Woody: Bruton Smith Deserves Hall Of Fame
Larry Woody | Senior Writer
For the last couple of decades Bruton Smith has been one of the most important players in NASCAR racing. Maybe THE most important.
Kentucky Speedway’s launch into the Sprint Cup Series last Saturday night was made possible entirely by Smith – the latest exhibit in the case for a Hall of Fame induction.
The big night wasn’t perfect. Traffic was a nightmare – inexcusable, because it’s always been bad at the track and should have been handled better. And the racing was just so-so. I’ll bet Bruton is already at work on the former as NASCAR continues to wrestle with the latter.
Granted, Bruton has ruffled a few feathers along the way, but so did inaugural inductee Bill France Sr. France didn’t simply ruffle feathers, he plucked ‘em raw when he was hammering the sport into being. Some may question Smith’s management style but, like France, they can’t dispute his results.
Bruton’s Speedway Motorsports Inc. owns eight Cup tracks and every one of them is a jewel. That’s the trademark of Smith’s facilities: modern, functional and fan-friendly (well, except for the Kentucky traffic – his next project.)
When Smith purchased Kentucky Speedway the first thing he did was pump $100 million
into it in expansion and renovation.
He did the same thing when he bought Bristol several years ago. He took what had been essentially an overgrown backwoods bull-ring and turned into a gleaming, state-of-the art sports venue that routinely packs in 160,000 fans.
This not meant to disparage any of the sport’s other past track owners. Most of them did the best they could with what they had to work with. Others, frankly, talked big but balked when it came time to put up the money.
Smith, on the other hand, talked big and spent big.
He has never hesitated to put his money where his mouth is, pumping untold millions – perhaps billions – into his racetracks.
Smith’s big financial splash has created a ripple effect. Because SMI facilities are so spectacular, other tracks have been forced to step up and make upgrades to keep pace. When Bruton moves in and builds a mansion, his neighbors don’t want to be seen in a shanty.
Smith is known for getting what he wants, with the deep pockets to pay for it. Kentucky Speedway is a classic example.
After building the track, Jerry Carroll and partners spent a decade in a futile, frustrating pursuit of a Cup race and couldn’t pull it off. Finally in 2008 they sold the track to Smith and things immediately started cracking. Bruton began pumping money into the facility while negotiating with NASCAR to move one of his Atlanta Motor Speedway Cup races to Kentucky.
A lot of folks deserve credit for Kentucky Speedway’s journey to the big leagues, starting with Carroll’s initial vision and dream.
Bruton dreams too – and makes them come true. Bill France Sr. built NASCAR and Bruton polished it, promoted it, and put it on par with other pro sports.
I can’t think of anybody more deserving of being in NASCAR’s Hall of Fame than Bruton Smith because, without him, there might not be one.
– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody#racintoday.com3 Comments