Tuesday, May 25, 2010

O. Bruton Smith and Pine Brook

What possible connection could there be Bruton Smith and Pine Brook?

Smith, now in his 80s, is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., the racing goliath that owns, among other facilities, the Charlotte Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, and more. Smith is arguably the most influential man in racing, anywhere.

The connection between Smith and Pine Brook is the man in the photo, Jerry Gappens, Executive Vice President & General Manager of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, part of the SMI empire.

Gappens is likely the only top executive with SMI to have spent his Friday nights at Pine Brook a quarter of a century ago.

At the time, Gappens was a young man just breaking in to the racing game with a stint at Chris Economaki’s National Speed Sport News, then headquartered in Ridgewood, New Jersey, just half an hour from Pine Brook. Fridays at Pine Brook were common for NSSN staffers, and Gappens was no different.

Gappens traveled to other TQ races, too, including the memorable Lake Moc-A-Tec Speedway, a track esthetically about as far removed as possible from a palace such as New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

These days, Gappens is an important figure not only in the racing world but also in the New Hampshire business and political arenas. But he remains a great guy who hasn’t forgotten those Friday nights at Pine Brook.