Smith’s company purchased the half-mile oval and quarter-mile dragstrip in 1996.
“To be inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame is a true honor,” Smith, who was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2016, said Tuesday in a release. “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 Smith’s ownership, Bristol has become NASCAR’s only 360-degree seat facility and increased suites from 20 to nearly 200. The facility’s workforce boasts 70 full-time employees and around 5,000 part-time workers on NASCAR weekends. Among the enhancements was the 2016 debut of Colossus TV, the world’s largest outdoor, center-hung, four-sided video display.
Smith’s revitalization of Bristol Dragway also has bolstered the state’s reputation as a premier location for drag racing. Thunder Valley has hosted some of the biggest events in the sport’s history.
“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.”
Racing is just one part of the Bristol lore, however. Smith’s greatest dream for the facility came to pass in 2016 when Tennessee and Virginia Tech played before 156,990 spectators — the biggest audience in college football history — in the Pilot Flying J Battle at Bristol.
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.
Those joining Smith on the list of 2020 inductees include 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.