Sonic Automotive is a proud sponsor of Speedway Children's
1984 O. Bruton Smith started Speedway
Children's Charities (SCC) in Charlotte, North Carolina. The singular
fund raising event was a ball held yearly prior to the Coca-Cola 600.
Mr. Smith soon recognized the need to increase fund raising events as a
growing number of grant requests for funds were received. In 1990,
M/General Thomas M. Sadler, USAF (ret), was appointed Executive Director
of Speedway Children's Charities to help facilitate the growth and in
2003 SCC was named a Proud Charity of NASCAR.
grown over the years from one chapter holding only one event a year to a
nationally recognized charity with chapters located at each Speedway
Motorsports Facility - Atlanta, Bristol, Las Vegas, Lowe's, Texas Motor
Speedways, and Infineon Raceway - in addition to two volunteer chapters,
one in the Washington DC area and one in Tampa, FL. A National Board of
Directors oversees the Charities and local board of trustees governs
Speedway Children's Charities hosts a
wide range of events and promotions geared around race weeks at
Speedways and supported by teams of volunteers. Currently the staff to
volunteer ratio is 1 staff member to 122 volunteers. Grant requests are
accepted from non-profit organizations providing direct services to
children. These requests are submitted to the closet chapter's Board of
Trustees at the end of each year for evaluation. Each Board's objective
is to assist as many children in need as possible. Since its inception,
Speedway Children's Charities has awarded millions of dollars with more
than 14 million dollars in the last 10 years alone nationally. In 2004,
the Charities raised over 2.8 million dollars and awarded grants to in
excess of 411 non-profit children's groups, representing an impact to
more than 300,000 children in need.
Mr. Smith's philosophy throughout Speedway
Children's Charities (SCC) growth has remained the same. For a charity
to truly be successful it must operate with a small overhead, using
volunteers and corporate partners for materials and sponsorships
By those associated with Speedway
Children's Charities remembering we're a charity and not a social
extension or promotional vehicle for people or organizations, we make a
strong impact on our communities. Speedway Children's Charities
continues the philosophy of low cost / high net returns on all events or
programs. This assures that as much money as possible goes to the
SCC is provided administrative,
accounting and office space underwritten by Speedway Motorsports Inc.,
Sonic Automotive, Inc. and other sponsors who offset a great deal of
normal operational expenses. Additionally, the national Board of
Directors consists of prominent individuals throughout the Racing and
Automotive Industry. Team Owners, TV, and Radio Broadcasters, Speedway
Track Presidents, Sports Marketing and Business Executives nationwide
lend their support and expertise to Speedway Children's
"Remember it's a charity - get it for
nothing or at the lowest cost possible." - Mr. O. Bruton Smith, Founder/
Chairman of SCC
"The ratio of Income and Expenses
must always be a top priority with Speedway Children's Charities. Our
reputation to the public and corporate donors depends on it!" - M/Gen.
Thomas M. Sadler, USAF (ret) Executive Director,
Sunday, June 05, 2005
Copyright © Las
Bruton Smith makes motorsports
Bruton Smith is a
His wit, charm and business acumen have put
him at the forefront of his fields, whether it comes to selling cars,
race tickets or his point of view.
Smith is one of
the most powerful forces in American motorsports and auto
He is also founder and chairman of Sonic
Automotive, a publicly held corporation that owns about 200 new car
dealerships in the country, including three in Las
He's also founder and chairman of Speedway
Motorsports Inc., another publicly held corporation that owns Las Vegas
Motor Speedway and five others that host 10 NASCAR Nextel Cup
Smith is a majority stockholder of
Since purchasing the Las Vegas speedway in
1998, the self-made billionaire has invested nearly $50 million in
improvements to the facility that Las Vegans Richie Clyne, and investors
Ralph Engelstad and Bill Bennett, opened in
And since Smith has taken over, he's added
arguably the country's best drag racing facility and rebuilt the
three-eighths-mile asphalt track. By next year's Cup race in March,
Smith will have added about 30,000 seats during a three-year
"I'll probably spend $40 (million) to $45
million on Vegas this year," he said last week, a few minutes before the
start of a NASCAR race at his track near Charlotte,
Before the 2007 Cup race in Las Vegas, he
expects more than 150,000 spectators to see a completely rebuilt infield
that will move pit road several hundred feet closer to the grandstand. A
new media center and team garages will be erected, new spectator areas
created and more space will be available for infield parking -- and
He expects those projects will cost around
$50 million, and he might rebuild the 1.5-mile track to improve the
qualify of racing.
Smith exemplifies the philosophy
that if you're not getting better, you're getting
He recalls a conversation he had about 12
years ago with Bill France, son of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., who
was the association's chairman at the time.
'Bill, NASCAR is no better than its facilities. We really need to do
something about this.' He said they had been all right up until then,
but I didn't think they had," Smith said a week ago before a NASCAR race
while in a track suite near Charlotte where he adjusted the volume on
televisions for his guests, who feasted on Cornish game hens and
"We needed to bring more and more women into
our sport," Smith told France, saying only about 10 percent of
spectators were women more than a decade ago.
to make it nicer -- to have grass, to have flowers, to have nicer
restrooms -- to attract the ladies. If the ladies come, the men would
follow. Now we're up to almost 50 percent women."
wasn't the first time he disagreed with the patriarch of the family that
owns NASCAR and controls International Speedway Corp., which owns 12
tracks that host 19 of the 36 Cup championship
Eventually, France's tracks began to improve
amenities, but their aesthetic qualities still fall behind those at
"Over the years, Bruton Smith has
done as much as any single track owner/operator to move this sport
forward; improvements for fans, media, competitors," said Jim Hunter,
NASCAR vice president of corporate communications and former president
of the ISC-owned track in Darlington, S.C.
journey in life has gone from dungarees to cashmere, a success story
that started on the North Carolina farm where he was born in 1927 to
being on the most recent Forbes magazine list of wealthiest Americans.
He's ranked 215th with personal wealth of $1.6
"The overwhelming first impression (of
Smith) is one of personality with energy more than any other thing,"
said Geoff Smith, an attorney and president of Roush Racing, the biggest
and one of the most successful teams in
"He's a man who has been on the move with
something to prove, and he's been proving it his whole
Bruton Smith's drive has helped power NASCAR
to its rocketlike growth during the past two decades, and has been a
boon for the speedway in Southern Nevada.
all the racing we do, but the automobile business has always been my
first love," he tells a reporter visiting his dealership in an older
part of Charlotte. "I love the automobile business. I just love
He rarely uses his beautiful office at his
Charlotte speedway, which he began building in 1959. He also has one on
the second floor of his Town & Country Ford dealership that
isn't as opulent as you'd expect for a billionaire. He prefers a small
one on the ground floor that's closer to his salesmen at the dealership,
which he bought in 1978.
That Ford dealership is
where he spends most of his work time, about six hours a day. He knows
most employees and typically says "hi" or waves to
One employee nearly burns a hole in the carpet
spinning to an about-face when Smith shouts his name. You can sense his
relief when Smith just wanted to say hello.
close to lunch and time for Smith to swing into the "Pit Stop Cafe," a
little diner in the dealership where a large photo of Wayne Newton is
displayed on a wall above one of President George W. Bush waving the
green flag to start a race at Texas Motor Speedway, another of Smith's
Smith takes a seat at the counter and grabs a
French fry from a mechanic's plate. "You did have one too many, didn't
you?" Smith asks. "Have another," the worker
Smith orders a grilled ham and cheese on
white bread, and while he applies a few dashes of hot sauce, he responds
to a comment about the Newton photo with a story.
donated $20,000 in the name of Wayne Newton because of my good friend
Oscar," Smith said of Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman. "It was at a
charity event in Vegas a few years ago and Oscar knew I had just bought a
couple Cadillac dealerships there. I thought I'd get off easier if I
just wrote that check to the charity. Oscar's a good
Whether it's a mechanic with grease and grime
embedded in his cuticles, any of his companies' 14,000 employees or a
politician, Smith's personality often matches his cherubic
Calling Smith a mover and shaker is like saying
Goodman is a little outgoing. And like the Las Vegas mayor, Smith knows
how to attract media attention.
On a quiet afternoon
five days before the Cup race at his track in Concord, N.C., about 12
miles from the heart of Charlotte, Smith held a news conference to say
he is willing to commit $50 million of his personal money toward the
creation of a monorail to run from a proposed NASCAR Hall of Fame in
Charlotte to his track with a few stops along the
Media flocked to hear about his latest vision.
Many left shaking their heads in wonderment or disbelief, but most
reported about his pledge. One reporter, scoffing at the concept a
couple of days later, said, "That's just Bruton being
He didn't know who would build it, what it
would cost or how the rest of the money would be
He didn't even know the name of the man in
charge of Charlotte's ongoing light-rail project.
probably hadn't thought much about the project's
He most likely only cared about putting the
concept instantly on a front burner. All he knew was it seemed like a
hot idea so he struck the match.
It became front-page
news in the Charlotte Observer, the state's biggest newspaper. A story
detailing his idea was transmitted nationally by The Associated
Typical Bruton, as he's called by nearly
everyone regardless of their status.
A few days after
Smith's monorail conference, Tommy Tomlinson, a local news columnist
for the Observer wrote:
"Crazy Rich Guys think up
stuff like monorails. ...
"You get that sometimes
from a Crazy Rich Guy.
"But sometimes you get a
monorail. And a discussion that could lead to something
"That's the reason we need Crazy Rich
"Usually, under the money and the bluster,
Crazy like a
People laughed about his plan in 1959 to build a
major race track outside of Charlotte, then called Charlotte Motor
Speedway. It was his first track and remains his company's flagship. A
few year's ago he sold the naming rights and it became Lowe's Motor
Speedway, another first in major-league racing.
chuckled in 1984 when he said he was building track-side condominiums at
the Charlotte track, but they quickly sold and others were added. He's
done the same at his tracks in Fort Worth, Texas, and Atlanta, and says
he might do the same at his Las Vegas track.
seemed odd in 1992 when he and SMI president Humpy Wheeler, his longtime
friend and associate, invested $1.7 million to help develop a
revolutionary track lighting system that would use mirrors and indirect
lighting to simulate daylight to allow for night races suitable for
television. It's become the industry standard.
when Smith says there's a need for a monorail, people
"I think every day he has to prove that he
can do something else tomorrow," said Geoff Smith, the Roush executive
who joined the sport in 1990. "It's sort of a business restlessness that
no achievement is enough when another achievement can be had
The man named Ollen Bruton Smith loves
life almost as much as his family. Selling cars and race tickets rank
among his top 10.
He also loves his jobs and says he
intends to continue working until his last day on
"Retiring is a bad thing. Six months later
you're usually dead," he said.
He looks, acts and
lives like a man much younger than his age.
born on a farm where people are raised learning how to work," he said of
growing up as one of eight children in Oakboro, N.C. "My parents taught
me how to work, and I'm still grateful for
Stock car racing was a major source of
affordable entertainment in the Southeast. Smith saw his first stock car
race when he was 8.
"It was unbelievable," he
Nine years later he bought a race car and
began competing and says he once beat legends Buck Baker and Joe
But his mother wanted him to
"She started fighting dirty," he says. "She
started praying I would stop. You can't fight your mom and God, so I
Good thing she didn't know he
almost became a cowboy.
"I used to ride bulls on the
farm when I was a kid," he said. "Roughest damn thing I've ever
He's come a long way
Now he's just bullish on automobiles, racing
and Las Vegas.
Smith's first visit to Las Vegas was
in 1968, when he stayed at the Frontier.
almost new then. I just loved seeing all the bright lights, the shows.
You know I'm in Vegas quite often."
promoting stock car races when he was 18 and hasn't stopped. A job at a
Ford dealership led to an opportunity to operate a dealership and his
success led Ford to help him buy one.
building his first speedway in 1959 with partner Curtis Turner, one of
stock car racing's first stars. It wasn't easy building a $1.5 million
track back then. Problems with cash forced him to watch a
court-appointed trustee run the track -- with his unpaid help -- but
within a couple of years he was able to regain
The Las Vegas speedway is his most recent
The speedway opened in 1996 with 107,000
seats, and he still regrets not being able to build
"I offered (Ralph Engelstad) twice his money to
buy that land," Smith said. "He wanted me as a partner in the speedway,
but I'd have none of that."
It's believed this year's
Cup weekend generated a net profit of between $25 million and $30
million for the track.
Southern Nevada racing fans
and area businesses have benefitted from an economic impact of more than
$1 billion since the speedway opened. The impact from this year's
three-day NASCAR weekend alone was $167 million, according to the Las
Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
we do," he said of his speed factory on 1,600 acres across from Nellis
Air Force Base between Las Vegas Boulevard and Interstate
"Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the
world," he said during the March NASCAR
"This is a fabulous city. The more times you
come here, the more you'll learn this. This is a super city, and our
sport needs to be here in a big way."
And he's doing
everything he can to make it bigger every year.
rich guys like doing