Various drivers talk about how they ran during the Smith's 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Matt Crafton comments on his chance at a win dashed again, while others comment on strong top-five finishes.
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." 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Jennifer Jo Cobb loses a tire and makes hard contact with the wall bringing out a late caution during the Smith's 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
James Buescher and Ross Chastain make slight contact on pit road, causing tempers to ignite on pit road during the Smith's 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Ron Hornaday Jr. makes contact with Brennan Newberry but avoids major contact in the Smith's 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Timothy Peters takes the checkers and wins the Smith's 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Brennan Newberry's tough night continues as he spins for a third time collecting Matt Kruszewski during the Smith's 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Check out this time lapse video of Regan Smith's No.7 Chevrolet being wrapped in a Nationwide Children's Hospital decal for the race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
DENVER, Colo. -- Regan Smith's No. 78 over-the-wall pit crew for Furniture Row Racing will be employed and trained by Stewart-Haas Racing during the 2011 Sprint Cup season. "We are excited to partner with SHR as it relates to the pit crew," said Joe Garone, Furniture Row Racing general manager. "After reviewing SHR's program, personnel and facility we are confident that SHR will deliver a crew that meets all of our objectives." The No. 78 pit crew will be under the supervision of SHR pit crew coach Joe Piette, who also oversees the pit crews for Tony Stewart's No. 14 team and Ryan Newman's No. 39 team. The SHR team is based in Kannapolis, N.C. "We are very excited about our new partnership with Furniture Row Racing and having the opportunity to help contribute to the growth of their program, while also giving our pit crew the chance to compete and improve on a weekly basis," said Bobby Hutchens, director of competition for Stewart-Haas Racing. The first race for the new Furniture Row Racing pit crew will be the invitational Budweiser Shootout, Feb. 12 at Daytona International Speedway. Smith qualified for the non-points race on the basis of being a former Cup rookie of the year (2008). The first Cup points race is the Daytona 500 on Feb. 20. The Denver-based No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team is coming off its best season since the franchise entered Cup competition in 2005. Last year, Smith qualified in all 36 races and came on strong during the second half of the season, scoring a number of top-20 finishes, including three of 13 or better in the final seven races. He also qualified in the top 10 in the final three races.