Stories Of People Who Make A Living In Motorsports
By Humpy Wheeler
Wheeler is the president and general manager of Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.
First Name: Howard
Home: Cornelius, N.C.
Interesting Fact: Wheeler was inducted into the Carolinas Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992. He compiled a 40-2 record in Golden Glove competition at the University of South Carolina.
I can’t wait until we’ve run a dozen or so races with the Car of Tomorrow, which makes its racing debut this weekend at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. I hope it’s as much of a “brick” as Tony Stewart says it is.
Because that is exactly what we need in NASCAR — a brick…something that takes a lot of horsepower to get through the air and we can get back to side-by-side racing and what I call the REPASS.
The repass is when one driver takes the lead, loses it the next lap and takes the lead again. That is what made motorsports. We must return to this.
It’s A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti battling Parnelli Jones and swapping the lead at Terre Haute, Ind. It’s Junior Johnson and Curtis Turner wearing sheet metal out at the old Charlotte Fairgrounds. It’s Junior, Fred Lorenzen, Turner and Foyt going back and forth at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It’s Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison at Daytona. It’s Dale Earnhardt and Bill Elliott in The Winston. It’s Petty and Pearson at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It’s almost every time IROC races.
Folks, this is racing. This is what America wants, whether it’s at Thunder Road Speedbowl in Vermont or Bristol (notice I chose two tracks where you can be guaranteed a show) and if you don’t provide that show, the patrons simply vote no and don’t attend future events.
Those old promoters like Earl Baltes, Paul Sawyer, Bill France, Bruton Smith, Sam Nunis, etc., knew this, and they knew they had to make sure it happened again and again.
Where has this thinking gone?
I don’t care how many bus jumps we have, how many armored invasions with Cobra choppers and “American Idol” sweethearts, if the race stinks, forget it!
We have let technology ruin the dinner, and that is why I am glad NASCAR is reining it in. The fan should come first, second, third, fourth and probably fifth. The American race fan wants action, and if you give it to him, he will come back and bring a friend.
We’ve just about lost it, but hopefully the CoT will bring back the real days of thunder when we all saw the repass time and time again. It is the repass that creates drama, not somebody passing the leader and heading toward the sunset.
The CoT will work because I have seen it do so. I watched Scott Riggs make an impossible pass underneath two cars running side by side. Kyle Petty and Brett Bodine went back and forth in the Daytona test like we used to see — and they had fun doing it (even though Brett is supposed to be retired).
It works because it isn’t an aerodynamic beast that goes so fast down the straightaway it scares the teeth out of drivers in the corners.
Make the cars easier to drive and you have better, more exciting racing.
National Speed Sport News Editor Emeritus Chris Economaki, who still knows racing better that anyone alive, once described the difference between the European and American race fan. His description is a classic.
Chris said about the European fan: “The Frenchman is at Le Mans with his girlfriend sitting in the infield at the entrance of the Mulsanne Straight. His favorite driver flows through the turn with precision, and he raises his Merlot and says, ‘magnifique.’
The American is at some high-banked NASCAR oval and watches his favorite driver slamming against the leader as he takes first and says “Hit ’em again!”
(Original Print Date: March 21, 2007)