Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

True to Form, Track Owner Smith Pushes Limits; Labonte Also among Inductees Honored at NASCAR Hall of Fame

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

True to Form, Track Owner Smith Pushes Limits; Labonte Also among Inductees Honored at NASCAR Hall of Fame

Article excerpt

Byline: Don Coble

Bruton Smith, a track owner and one of stock-car racing's greatest promoters, is known for his theatrics and for pushing the limits. His induction Saturday afternoon into the NASCAR Hall of Fame was true to his personality.

The flamboyant man who owns eight speedways on the NASCAR schedule, including Charlotte Motor Speedway, talked nearly twice as long as his allotted eight minutes, telling stories of how he raised money to get started and his real ambition to be a driver.

"My dad didn't have a problem with it; he just said, 'Be careful, boy,' " Smith said. "I was, but my mom had a problem with it, and she said, 'I wish you wouldn't do that,' and I heard that a dozen times, I guess. And my mother was a very religious person, and my mom started praying I would quit.

"Well, I knew then, when she did that, it was time for me to quit because I was not going to compete with that."

Smith joined modified driver Jerry Cook and racers Terry Labonte, Bobby Isaac and Curtis Turner in a ceremony that was delayed a day by a winter storm around the Charlotte Convention Center in North Carolina.

Now 88, Smith was surrounded by his son, Marcus, and former champion Darrell Waltrip. They were on hand to keep him steady, but the outgoing businessman never wavered, including after being asked twice by his son to wrap up his remarks.

"Well, I apologize," Smith said. "[Car owner] Rick Hendrick said if I carried on out to 12 minutes, he'd pay me for it. I'm trying to get there, Rick."

The Charlotte track, considered the home track for most teams, has evolved into one of Smith greatest accomplishments. It was the first to concentrate on more and cleaner restrooms, better concessions, luxury condos and a private club overlooking the track. It also was the first superspeedway to be lighted for night races.

"But building a speedway is something you don't want to undertake," he said. "I built another one in Texas, and of course there I knew I had to work long and hard, so I set up our own concrete plant. That way we could pump concrete all night long and not be out on [Interstate] 35."

Labonte, a two-time champion, had the dubious task of following Smith on stage. …

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