Wheeler in 2010
October 23, 1938 |
Belmont, North Carolina, United States
|Residence||Huntersville, North Carolina, United States|
|Other names||H.A Wheeler
|Occupation||Consultant for the Formula One Grand Prix of America, Founder Speedway Benefits|
|Known for||Former President and General Manager of the Charlotte Motor Speedway|
Howard Augustine "Humpy" Wheeler, Jr. (born October 23, 1938 in Belmont, North Carolina, U.S.A) is the former President and General Manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway, one of the premier auto racing venues owned by Bruton Smith's Speedway Motorsports, Inc. Better known as H.A. or "Humpy" Wheeler, he has long been known as one of the foremost promoters of NASCAR auto racing.
During an appearance on the National Public Radio quiz show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! in July 2006, Wheeler explained the origin of his nickname. He said that when his father had played football at the University of Illinois, he was caught once smoking Camel cigarettes, earning the name "Humpy" for the camel's hump. His father's friends then began calling him "Humpy Jr." Growing up through high school, college football, and then racing, the name "Humpy" has stuck with him.
Wheeler began his promotional career at age nine, selling tickets for a bicycle race. He was a defensive lineman for the South Carolina Gamecocks in the late 1950s. His teammates included future NASCAR communications director Jim Hunter (a running back), and Jim Duncan (later known as a marketing executive at Lowe's Motor Speedway).
After becoming the president of Charlotte Motor Speedway, Wheeler earned the reputation for organizing publicity stunts. A few weeks after driver Cale Yarborough gave the less-than-complimentary nickname 'Jaws' to rival driver Darrell Waltrip, Wheeler bought a giant dead shark, placed a dead chicken in the shark's mouth, and had it driven around the track on a flatbed truck before a race at Charlotte (Yarborough's sponsor at the time was Holly Farms Poultry). In 1984, the pre-race show for the World 600 was a reenactment of Operation Urgent Fury, the invasion of Grenada the previous year.
In 2007, Wheeler announced that the Bank of America 500 would feature an "all-you-can-eat grandstand," where fans would pay a set ticket price, and would then get to eat as much as they wanted of the grandstand's food before, during, and after the race. The publicity for this event included Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest champion Joey Chestnut at the press conference.
All-Star Race record
Wheeler has a personal record of picking the correct winner of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race 10 of the last 19 years. In 2000, much to the dismay of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. Wheeler picked Cup rookie Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to win and Earnhardt Jr. went on to become the first rookie to win the event. In 2005, he picked Mark Martin and Martin won the race. In 2006, he picked Carl Edwards to win, but Edwards finished fourth (behind winner Jimmie Johnson). He picked Johnson to win the 2007 event, but Johnson finished second to Kevin Harvick. He again chose Edwards to win the 2008 event, but Edwards finished 10th; Kasey Kahne won the race.
The Coca Cola 600 held on May 25, 2008 was to be Wheeler's last race as President of the Lowe's Motor Speedway. Steve Byrnes of Speed TV honored Wheeler before the race and Wheeler in turn gave a speech thanking race fans from all over the United States in addition to people from foreign countries for coming to the race: "I owe a tremendous gratitude to you for buying tickets to our facility. If we meet again may you be in the palm of God."
Although he had announced that he would step down as President and General Manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway soon after the race, Wheeler had hopes of staying on as a part-time consultant especially in light of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Speedway in 2009. However, apparently due to a falling out with Bruton Smith for reasons yet unknown, Wheeler's lengthy association with Lowe's Motor Speedway was unceremoniously ended. Smith thereafter wasted no time in appointing his son, Marcus Smith, as the new President and General Manager of the Speedway.
During an interview on Speed TV's "Wind Tunnel" on June 1, 2008, Wheeler stated that in addition to working as a part-time consultant, one of his primary projects during retirement will be working on a book devoted to his recollections of the numerous personalities he has known over his many years as a racing promoter at Lowe's Motor Speedway and prior to that during his years in Indianapolis and at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
On August 18, 2008, Wheeler announced the formation of The Wheeler Company, a consulting management firm focusing on general business, professional sports, and motorsports. Wheeler serves as chairman, with his son Howard III ("Trip") serving as president.
In May 2012 he attended Our Lady of Consolation Catholic Church in Charlotte, NC.
Grand Prix of America
In the fall of 2013, Wheeler once again made auto racing news as he announced the foundation of Speedway Benefits, a marketing and advertising partnership seeking to combine short-tracks across the United States into a single body for the purposes of contract negotiations with suppliers, advertisers, and business partners. Seeing such an alliance as a way to strengthen the bargaining positions of racetrack owners and to stymy the increasing power of NASCAR in North American auto racing, the organization seeks to "grow grassroots racing." By combining more than 1000 short track venues across North America into a collective body, Speedway Benefits argues that the purchasing power and fan base of short track racing exceeds that of other, established national sports leagues, thus potentially enabling short track owners to bargain more effectively and to pursue national level sponsorships of local and regional venues.
Hobbies and interests
Wheeler has had a longtime interest in bicycle sports beginning with organizing bicycle races in his early teens. He continues to be an avid cyclist and can be seen at numerous cycling trails and tracks around his hometown. Along with this he is a prized boxer having been involved in boxing his whole life. He has a 40-2 record as an amateur and was a Carolinas Golden Glove champion as a light heavyweight boxing out of Belmont, N.C. and Columbia, S.C. He has been inducted into the Carolinas Boxing Hall of Fame. Wheeler has maintained his boxing regimine and continues to stay in shape doing so.
Wheeler has also become involved with flying radio control aircraft. He enjoys the off-track friends and acquaintances he has made in this hobby and can often be found on sunny days at a local flying field.
- Bechtel 2010, p.209-210
- Bechtel 2010, p. 267
- Biography at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, Retrieved May 19, 2007
- "The Class of 2009". AutoWeek (Detroit, Michigan: Crain Communications) 59 (17): 62. August 24, 2009. ISSN 0192-9674.
- "[Challenge]". Season 2. 2011-04-11. The History Channel.
- New Jersey F1 race postponed Pitpass.com.
- Dopp, Terrence (25 October 2011). "Formula One Cars to Race in New Jersey in 201, F1 CEO Ecclestone Says". New York: Bloomberg. Retrieved 2011-10-26.
-  Speedway Benefits