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True To Form, Bruton Smith Puts On Hall Of Fame Show
Bruton Smith, executive chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., and the driving force behind the building of Texas Motor Speedway, got his due this past weekend in Charlotte, N.C. as he was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Smith, who owns eight speedways that host 12 Sprint Cup Series events including the Duck Commander 500 and AAA Texas 500 at TMS, had steadfastly maintained he didn't care about making NASCAR's Hall of Fame as he repeatedly failed to make the ballot of nominees. Once he was finally elected in this seventh induction class, he thoroughly entertained the crowd during his story-fueled induction speech for a little over 15 minutes.
"I knew that I was in trouble following Bruton," said two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and Texas native Terry Labonte, whose induction speech followed Smith's. "I thought to myself, 'Oh my god, he's hilarious.' He's got so many great stories and he's done so much for our sport, it's amazing. ... I was like, 'How could you possibly follow this guy?'"
He used his speech to needle Pepsi-Cola for spurning him when he needed funding to keep Charlotte Motor Speedway open.
"I was in New York and I'm looking everywhere trying to figure out what we can do for money, and I remember meeting with Pepsi-Cola," Smith said. "I knew Pepsi-Cola had money, so I was there, and I said, 'We need to do this and that and the other,' and I thought, 'Well, I could sell them on the idea, I'm going to give them a 50-year deal [and] we'll sell Pepsi-Cola at the speedway.' They did not go for it.
"And you know, still today, we still haven't sold any Pepsi there. But we have sold an awful lot of Coca-Cola."
Marcus Smith, his son and SMI’s chief executive officer, twice tried to nudge his father along with his speech, but the elder Smith joked that NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick had offered him money if he talked for at least 12 minutes.
Smith was introduced by 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski and Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip gave him his Hall of Fame ring as part of the induction ceremony on stage.
"Few know how to connect with fans better than the founder of Speedway Motorsports Inc., who today, 70 years after promoting his first stock car race, still strives to create the best fan experience possible at the eight NASCAR tracks he owns," Keselowski said. "He's a true visionary."
Marcus said his father had dinner with the other inductees and their families and guests earlier in the week. The magnitude of the event started to sink in for newest Hall of Famer, who has battled lymphoma over the past year and is now cancer free.
"This honor has been overshadowed certainly with the battle with cancer," Marcus said. "As we got to this week ... it got much more real."
Still, Marcus said he didn't think his father would talk for longer than six minutes. He thought he was in good shape when his father told him backstage he'd take only two or three minutes.
"I could tell when he took the microphone that he was excited and he was ready to tell some stories," Marcus said. "That's great. ... It certainly is a special honor for my dad."
Smith was part of the seventh NASCAR Hall of Fame induction class that also included Labonte, Bobby Isaac, Curtis Turner and Jerry Cook. The induction ceremony originally was scheduled for this past Friday evening, but inclement weather in Charlotte and the East Coast forced the Hall to move the event to Saturday afternoon.