When Bruton Smith remade Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2006, he created one of the most impressive and fan-friendly tracks in the country.
It was the type of vision Smith had throughout his track-building career, and for that he was elected Wednesday into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Smith, 88, is executive chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns LVMS and seven other tracks. He will be inducted Jan. 22 in Charlotte, N.C., with four others, including two-time Cup champion Terry Labonte.
“It will truly be an honor to be remembered at the Hall of Fame along with people like Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Glen Wood, Junior Johnson, Darrell Waltrip and so many others who helped build this sport,” Smith said in a statement. “That’s what I’ve tried to do my entire life. I’m a frustrated builder who had a knack for promoting races, and it’s been fun to always try to push the sport to greater heights for the fans.
“From the first World 600, I’ve always wanted the fans to leave with something spectacular to remember about their experience. Even if they don’t remember who won the race, I want them to remember the prerace show and having the time of their lives.”
That was Smith’s aim when he poured about $35 million into LVMS, creating the popular Neon Garage to make it more of an entertainment event than simply a race. On the racing end, Smith was behind increasing the banking to increase the speeds, and he brought pit road closer to the spectators.
“During the past 60-plus years, Bruton Smith has done as much as anyone to promote the growth of motor sports in general and NASCAR racing in particular,” LVMS president Chris Powell said in a statement. “Our industry has benefited not only from Bruton’s tremendous vision, but also from his willingness to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to create the best possible fan experiences. His foresight and determination have been unparalleled.
“I clearly recall the day he conceptualized the idea of the Neon Garage. I thought he was kidding — the thought of spending so much money in order to give fans unequaled access to the drivers and teams. But he did it. He’s responsible for the finest speedways and dragways ever built. I’ve been in awe of his commitment to motor sports, to our company and to race fans for many years.”
Contact Mark Anderson at email@example.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.