CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WJZY) — Bruton Smith, the creator of the Charlotte Motor Speedway, was laid to rest Thursday.
People gathered at Central Church on Sardis Road in southeast Charlotte to pay respects to the racing titan.
Some big names in NASCAR including Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jim France, and Joe Gibbs attended the funeral, but racing was not the only sport represented.
Mourners said goodbye to a racing legend who built a motorsports empire in Concord.
Bruton Smith was one of a kind.
“God made Bruton. He watched all that he did here on earth, and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Bruton today is sitting with God and telling him about the new project that he wants to do in Heaven,” said Joe Gibbs, a NASCAR team owner, to mourners at Smith’s funeral.
Funeral attendees laughed and celebrated the life of the NASCAR Hall of Famer, who was just 17 years old when he bought his first racecar, and the next year Smith went on to promote his first stock car race in Midland.
“Bruton was an awful good friend of mine. It’s pretty seldom that two guys tell each other they love each other, especially Bruton. We had a lot of the same beginning. Bruton grew up on a farm. I grew up on a farm. He loved cars and I loved cars. He loved racing, I loved racing,” said Rick Hendrick, NASCAR team owner to the crowd gathered at Smith’s funeral.
Smith became a racing titan, founding Sonic Automotive and Speedway Motorsports, then growing the brand beyond Charlotte to owning other tracks around the country.
Smith’s name is stamped on Concord, too. The road named for him is a main corridor near Concord Mills.
Smith’s legacy doesn’t stop with racing. He helped pave the way for other professional sports in Charlotte too.
“The legacy he leaves in this community, the impact he’s had on so many people’s lives, I don’t think he’ll ever be forgotten,” said Fred Whitfield, the Charlotte Hornets Chief Operating Officer to reporters following the funeral service.
Smith was known for pushing the envelope.
“He was a tremendous innovator. There’s so many things like the condos. I never thought made any sense. I was the one that said the Roval wouldn’t work and the Roval has been super good,” said Hendrick.
Smith’s impact on Charlotte sports won’t be forgotten.
“Though Bruton’s time on earth has passed, his contributions are lasting and they will live on,” said Jim France, Chief Executive Officer of NASCAR.
The Smith family held a private graveside ceremony following Thursday’s funeral.