Tag Archives: Charlotte Motor Speedway

Legendary Businessman, Philanthropist and NASCAR Hall of Famer Bruton Smith Passes Away

Smith had trailblazing careers in motorsports, philanthropy and automotive retail, serving as Founder and Executive Chairman of Sonic Automotive, Speedway Motorsports and Speedway Children’s Charities.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A visionary and transformative figure in both business and entertainment, Ollen Bruton Smith, the founder and executive chairman of Sonic Automotive (NYSE:SAH), Speedway Motorsports and Speedway Children’s Charities died today of natural causes. He was 95.

Born March 2, 1927, Smith was the youngest of nine children and grew up on a modest farm in Oakboro, North Carolina. As a member of the Greatest Generation, Smith learned the value of hard work early in life.  With an inspiring determination and relentless optimism, Smith built a business empire through the automotive and motorsports industries and left a legacy to inspire generations of his family, friends and colleagues.

“My parents taught us what work was all about,” Smith said in 2008. “As I look back, that was a gift, even though I certainly didn’t think so at the time. A lot of people don’t have that gift because they didn’t grow up working. But if you are on a family farm, that’s what you do. Everything is hard work.”

Smith founded Speedway Motorsports by consolidating his motorsports holdings in December 1994, and in February 1995, he made it the first motorsports company to trade on the New York Stock Exchange.  Today the company owns and operates 11 motorsports entertainment facilities: Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sonoma Raceway, Texas Motor Speedway, Dover Motor Speedway, Nashville Superspeedway, North Wilkesboro Speedway and Kentucky Speedway.

Speedway Motorsports also owns and operates subsidiaries SMI Properties, U.S. Legend Cars International, Performance Racing Network and zMAX Micro Lubricants.

In January of 1997, Smith founded Sonic Automotive and took it public on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE:SAH) in November of the same year. In just a few years, Smith grew Sonic into one of the nation’s largest companies, and in 2000 it was first officially recognized as a Fortune 500 company based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Sonic Automotive is now a Fortune 300 company and one of the nation’s largest automotive retailers with over 160 retail dealerships in over 23 states, representing 25 automotive brands. Since inception, Sonic Automotive dealerships have received many nationally recognized awards and accolades for exceeding customer satisfaction and automotive retail brand performance standards.

In 2014, Smith’s passion for automotive retail continued with the creation of EchoPark Automotive. A subsidiary of Sonic Automotive, EchoPark Automotive is the company’s high growth segment rooted in providing high quality pre-owned vehicles, while delivering a world-class guest experience. The company currently operates over 40 EchoPark Automotive locations nationwide.

Smith’s first job outside the family farm came at age 12 when he went to work at a local saw mill. Two days after graduating from Oakboro High School, Smith took a job in a hosiery mill, before he eventually made a purchase that would lead him to two successful business careers.

“I bought a race car for $700. The whole idea at that time was that I was going to be a race car driver,” Smith once explained. “I learned to drive, but that career didn’t last long.” Smith’s mother had other ideas and prayed to a higher authority. “She started fighting dirty,” laughed Smith in a 2005 interview with Motorsport.com. “You can’t fight your mom and God, so I stopped driving.”

Smith sold his first car, a 1939 Buick sedan, for a small profit and continued to sell cars from his mother’s front yard. The young entrepreneur also promoted his first race before he was 18 years old.

“There was a whole lot of unrest with the drivers and car owners at that time,” Smith continued. “We had a meeting and I was unlucky enough to be appointed a committee of one to promote a race. I had never done that, but I promoted a race in Midland, North Carolina, and I made a little bit of money, so I thought I’d try it again.”

In his early 20s, Smith’s career as promoter and car salesman took a turn when he was drafted by the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Smith served two years stateside as a paratrooper, then returned to selling cars and promoting auto races featuring the burgeoning National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR). Through a rough era for the sport, Smith was one of the first professional promoters to pay good purses, tend to the needs of the fans and find unique ways to promote events at speedways he leased around North Carolina.

“I’m a frustrated builder who had a knack for promoting races and it’s been fun to always try and push the sport to greater heights for the fans,” Smith told the Associated Press in 2015.

In 1959, he partnered with NASCAR driver Curtis Turner and built his first permanent motorsports facility, Charlotte Motor Speedway. The track opened in June 1960 with a 600-mile race, the longest ever in NASCAR’s history.

In the years that followed, Smith found success opening several automotive dealerships. Opened in 1966, his first dealership was Frontier Ford in Rockford, Ill, where he married and started a family. While growing his automotive business, Smith’s passion for auto racing never wavered.

“I love the racing business. I want to contribute more and more,” Smith said in 2015. “You hear us preach about ‘fan friendly.’ I think that is a driver for me to just do more things. I enjoy the contributions I’ve been able to make to the sport.”

Under Smith’s innovative direction, Speedway Motorsports facilities were the first in racing to add condominiums, fine-dining Speedway Clubs, superspeedway lighting and giant high-definition video screens.

“When you think about the Charlotte Motor Speedway and Bristol, and tracks like New Hampshire and Sonoma and Atlanta, he’s been the best,” 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee and fellow automobile dealer Roger Penske told NASCAR.com in 2016. “There’s no question. He set the bar.”

“His mind is racing all the time; he’s done so much for the sport,” said Rick Hendrick, an auto dealer and fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer, in a 2016 interview with NASCAR.com. “He’s so brave to step out and try things that have never been tried before. He helped build this sport.”

Following a 2021 victory at zMAX Dragway, John Force dedicated the win to Smith.

“I love this guy and everything he’s done for our sport,” said the 16-time NHRA champion. “I’m excited I get to send this trophy home to somebody I love—a guy who built our sport.”

“I learned from my own experience that when people go to an event – like a big race – they may know who won the race, but all the other stuff they don’t remember,” Smith once said.

“I want to put something on so regardless who won the race, it will be a memorable experience. We’re here to entertain fans, and I want them to go home with a memory that will last forever.”

A true entrepreneur at heart, Smith had a passion for growing people and business. His love of the automobile and racing businesses drove him to continually build and expand, all while taking care of his family and co-workers.

Among his accolades, Smith was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s 2016 class. In 2007, he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and he became a member of the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame in 2006.

Even with his many accomplishments in motorsports, Smith often commented that the auto retail business was his first love and maintained his primary office at his Town & Country Ford dealership in Charlotte throughout his distinguished career.

“You have trophies, you have championships, you have wins, but friends are what really make the difference,” fellow NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Darrell Waltrip said about Smith in 2019. “Bruton Smith has been one of my heroes since I started racing in NASCAR in 1972.”

In addition to his business interests, Smith founded Speedway Children’s Charities in 1982 as a memoriam and legacy to his son, Bruton Cameron Smith, who passed away at a very young age. Given his experience, Smith became passionate about wanting to help children in need and Speedway Children’s Charities was created to focus on serving communities surrounding Speedway Motorsports race tracks. Speedway Children’s Charities chapters work with organizations to identify and resolve pressing issues ranging from learning disabilities and broken homes to hunger and childhood cancer.

Under Smith’s leadership, Speedway Children’s Charities has distributed more than $61 millionto local organizations across the country that improve the quality of life for children in need.

Survivors include sons Scott, Marcus and David; his daughter, Anna Lisa; their mother, Bonnie Smith; and seven grandchildren. Information regarding funeral arrangements will be released at a later date.

V1 Fiber Communication is on Board with Jankowiak for Charlotte as the Team Prepares Special Tributes.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — V1 Fiber Communications, A North Carolina based fiber engineering and construction company has teamed with Andy Jankowiak and the Dak’s Racing Team for the General tire 150 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The V1 Fiber number 73 will feature a special patriotic paint scheme that will honor Army Specialist Alan N. Dikcis for the Memorial Day weekend event. The team’s car will also feature a special hashtag in memory of the victims of the shooting that took place in the team’s hometown of Buffalo, NY two weeks ago.

The Andy Jankowiak V1 Fiber Communications and Dak’s Racing Team #73 ready to head to Charlotte for the General Tire 150 on Friday May 27th at the Charlotte Motor Speedway

V1 Fiber Communications was founded in 1994 and today is a full-service national provider of telecommunications construction, installation and maintenance services for power and communication clients. With steady growth and reinvestment in the company since its inception, V1 Fiber has become a leader in the telecom fiber construction industry.

The company is currently based in Mooresville, NC. with numerous projects spread across the southeast.  V1 Fiber has built thousands of miles of coaxial and fiber optic plants throughout the U.S. and plans to continue to grow with a commitment to excellence within the fiber

Much like Andy’s dedicated pit crew on the number 73 AJ Racing Team car on the ARCA Menards Series, V1Fiber is always able provide a crew on standby to take care of any of your emergency needs for your fiber network. V1 Fiber also offers a maintenance agreement, ensuring V1 Fiber will be the first responders for priority clients 24/7.

Andy Jankowiak, the owner and driver of the Dak’s Racing Team number 73 car in the ARCA Menards Series is in his second year on the ARCA Menards Series and looking to break into the top five after some strong sixth place run in the season opener at Daytona.

“We have a lot of time into our Charlotte car, and I feel good about our chances this weekend,” Stated Jankowiak, 34 of Tonawanda, NY. “We have a great group of guys working on this car and awesome sponsors behind our effort, so we have everything we need to go compete”.

Results on the track depend on a team that operates quickly and efficiently to help get the driver into first place. Like racing, V1 Fiber relies on a well-oiled team to seamlessly deliver quality fiber networks effectively and quickly.

“Andy’s incredible story resonated with the V1 Fiber team and the importance of family. Andy built his career with the support of his family and love of auto racing that was passed down to him by his father and uncle. The V1 Fiber team is also a close-knit group of individuals with family ties to telecommunications and with over 90 years combined experience at the Executive level, a confidence that comes with our craft. The fiber business is a lot like racing: it requires precision, expert planning, and above all else… it’s fast!” Stated Walter Rhinehart Vice President – Sales & Business Development at V1 Fiber.

Speed and efficiency are the goals shared by both V1 Fiber and The Dak’s Racing Team. “It’s great to have V1 Fiber back on board again this year and I am excited to see how we stack up with weekend,” stated Jankowiak. “It’s nice to have a sponsor that prides itself on speed, it’s a perfect match for us.”

To learn more please visit www.v1fiber.com

Featured on the quarter panel and for the second time this season will be Whelen Engineering Company.  Whelen Engineering Company designs and manufactures reliable and powerful warning lights, white illumination lighting, sirens, controllers, and high-powered warning systems for Automotive, Aviation (Whelen Aerospace Technologies – WAT), and Mass Notification industries worldwide. 

Whelen is also the official warning light supplier of NASCAR and a steadfast supporter of motorsports at many different levels including title sponsorship of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, and sponsorship in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. ” We are so proud to carry the Whelen Name and all that it represents in motorsport,” stated Jankowiak.

Pinnacle Travel staffing, located in Grand Island, NY will be returning on board with the Jankowiak Team. Pinnacle Travel Staffing is a national provider of traveling nursing professionals.

Family run with a great reputation, Pinnacle Travel Staffing takes great pride in being a leader in the nation in providing psychiatric and correctional nursing to regions of the country in need. Pinnacle Travel Staffing’s family values in business as evidenced by their motto: Why be treated like a number when you can be treated like family? To learn more about Marty and his team of travelling nursing staff please visit www.Pinnacletravelstaffing.com

Planterbox Direct is a Western, NY based company that can be seen on all of Andy’s Racecars. Planterbox Direct is your one stop online shop for custom made metal planter boxes, tools, and accessories. You can design your own planter box or collaborate with their helpful staff by visiting their website www.planterboxdirect.com

The Dak’s Racing Team will also be highlighting a pair of season long partners for the Charlotte event. Automotive Consultants of Ithaca, NY and Florida Safety Systems will be featured on the Trunk and TV panel as always.

Automotive Consultants of Ithaca, NY has been in business since 1959 and is family owned and operated. Bill and his trusted staff specialize in new and used cars sold at wholesale prices. If you are looking to buy or sell, be sure to call Bill at Automotive Consultants or visit www.Automotiveithaca.com to get the very best deal. Tell him Andy sent you!

Florida Safety Systems is a Florida based company that specializes in Fire Alarm Systems, Fire Suppression Systems, Security and system monitoring. Florida Safety Systems is a nationwide supplier through their website www.floridasafetysystems.com so be sure to look them up for all of your safety and security needs.

Yukon Creek Sportsman Club is a charitable organization that will be featured. Yukon Creek offer the opportunity for wounded or disable people to be able to enjoy a hunting experience with the aid of a trained staff to assist. You can learn more about this organization by visiting www.yukoncreek.com

RC Custom Coolers will be featured. RC Custom Coolers are remote control driving coolers that are handy when trying to relax and a great party conversation starter. You can order online by visiting www.RCCutomCoolers.com

In keeping with the traditions of Memorial Day the team’s car will feature the name of Army Specialist Alan N. Dikcis, 21, who died March 5, 2010 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Dikcis was born in Niagara Falls, NY and adored his 3-year-old daughter, Sophia. “Everything Alan did, he did to make Sophia proud,” said his stepmother, Gricela Dikcis. He enjoyed going to the beach, working on cars, four-wheeling and riding his motorcycle with friends.

“It is impossible to state how much it means for all of us on our team to carry Alan’s name on our car, it’s an honor and we are grateful to his family for allowing us to pay this tribute to a true hero,” said Jankowiak about the tribute.

In memory of the victims of the mass shooting that took place in Buffalo, NY two weeks ago the team’s car will adorn the hashtag #BuffaloStrong above the front grill this weekend. “This is our first race since this senseless tragedy took place. News like this never comes easy and our hearts go out to the families of the victims,” Said Jankowiak. “Our cars are prepared in Buffalo and as a team we all felt it was important to show support for the victims and for our city, we are Buffalo Strong.”

“Our car is almost a complete rebuild and our team has put a lot of effort into it. I want to thank our Crew Chief Mike Dayton and Andy Seuss for helping us get this done along with my dedicated team back home in Buffalo who have a lot of long nights into this effort,” Said Jankowiak. “I want to thank Kevin Lapierre and all of our team partners at Dak’s Markets for being with us every step of the way as we try to build our ARCA program. It takes partnerships to make all of this work and we are very lucky to have such an awesome team of people involved.”

The General Tire 150 at Charotte Motor Speedway will take place on Friday May 27th at 6 pm. ET and will broadcast live nationally on FS1. You can also keep up with Jankowiak by following him at www.facebook.com/andyjracing or follow us on twitter @andyjankowiak

 To learn more about our team please visit our website www.andyjracing.com

Jankowiak Team welcomes V1 Fiber Engineering, Thermal Foams Inc. and multiple sponsors for the Memorial Day Weekend event at Charlotte Motor Speedway

Tonawanda NY- It has been a remarkably busy few weeks for Andy Jankowiak and his team as they prepare to enter their first ARCA Menards General Tire 150 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday May 29th in a car that is new to the team.

The team will be sporting a Memorial Day Theme on the car for the event that was designed and created by Don Adamczyk and Justin Gumley. The team will also be honoring eight fallen heroes during the event with names being carried on the helmets of each of the team’s members.

“We just purchased this car from Our Motorsports, it was a show car, but we have been busy making it ready to compete.” After a pair of top ten finishes in the team’s first two ARCA Menards series races at Daytona and Talladega the Jankowiak Racing Team #73 Ford with crew chief Mike Dayton head into Charlotte Motor Speedway with momentum and solid sponsorship support from multiple marketing partners. “We are so lucky to have these sponsors on board, we did not know we were going to run this event a month ago so to have support on a project we put together pretty quickly means a lot.”

V1 Fiber: A North Carolina based fiber engineering and construction company is the Jankowiak Racing team’s primary sponsor. “We are very lucky to be teamed up with everyone at V1 Fiber” said Jankowiak. “In the short time we have worked together I feel like I have become one of the family”. We are thrilled to represent the company while racing at Charlotte which is in their backyard.

V1 Fiber founded in 1994 and based in Mooresville, NC. with numerous projects spread across the south east. A leader in the telecom fiber construction industry, they have built thousands of miles of coaxial and fiber optic plants throughout the U.S. Their plans as a company are to continue to grow with a commitment to excellence within the fiber optics industry. They are a full-service national provider of telecommunications construction, installation, and maintenance services.

Offering state of the art “trenchless technologies” allows V1 Fiber to install plants for customers throughout the country with minimal disturbance to the surrounding areas. They also offer extensive fiber optic splicing capabilities allowing V1 Fiber to service even the most remote plants. To learn more about how V1 Fiber can be your fiber optics construction partner on your next project please visit V1fiber.com.

Thermal Foams Inc: An industry leader in the manufacturing of specialty foam products returns for the Charlotte General Tires 150 race. Based in New York and Pennsylvania, the four-decade-old company specializes in molded polystyrene foams engineered and insulated panel systems. They are a leader in distribution insulation and cushioning materials as well as exterior insulation finishing systems. Thermal Foams Inc. has an in-house design department that can tailor a product for all of your shipping needs as well. They have been in business since 1959 with strong ties to auto racing and based in Buffalo, NY. Please visit Thermalfoams.com to learn how they can help with your next project.

Pinnacle Travel Staffing: Located in Grand Island, NY they will be returning to the Jankowiak Racing team. Pinnacle Travel Staffing is a national provider of traveling nursing professionals. Family run with a great reputation, Pinnacle Travel Staffing takes great pride in being a leader in the nation in providing psychiatric and correctional nursing to regions of the country in need. Pinnacle Travel Staffing’s family values in business as evidenced by their motto: Why be treated like a number when you can be treated like family? To learn more about how Pinnacle Travel Staffing can provide a traveling nursing staff anywhere in the country, please visit Pinnacletravelstaffing.com

Planterbox Direct: Coming on board for the General Tires 150. You can find them online at Planterboxdirect.com. A Western New York company, Planterboxdirect.com is a one-stop-shop for planter boxes, tools, and accessories. You can design a planter box to fit or collaborate with their experienced and helpful staff. Made in the USA and proud of it, Planter Box Direct is your solution for high quality planter boxes tailored to your specific project. It is all at a click of the mouse and delivered to your door when you visit Planterboxdirect.com.

Indy Kart Raceway: A premier electric indoor karting facility located in Rochester, NY, also marks its first race as a sponsor. Indy Kart Raceway offers arrive and drive, birthday parties, group, and league racing so it is a perfect destination for fun with family and friends. These karts are capable of high speeds that will challenge even the most experienced of drivers. Fast fun for adults and kids at a very affordable price and indoors when you need to stay busy on a rainy day this summer. To set up your day at the track.

Palm Beach Ceramics: A Florida-based ceramic coating company. Palm Beach Ceramics offers glass coating for cars, RVs, boats and in house projects that is of the highest show quality in the industry. For more information visit Palmbeachceramics.com to learn about the services they offer and to help you get set up with an appointment. Palm Beach Ceramics prides itself on quality and is a great friend to the motorsports industry.

OneRail: They have been with the team since its inception. OneRail contracts and handles all of your business shipping needs with a system that offers the most efficient solutions for your business shipping needs. From the first mile to the final mile, delivered OneRail handles everything from same to to across the globe under one platform and keeps your business moving while saving you time and money. To learn more about how OneRail can help your business please visit OneRail.io

Rear End Specialists: Another sponsor joining the Jankowiak Racing team again will be Rear End Specialists and MAT Services of Tonawanda, NY. Rear End Specialists offers the best differential and drive-line experts to work on your cars, trucks and project cars. They offer big truck and car repair as well as alignment work for front and rear. Call today and ask for Billy to help you get your car rolling again. MAT Services is your all in our property maintenance company, from lawn care to snow removal, MAT Services has your back all year long.

Speedway Illustrated: With the team as always will be Speedway Illustrated Magazine, which offers monthly subscriptions for an entire year for just $19.99. Please visit store SpeedwayIllustrated.com and sign up today!

Prominently displayed on the roof of the Jankowiak Racing Ford number 73 will be a charity organization known as The Yukon Creek Sportsman’s Club. Yukon Creek is a hunting camp located in New York’s Allegany County. The charity’s mission is to provide a no-cost hunting experience for disabled and wheelchair-bound people. The group provides lodging and purpose-built off-road vehicles to visitors of the camp. Welcome to all who would like to enjoy a hunting experience, Yukon Creek has a dedicated and caring staff who are there to assist visitors with all their individual needs. To learn more about Yukon Creek visit YukonCreek.com.

The General Tire 150 at Charlotte Motor Speedway is scheduled for Saturday, May 29th at 7 p.m. ET and will broadcast live nationally on FS1. You can also keep up with Jankowiak at www.facebook.com/andyjracing