoo
* [http://www.speedwaycharities.org Speedway Children's Charities]


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