Track owner, promoter
Known as the man who brought NASCAR to Wall Street, Smith was chairman and CEO of Speedway Motorsports (SMI), the track ownership group he founded in 1994. SMI owns eight tracks that host a dozen NASCAR events: Charlotte Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Sonoma Raceway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Kentucky Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway. The former Korean War paratrooper shook the racing world in 1995 when he took SMI public and listed it on the New York Stock Exchange, the first motorsports company so traded. His business acumen made him a regular presence on the Fortune 400. In the early days, it wasn’t always so easy. In 1959, Smith built Charlotte Motor Speedway for $1.5 million. His brother-in-law helped finance it and 2006 inductee Curtis Turner helped promote it. Smith went bankrupt two years later. A court-appointed trustee ran the track with Smith's unpaid help until the NC native regained control a decade later. Smith was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2016.