Bruton Smith, owner of racetracks from Loudon to Las Vegas, dies at age 95

  • New Hampshire Motor Speedway Chairman of the Board Bruton Smith speaks during a news conference at the track, Friday July 15, 2011, in Loudon, N.H. Smith, the track owner, and NASCAR officials want answers to why fans were stuck in traffic for hours as they tried to get to Saturday night's Sprint Cup Series race at the track in Sparta, Ky. Smith said he will meet next week with Kentucky governor Steve Beshear to start finding some solutions. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) Jim Cole

Monitor staff
Published: 6/23/2022 3:32:58 PM
Modified: 6/23/2022 3:32:39 PM

Bruton Smith, a larger than life figure who owned 11 speedways on the NASCAR Cup circuit, including New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, died on Wednesday at the age of 95.

His death by natural causes was announced by Speedway Motorsports, Inc., the corporation Smith founded 28 years ago that elevated the sport’s national profile through promotion, marketing and his purchase and upgrading of speedways across the country.

“This is certainly a sad day for our Speedway Motorsports family, but it also gives us all a chance to reflect on the many contributions that Bruton Smith made both here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and to our entire sport,” said David McGrath, the general manager of the Loudon track.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway had hosted two NASCAR Cup races per year, one in July and the other in September. Smith took some heat from New England race fans five years ago, when he moved one of the two Loudon races to Las Vegas.

Don Hawk, the senior vice president of business affairs for Speedway Motorsports Inc., said at the time that the decision had more to do with opportunities presented in Vegas, not declining attendance here.

“While I understand the disappointment of the fans here at NHMS and the surrounding area, it was not a punitive decision but a decision based on many other considerations,” Hawk said by email in 2017, during a Cup race in Loudon.

“It was done for the fans throughout the whole country as (Las Vegas Motor Speedway) is a huge market for attendance, for TV and NASCAR as a sport.”

Smith bought the speedway from Bob Bahre, whose khaki pants, white button-down shirt and shock of white hair became a staple at the Loudon track. Bahre first brought big-time short-track racing to Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine in the 1960s, then did the same in New Hampshire.

Bahre purchased Bryar Motor Sports Park in Loudon, which featured a 1.6-mile road course for motorcycles, and rebuilt it into New England’s first and only superspeedway, defined at the time as an oval track that’s at least one mile long.

The speedway opened in 1990, and NASCAR, the sanctioning body for stock car racing, began running its elite tour, the Cup Series, in Loudon three years later.

Bahre added seats and changed the name to New Hampshire International Speedway when it hosted Indy Car racing, which features a roster of drivers from outside the United States.

He sold the speedway to Smith in 2007 for $340 million. Bahre died in 2020 at the age of 93.

As of this week, Marcus Smith, one of Bruton’s two sons, remained as the Speedway Motorsports’s president and CEO.

His father was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame in 2006, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame a year later, and the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2016.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.)

Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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