Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I've always liked Humpy Wheeler. Not only is he a fellow University of South Carolina alumnus (he played football for the Gamecocks in the 1950s) and motorsports legend having served as president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway for decades (retired in 2008), but I most admire him because he's a straight shooter. He tells it like it is.

I've seen Humpy speak a couple of times over the years, and I've enjoyed reading articles where he's been interviewed, most often in relation to things going on within NASCAR. I had the privilege of interviewing him myself, for an article I wrote for Charlotte magazine in 2008 about Max Siegel and Dale Earnhardt Incorporated ("Can Mighty Max Save DEI?"). Humpy knows a lot about--and a lot of people within--NASCAR and the racing industry, and it looks he'll now be regularly sharing his knowledge and opinions with us.

Humpy Wheeler. Credit: YouTube

He launched a YouTube channel ( last week and has since posted a handful of videos. Each video, so far, finds him opining on NASCAR--the sport, the drivers, the tracks, the fans. One video in particular is starting to get people talking; it's titled: "Humpy's Hot Topic: What's Wrong With NASCAR Racing." 

What's wrong with NASCAR racing? He says it's a common discussion "in bar rooms and pubs" and that he's "thought long and hard about that. I think we messed it up a little, folks. I think that we got too fancy. I think as it soared back in the '90s, a lot of people wanted to change it, didn't like the way it was. They thought it was too country or too unsophisticated or whatever. And those people were dead wrong."

If you're a fan of NASCAR, or sports in general, you'll appreciate the gems Humpy is dropping in this 18-minute video. He draws parallels to other professional sports.

Some of Humpy's sentiments are similar to what I heard firsthand when I interviewed NASCAR team owner Felix Sabates recently. That article will appear in the September/October issue of Where Charlotte, hitting stands in a couple of weeks. Felix is another straight shooter, sports executive legend, and successful businessman. I might look for a way to share portions of my interview with him that didn't make it into the Where article.

NASCAR fans should subscribe to Humpy's YouTube channel, and follow him on Twitter @HumpyWheeler. I'm curious to see whether anyone from the league office will respond to the bold statements he makes in his vlog.

In other NASCAR-Charlotte news, the SPEED channel will officially be replaced by the launch of FOX Sports 1 on Saturday. This move was announced back in January, but now that the transition is just days away, we're learning how FS1 will compete with ESPN, how much NASCAR coverage will be involved, what cable and satellite providers are carrying the new network, and what local jobs might be lost.


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