BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Bruton Smith , the founder of Speedway Motorsports Inc. and a 2016 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee, battled non-Hodgkin's lymphoma earlier this year, according to quotes provided by SMI officials. Smith , 88, is Executive Chairman of SMI. The company owns eight facilities that host 13 of this year's 38 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events. Smith is on hand this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, site of Saturday's Irwin Tools Night Race . It is his first appearance at one of his company's facilities since late May. "The doctors said I probably needed a bit of rest and I got that," Smith said. "And I probably needed it." Smith's son, Marcus, was named Chief Executive Officer for SMI earlier this year, with the elder Smith named Executive Chairman. Marcus Smith said the family discussed publicly addressing his father's illness but noted, "We're private about personal matters." Now that his father's prognosis is positive, Marcus Smith said the family decided to explain his father's recent absence. "I'm really excited about this weekend because Bristol was a goal. … The time was such that it was a good goal to try to hit to be healthy and strong," Marcus Smith said. The most recent reports concerning his father's health "have been really good," Smith said. "He's progressed beyond expectations they all had and we're very thankful about that … and they have given a really good prognosis on his health." In May, Bruton Smith was selected as one of five members for induction into the Hall next January. Others tabbed for induction are drivers Jerry Cook, Terry Labonte , Bobby Isaac and Curtis Turner. "I hate to miss any of our races," Bruton Smith said. "I really do. It's kind of heartbreaking really. I like to be there and see what's going on. "I enjoy what I do. I like the automobile business ( Smith's Sonic Automotive is one of the largest automotive retailers in the U.S.). I'm into that. I love the racing business. I want to do more and more and more. … I just like what I do."
Longtime track mogul was voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Wednesday The selection of race track mogul Bruton Smith to the seventh class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday came with a groundswell of support among the 57 votes that were cast. One of Smith's most vocal boosters came from what might be considered an unlikely source. Helped by NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France's stumping, the 88-year-old Smith was Wednesday's top vote-getter, leading the 2016 list of inductees with a 68 percent approval rating in his third year on the ballot. The selection comes four days before the 56th annual running of the Coca-Cola 600 , an endurance race that Smith created as the hallmark event for the track he helped create decades ago -- Charlotte Motor Speedway . Though Smith's contributions to the sport as a tireless promoter and innovator in the realm of track ownership are immeasurable, so is his history of being at loggerheads with NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., and his son and successor, Bill France Jr., over how best to help the sport grow. That same adversarial relationship seems to have skipped a generation, according to 2011 Hall inductee Ned Jarrett, who said he named Smith on his ballot Wednesday. "I already had him in my mind before then, but I think that might've made a difference overall," Jarrett said of Brian France's statement. "I think some people might've been surprised with his support. Bruton and Brian have always gotten along real well, and just I think him showing his support was good." H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, a longtime Smith associate at the Charlotte track through a period of tremendous growth for the sport, said he was present for many of the former struggles between Smith's Speedway Motorsports, Inc., group and the first family of NASCAR, noting how conversations frequently went with Bill France Jr.: "We conked his head a whole bunch of times, but he was hard-headed enough that he let us have it back." Wheeler said he believed the younger France's push for Smith carried plenty of sway with the voting panel Wednesday, but beyond that, it may have also smoothed over any lingering hard feelings between the two factions. "Brian has never been a confrontationalist -- never -- like his dad was and like his grandfather was," Wheeler said. "He's live and let live, and let's move on and get this thing going like we're supposed to be, et cetera. It looks like he's got a pretty good way of doing things because a lot of things he's done have worked … "I think we found out today that one of the great things about this business is you can bury the hatchet and everything's fine. And the hatchets were flying so much 20 years ago, and you were wondering, when am I gonna get one right in the skull? I used to wonder and think I'm going to put a helmet on, but you've just got to learn to live and let live and bury that hatchet." Though the relationship between Smith and the Frances was at times antagonistic, the net result was to take the sport to new levels. Smith introduced luxury suites, condominiums and other modern features that were soon incorporated into speedways nationwide, and the expansion of the sport to new markets was a mutual goal for both the Frances and SMI. Friendly or not, the competition was healthy, and many innovations sprang from its intensity. "He was, I think, a big challenge to NASCAR and the France family along the way," Jarrett said, "and I think that's one of the best things that could happen to the sport because he made them better and make them do things better. It was good that they had that rivalry going on." Jarrett said his respect for Smith stemmed from a long-ago victory at a half-mile dirt track Smith had promoted in the Charlotte area. When Jarrett went to the pay window, he said that Smith was there to help explain that he could not pay out the purse. Since the attendance that night was more than adequate, Jarrett said he asked for reasons why, only to be told that the IRS had seized that night's gate to offset Smith's early financial struggles. Jarrett said Smith wrote him a check for his Friday night winnings -- $150, he recalled -- but was told there was no guarantee that it would clear Monday morning. It didn't, Jarrett said, but Smith vowed that he would make the situation right. Jarrett said he stuck to his word, an unusual circumstance in the sport's earliest days, when crooked promoters often skipped town with that night's proceeds. "Then the rest is history as far as all the other speedways and things," Jarrett said. "I mean, he has made major, major contributions to this sport." With contributions and recognition for seven decades in the sport come the setting-aside of any long-ago grudges. In a statement released Wednesday evening by the speedway that he bet the farm on back in 1960, Smith thanked not only the voting committee, but also NASCAR's fans -- the lifeblood of any track owner. Though he might not have known the behind-the-scenes process that potentially helped spur his induction, Smith could also give a tip of the cap to NASCAR's chairman, who opted not to let bygones cloud the panel's voting judgment. "Rivalries are what makes the sport," Wheeler said. "But sometimes, you've got to put the peanut butter back in the jar and put the lid on it." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
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NASCAR Hall of Fame, Class of 2016
Track president presented two ponies for Jeff Gordon's kids FORT WORTH, Texas -- Teams search for horsepower all season. Jeff Gordon added a bit more on Friday -- two, to be exact -- with the latest gift on his retirement tour, courtesy of Texas Motor Speedway and track president Eddie Gossage. Gossage presented the four-time Sprint Cup Series champion with two Shetland ponies, named "Scout" and "Smokey", at a press conference. "I think about you, and you have everything," Gossage said to Gordon. "But Ella and Leo (Gordon's kids), I thought about them." Gordon could hardly muster the words to express his gratitude and/or displeasure with the realization that he now has a pair of ponies to take care of. "Eddie, you are unbelievable … you are unbelievable. Oh my God," said Gordon, who locked in his Championship 4 appearance with a win at Martinsville last week. "Do you have a ranch I could keep this at? These are going to look good in my backyard in Charlotte. I'm going to see if I can park them over at Bruton ( Smith )'s." Once the ponies were given, there was no turning back -- Gossage had informed Ella and Leo of the gift ahead of the press conference. Smart move. "I am mad at you, but at the same time, I'm overwhelmed," Gordon said. "My kids are going to flip out. Yes, I'm going to have to find a place for them, because there's no way they're going to leave. "That's the coolest thing ever, honestly."
RELATED: Hall of Fame class of 2016 announced CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Sept. 29, 2015) -- Tickets for the 2016 NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will be available to the public beginning Tuesday, Oct. 6 at 10 a.m. Jerry Cook, Bobby Isaac, Terry Labonte , Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner will be honored during this year's ceremony set for Friday, Jan. 22, 2016. Ticket prices range from $45 for general seats to the Induction Ceremony to $350 for the Exclusive Driver Dinner Package (plus applicable service fees and taxes). Drivers, celebrities and legends of the sport will take the stage during this premier celebration that will honor the seventh class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Prior to the ceremony, a special Induction Dinner at the Charlotte Convention Center, which is connected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, will include a special jacket presentation for the living inductees and an award presentation honoring popular FOX Sports broadcaster Steve Byrnes, the fifth recipient of the Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence. Fans also have the exclusive opportunity to purchase a seat for the dinner that puts them at a table with a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver (limited quantities are available). After dinner, the Induction Ceremony will take place in the Crown Ballroom at the Charlotte Convention Center and will honor the five Class of 2016 inductees as well as Harold Brasington, the second recipient of the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. Following the ceremony, a special NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day will take place at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Saturday, Jan. 23. More details on driver appearances, activities and programming for this day will be announced at a later date. Individual ticket and ticket packages will be available beginning Oct. 6 at 10 a.m. at ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-745-3000. For more information, visit nascarhall.com . For accessible seating, please call 704-654-4400. See below for ticket and package options. NASCAR Hall of Fame Exclusive Driver Dinner Package ($350 per person plus applicable service fees and taxes; limited quantity available) • NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Driver at Table • Induction Dinner Seat, including Jacket Presentation • Induction Ceremony Seat • Commemorative Dinner and Ceremony Ticket • NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2016 Yearbook • Admission to First Look at Class of 2016 Inductee Exhibits • (NASCAR Hall of Fame Annual Pass NASCAR Hall of Fame VIP Induction Package ($299 per person plus applicable service fees and taxes; limited quantity available) • Induction Dinner Seat, including Jacket Presentation • Induction Ceremony Seat • Commemorative Dinner and Ceremony Ticket • NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2016 Yearbook • Admission to First Look at Class of 2016 Inductee Exhibits • NASCAR Hall of Fame Annual Pass Premium Seating at Induction Ceremony ($80 per person plus applicable service fees and taxes) • Premium Induction Ceremony Seat • NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2016 Yearbook • Admission to the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday, Jan. 22. General Seating at Induction Ceremony ($45 per person plus applicable service fees and taxes) • Induction Ceremony Seat • NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2016 Yearbook
MORE: Buy tickets for Darlington " SHOP: Darlington gear Two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Terry Labonte will serve as grand marshal for the Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Sept. 6 (7 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio). Labonte is a sentimental favorite for the honor, as he is the series' last driver to win the Southern 500 when it was held on Labor Day weekend -- Aug. 31, 2003. It was the Class of 2016 Hall of Fame driver's final victory in Sprint Cup . "Darlington is where I won my first race and my last, and I'm honored to serve as grand marshal for the first time at the Bojangles' Southern 500 ," Labonte said in a press release Thursday. "I love the Labor Day tradition, and Darlington always brings back special memories for me. I look forward to being part of such a historic weekend for NASCAR." RELATED: Darlington's throwback paint schemes Labonte will give the command to drivers to start their engines accompanied by Bojangles' CEO Clifton Rutledge. Bojangles' has had the naming rights to the Southern 500 since 2012 and extended the partnership through 2019. " Darlington Raceway has such a rich history in NASCAR and the State of South Carolina, and it is truly a privilege for Bojangles' to have our brand aligned with such a memorable event," Rutledge said. "The Bojangles' Southern 500 is returning to Labor Day weekend where it belongs and that is a big deal to everyone, including all of us at Bojangles'. For me, being a part of giving the command to start engines with a NASCAR legend like Terry Labonte is a huge thrill." Labonte's two wins at Darlington in 1980 and 2003 were landmarks in a career marked by 22 wins, 182 top-five finishes and 27 poles in 890 starts from 1978 to 2014. His 361 top-10 finishes ranks 10th all time. Known as both the "Iceman" and the sport's "Iron Man," he will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Jan. 22, 2016 along with Jerry Cook, Bobby Isaac, O. Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner. In 1998, Labonte was named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers, a perfect fit to participate in Darlington's throwback celebration that features remembrances of numerous NASCAR legends. MORE: Cale Yarborough throwback scheme " Bowyer's Baker tribute car Labonte won his first championship in 1984 driving the No. 44 Piedmont Airlines Chevrolet owned by Billy Hagan with Hall of Fame crew chief Dale Inman. Labonte's second series championship came in 1996 driving the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
Four drivers and track mogul Bruton Smith make list for seventh class