Ollen Bruton Smith was born March 2, 1927, in Oakboro, N.C. His ardour for automobiles began at an early age; Smith offered used automobiles from his entrance garden as a youngster and acquired his first race automobile at 17. His time on the observe was restricted, although, as he gave up time behind the wheel due to his mom’s worries and requests.
Smith offered his first automobile, a 1939 Buick sedan, for a small revenue and continued to promote automobiles from his mom’s entrance yard. The younger entrepreneur additionally promoted his first race earlier than he was 18 years outdated.
“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 as soon as defined. “I learned to drive, but that career didn’t last long.” His mom had different concepts and prayed to the next 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.”
It was throughout his teenage years that Smith started to advertise dirt-track races. He later would run the National Stock Car Racing Association and launched Charlotte Motor Speedway, which opened in 1960. When the speedway went bankrupt after a couple of years, Smith went again to promoting automobiles, shopping for his first dealership in 1969. But alongside the best way, Smith quietly started buying shares of the speedway and in the end received management once more.
“There was a whole lot of unrest with the drivers and car owners at that time,” Smith recalled. “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 was drafted and served two years as a paratrooper stateside throughout the Korean War, briefly interrupting his profession as a promoter and automobile salesman. When he was launched from energetic obligation, he resumed promoting automobiles and selling auto races that includes the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.
For years, Smith maintained a modest workplace at Town and Country Ford in Charlotte close to Sonic’s headquarters.
In 2007, Smith described taking the dealerships public because the “wave of the future.”
“These things require so much money today that you almost have to go public,” he informed Automotive News. “Or you have to have eight or 10 rich uncles that pass away and leave you a huge inheritance.”
Smith’s work ethic was admired, and he was vocal about wanting to stay concerned with the enterprise. His son Marcus Smith informed The New York Times in 2008 that his father beloved to be “in the thick of things” and would bounce in to assist promote a automobile or direct site visitors if he noticed a site visitors jam at a speedway.
In a June 2019 interview with Automotive News, David Smith stated his father remained energetic within the enterprise and “would probably call any minute.” Bruton Smith was credited with promoting the primary automobile at Sonic’s EchoPark retailer in Charlotte, N.C., in fall 2018, David Smith stated.