NASCAR Hall of Famer Proton Smith dies

Proton Smith, who helped grow the NASCAR fan experience in his tracks with his insightful ideas, died Wednesday of natural causes. He was 95 years old.

Smith founded Speedway Motorsports and owns nine tracks that host Cup races, including the Nashville Superspeedway, which is hosting the NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series this weekend.

“To me, the death of Proton Smith is like the death of Bill France Sr. or Bill France Jr,” NBC Sports analyst Kyle Petty said on Wednesday. “It’s the connection to the beginning of the sport, and it’s the connection to guys who have a dream and a vision and who believe in what NASCAR and motor racing can become. They put it all there.

“It’s sad for me to see this generation gone. We can sit down and talk to them and hear those stories, and now they’re gone.

“I think most racing fans think he owned Charlotte Motor Speedway and competed head-to-head with Bill France, but he was so much more than that. He went back to the 1940s when he promoted racing. The majority of fans see him as a giant of Charlotte and what he did in Texas and he built highways, but he was More than that. He was a pillar of the sport and part of the foundation.”

Smith’s tracks, which included Charlotte Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway, among others, used the “fans first” mantra to offer unique fan experiences, whether it’s pre-race specials, massive video boards, or special food at concession stands. He also added spotlights to Charlotte, making it the first 1.5-mile track to run races at night, something that has become popular.

Burton’s son Marcus Smith said of his father in January 2016: “I’ve told people before that he doesn’t do things for trophies. He doesn’t really enjoy victory as much as he enjoys being challenged, and that’s probably something in common with a lot of the Hall of Famers, though I do not think so.

“He’s definitely someone who just enjoys a challenge, loves to climb and when he achieves a goal, he quickly moves on to the next opportunity and the next challenge.”

“Race enthusiasts are, and always will be, the lifeblood of NASCAR,” said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Jim France. “Few know this fact better than Bruton Smith. Bruton built his race tracks using a simple philosophy: give racing fans memories to cherish for life. By doing so, Bruton helped increase NASCAR’s popularity as a preeminent spectator sport. His vision and legacy inspired his vision and legacy. many, and the mentality of his fans remains today through his son Marcus. On behalf of the family of France and all of NASCAR, I offer my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Bruton Smith, the giant of our sport.

Smith was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January 2016, joining a class with Curtis Turner, Terry Labonte, Bobby Isaac, and Jerry Cook.

“From promoting his first race before he turned 18 to becoming one of the most successful businessmen in all of motorsports, O. Bruton Smith has done as much as anyone single-handedly has done in creating the modern racetrack standard,” said Winston Kelley, NASCAR Hall of CEO Fame. In 1959, he led efforts to design and build the Charlotte Motor Speedway working alongside fellow Hall of Famer Curtis Turner. It became Smith’s flagship track, Speedway Motorsports, which grew through his vision of introducing SMI in 1995 to run tracks all over the world. across the country.

“Smith has always sought to focus on fans and competitors and how he can improve things from their perspective. His tracks were the first to add the spotlight to a high-speed track and add innovative amenities such as officer towers, condominiums and upscale restaurants – all of which ushered in a new era of tracks.”

In 1959 Smith partnered with Turner and built the first permanent motorsports facility, Charlotte Motor Speedway. The track opened in June 1960 with the 600-mile race, the longest race in NASCAR history.

“His mind races all the time. He’s done a lot for the sport,” Rick Hendrick said of Smith in 2016. “He’s so brave to go out and try things that haven’t been tried before… He’s a smart guy. He helped build this sport and it (the Hall of Fame extrapolation) is well deserved.”

Smith, born March 2, 1927, was the youngest of nine children and grew up on a modest farm in Oakboro, North Carolina.

Years ago, Smith told the story of how he wanted to race and bought a car for $700, but his mother was against it and called for him to stop racing.

“Well, when I did, it was time for me to quit because I wouldn’t be competing with that,” Smith said. “That’s when I quit, went over to the other side, and started promoting racing.”

Smith, who founded Speedway’s Children’s Charities in 1984, has also been inducted into the National Motorsports Association Hall of Fame (2006), the International Motorsports Hall of Fame (2007), and the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame (2008).

Speedway’s children’s charities have distributed over $61 million For local organizations across the country working to improve the quality of life for children in need.

Among the survivors are sons Scott, Marcus and David. His daughter, Anna Lisa. their mother, Bonnie Smith; and seven grandchildren. Information regarding funeral arrangements will be announced at a later time.

“Never be afraid to take risks, Proton will be one of the greatest promoters and innovators in motorsport history,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “I have great admiration for the legacy he made in both racing and the motor trade.

“Although we would occasionally compete, I was always happy to call Proton a friend. He was someone you wanted by your side because he was tough as nails and never held back from a fight. At the same time, Proton was incredibly generous and devoted a huge part. Of his life to give back. The impact of Speedway’s children’s charities and his countless acts of kindness is immeasurable.

Broughton and I grew up on farms, and we shared a passion for racing and the auto trade. In 1983, I held a press conference at City Chevrolet (in Charlotte, North Carolina) to announce the new NASCAR team that would become Hendrick Motorsports. He was there that day, and his support was something I couldn’t I take it for granted.

“Although most people knew him as an intelligent and successful businessman, I will remember Broughton first and foremost as a father, a family man and a dear friend. He was very proud of his children, and our families were always close. On behalf of Linda (Hendrick), our family and our entire organization, I offer my deepest condolences To the Smith family and the many people who loved and respected Proton.”

Highlights Smith and Speedway Motorsports accomplished them during the years that reshaped the racing landscape forever.

1959: Broughton Smith and Curtis Turner laid the foundation stone for what would become the premier motorbike facility – Charlotte Motor Speedway.

1960: Bruton Smith hosted NASCAR’s first 600-mile race on the newly built high-speed road.

1982: Broughton Smith founded Children’s Charities Speedway to support children in need through deserving nonprofits.

1984: The first-of-its-kind condominium suitable for year-round living is built outside the Charlotte Motor Speedway on Turn 1.

1985: Charlotte Motor Speedway hosted its first NASCAR All-Star Race.

1988: The Speedway Club opened at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The restaurant and entertainment facility was the first fine dining experience to be built on a racetrack.

1990: Speedway Motorsports acquires Atlanta Motor Speedway.

1992: Charlotte Motor Speedway hosted its first ever high-speed race under the lights, the NASCAR All-Star Race aptly nicknamed “One Hot Night”.

1995: Speedway Motorsports became the first motorsport company to be publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

1996: Bristol Motor Speedway and Sonoma Raceway acquired Bristol Motor Speedway.

1997: Broughton Smith completed the construction of Texas Motor Speedway.

1998: Smith built and opened a new cyclist’s tower in Thunder Valley, the famous drag strip of Bristol Motor Speedway.

1999: Las Vegas Motor Speedway has been acquired by Speedway Motorsports.

2006: Broughton Smith was inducted into the National Motorsports Association Hall of Fame.

2006: Charlotte Motor Speedway hosted the world premiere of Disney-PIXAR CARS.

2006: Las Vegas Motor Speedway has opened its innovative fan-friendly Neon garage.

2007: Speedway Motorsports has acquired New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

2007: Broughton Smith was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

2008: Speedway Motorsports acquires Kentucky Speedway.

2008: zMAX Dragway is built; It was the first all-concrete drag strip to be four lanes.

2011: Charlotte Motors Speedway introduced the world’s largest HDTV, the 16,000-square-foot Speedway TV.

2013: Texas Motor Speedway has added its giant “Big House” HDTV, surpassing Charlotte’s HDTV with a 22,700-square-foot screen.

2013: Las Vegas Motor Speedway hosted the first electric music festival Daisy Carnival.

2016: “Colossus”, the world’s largest outdoor digital center-hung display, has been unveiled at Bristol Motor Speedway.

2016: Bristol Motor Speedway hosted “Battle at Bristol”, setting a world record for largest attendance (156,990) ever at a college football game. (Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee).

2016: Broughton Smith was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

2018: Charlotte Motor Speedway hosted the first NASCAR Roval qualifier on an innovative hybrid elliptical on the road.

2018: Las Vegas Motor Speedway has completed construction to expand The Strip to four lanes and hosted the first NHRA drag race on the West Coast.

2021: Bristol Motor Speedway hosted the NASCAR Cup Series on dirt for the first time in over 50 years.

2021: Speedway Motorsports hosted its first NASCAR races at the Circuit of the Americas outside of Austin, Texas.

2021: Speedway Motorsports acquired Nashville Superspeedway and Dover Motor Speedway.

2022: Atlanta Motor Speedway completed a top-bank resurfacing project for an intermediate track at 28 degrees, making super sprints up to a 1.5-mile oval.