Smith’s company purchased the Northeast Tennessee half-mile oval and quarter-mile dragstrip in 1996, and his leadership has seen fans from around the world flock to Tennessee to experience auto racing at its best.
“To be inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame is a true honor,” said Smith, who was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2016. “My goal was to help grow Bristol Motor Speedway & Dragway into a state-of-the-art facility and I’m proud that it has become an iconic Volunteer State venue that hosts world-class events for fans all over the globe. Our mantra of ‘we work for the fans’ continues to this day and it’s amazing to see what the state of Tennessee means to the sport of auto racing.”
Under his ownership, Smith has created NASCAR’s only 360-degree seat facility, increased suites from 20 to nearly 200 and grown the facility workforce to 70 full-time employees and around 5,000 part-time workers on NASCAR weekends. Enhancements continue to this day throughout the facility, including the 2016 debut of Colossus TV, the world’s largest outdoor, center-hung, four-sided video display.
In addition to turning BMS into a true bucket-list experience for sports fans that has featured some of the most iconic moments in American motorsports history, Smith’s revitalization of Bristol Dragway has bolstered the Volunteer State’s reputation as a premier location for drag racing. Legendary “Thunder Valley” has hosted some of the biggest events in the sport’s history and continues to host major events throughout the year.
“The impact of Bruton Smith’s contributions to the sports world in the state of Tennessee has created a lasting legacy,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway. “Bruton had a vision to turn our Northeast Tennessee facility into a world-renowned sports destination where anything is possible, and that is exactly what he accomplished. All of us at Bristol Motor Speedway & Dragway agree that Bruton is truly a deserving member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.”
Despite being a mecca of the need for speed, racing is just one part of the Bristol lore. Smith’s greatest dream for his Tennessee facility came true in 2016. Two decades in the making, the spectacular Pilot Flying J Battle at Bristol between Tennessee and Virginia Tech became the biggest game in college football history with 156,990 in attendance.
An entrepreneurial visionary, Smith is also an active philanthropist. Founded in 1996, the Bristol Motor Speedway chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities has raised nearly $16 million to support child-focused agencies in the 18 counties surrounding the Speedway.
Smith joins 10 other individuals on a 2020 induction list that also includes names such as NCAA National Championship Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin, longtime Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher, Tennessee football great and former U.S. Congressman Heath Shuler and former East Tennessee State and Auburn basketball coach Sonny Smith.