Racing world reacts to news of Smith’s death | Sports
Bruton Smith was a colorful and innovative promoter in the world of motorsports and a highly successful businessman, leading one of the largest automotive groups in the nation.
He expanded the seating capacity at Bristol Motor Speedway to over twice the size of when he bought the track in 1996. He added such features as Colossus TV and corporate suites. He demolished the old tower at Bristol Dragway and built a new one, transforming it into a premier stop on the NHRA tour.
Never one afraid to take a chance, he floated the idea of the world’s largest football game, which came to life with the 2016 ”Battle at Bristol.” He also approved to have dirt put on the concrete racing surface, giving fans different experiences each time they attended races at Bristol.
Those throughout the racing world shared their thoughts about Smith, the founder and executive chairman of Speedway Motorsports, the parent company of Bristol Motor Speedway and Dragway.
Jim France, NASCAR chairman and CEO: “Race fans are, and always will be, the lifeblood of NASCAR. Few knew this truth better than Bruton Smith. Bruton built his race tracks employing a simple philosophy: give race fans memories they will cherish for a lifetime. In doing so, Bruton helped grow NASCAR’s popularity as the preeminent spectator sport.
“His vision and legacy inspired many, and his fan-first mentality remains today through his son Marcus. On behalf of the France family and all of NASCAR, I offer my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Bruton Smith, a giant of our sport.”
Steve Phelps, NASCAR President: “They broke the mold with Bruton. He was a force, a titan in our industry, a visionary. I know Marcus is carrying on his legacy, but our thoughts and prayers go out to the whole family and those who knew him. It’s a big loss for our sport today.”
Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports and chairman and CEO of Hendrick Automotive Group: “A pioneer, a visionary and a true original. Never afraid to take a chance, Bruton will go down as one of the greatest promotors and innovators in the history of motorsports. I have tremendous admiration for the legacy he carved out in both racing and the car business. Even though we occasionally competed, I was always happy to call Bruton a friend.
“He was someone you wanted on your side because he was tough as nails and never backed down from a fight. At the same time, Bruton was incredibly generous and dedicated much of his life to giving back. The impact of Speedway Children’s Charities and his countless acts of kindness cannot possibly be measured.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., 15-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver and winner of 26 races, including the 2004 Bristol Night Race: “Bruton’s contribution to stock car racing is hard to measure. His ambitious vision created growth and opportunities that I am forever thankful for. My heart is with the Smith family.”
Tony Stewart, three-time NASCAR champion and winner of 49 Cup Series races, including the 2001 Bristol Night Race: “Bruton Smith was a pioneer who helped make motorsports mainstream and allowed guys like me to make a living doing what we love. He helped grow not just NASCAR, but all kinds of racing. He had his hands in all of it, and even though he’s gone, his fingerprints remain.”
Darrell Waltrip, three-time NASCAR champion and longtime FOX television analyst: “I’m heartbroken this afternoon. My good friend Bruton Smith passed away. He helped me in so many ways. He was an icon in the sport he loved. RIP my dear friend!”
John Force, 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion: “I’m really sad to hear about the passing of Bruton Smith. He was a personal friend. Everyone knows what he’s done for motorsports, NHRA and NASCAR. He was like a second father to me. I met him when he opened Bristol. I sure loved him. I’m going to miss him. His legacy will live on.”
Clay Walker, CEO NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership: “NASCAR Hall of Fame Bruton Smith was larger than life. He lifted BMS to incredible heights and truly ”got” Bristol, saying you could build the track anywhere, but you couldn’t replicate our people. Condolences Marcus Smith, Jerry Caldwell and all who loved him.”