Motorsports fans were saddened this week when the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) reported that “visionary” track owner Bruton Smith had passed away.
From poverty to wealth and fame
According to NASCAR’s official website, Smith died at the age of 95 on Wednesday afternoon following a long career in the racing industry.
The website noted that Smith was a native of Oakboro, North Carolina and was the youngest of nine children who were raised on a Depression-era farm.
“You have food, clothing and shelter but you never have any money,” Smith was quoted as saying of his early years in a 2003 interview in Car & Driver magazine. “And I never did like that. I did not like it,”
“You worked from sunup to sundown, but you did not see the rewards,” the future racing mogul recalled, adding, “I decided by the time I was eight or nine, I was not going to stay on the farm.”
NASCAR noted that from those humble beginnings, Smith rose to become a billionaire by founding Speedway Motorsports, the first motorsports company to trade on the New York Stock Exchange.
“Today, tracks operating under the Speedway Motorsports banner are: Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Dover Motor Speedway, Kentucky Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Nashville Superspeedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, North Wilkesboro Speedway, Sonoma Raceway and Texas Motor Speedway,” it explained.
Smith credited the success to his mother’s prayers
Smith initially sought a career as a stock car driver and began participating in races as a teenager. However, he said during his 2016 NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony that his mother’s prayers kept that plan from coming to fruition.
“I started driving … and it was not as difficult as I thought it was,” Smith remarked. “I thought, ‘OK, now I’ve got my career going.'”
“My dad didn’t have a problem with it, he just said, ‘Be careful, boy.’ I was, but my mom had a problem with it, and she said, ‘I wish you wouldn’t do that’ … and my mother was a very religious person, and my mom started praying I would quit.”
“Well, I knew then … it was time for me to quit because I was not going to compete with that,” he acknowledged, saying that he then decided to pursue race promotion instead.
“Just little by little, I found out that you could make money doing what I was doing, and I made money.”