Drag Illustrated Issue 177, July / August 2022 | Page 46



Bruton Smith 1927-2022

Everything is hard work .”
Smith founded Speedway Motorsports by consolidating his motorsports holdings in December 1994 , and in February 1995 , he made it the first motorsports company to trade on the New York Stock Exchange . Today the company owns and operates 11 motorsports entertainment facilities : Atlanta Motor Speedway , Bristol Motor Speedway , Charlotte Motor Speedway , Las
Vegas Motor Speedway , New
Smith in 1995 . Hampshire Motor Speedway , Sonoma Raceway , Texas Motor Speedway , Dover Motor Speedway , Nashville Superspeedway , North Wilkesboro Speedway and Kentucky Speedway .
Speedway Motorsports also owns and operates subsidiaries SMI Properties , U . S . Legend Cars International , Performance Racing Network , and zMAX Micro Lubricants .
In January of 1997 , Smith founded Sonic Automotive and took it public on the New York Stock Exchange ( NYSE : SAH ) in November of the same year . In just a few years , Smith grew Sonic into one of the nation ’ s largest companies , and in 2000 it was first officially recognized as a Fortune 500 company based in Charlotte , North Carolina . Sonic Automotive is now a Fortune 300 company and one of the nation ’ s largest automotive retailers with over 160 retail dealerships in over 23 states , representing 25 automotive brands .
Smith ’ s first job outside the family farm came at age 12 when he went to work at a local sawmill . Two days after graduating from Oakboro High School , Smith took a job in a hosiery mill , before he eventually made a purchase that would lead him to two successful business careers .
“ I bought a race car for $ 700 . The whole idea at that time was that I was going to be a race car driver ,” Smith once explained . “ I learned to drive ,
Courtesy of Speedway Motorsports

A visionary and transformative figure in both business and entertainment , Ollen Bruton Smith , the founder and executive chairman of Sonic Automotive ( NYSE : SAH ), Speedway Motorsports , and Speedway Children ’ s Charities died June 22 of natural causes . He was 95 .

Born March 2 , 1927 , Smith was the youngest of nine children and grew up on a modest farm in Oakboro , North Carolina . As a member of the Greatest Generation , Smith learned the value of hard work early in life . With an inspiring determination and relentless optimism , Smith built a business empire through the automotive and motorsports industries and left a legacy to inspire generations of his family , friends , and colleagues .
“ My parents taught us what work was all about ,” Smith said in 2008 . “ As I look back , that was a gift , even though I certainly didn ’ t think so at the time . A lot of people don ’ t have that gift because they didn ’ t grow up working . But if you are on a family farm , that ’ s what you do .
Smith ( right ) explains the Smith Tower to Darrell
Waltrip in December 1985 .
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