As one of the greatest promoters in NASCAR history, Humpy Wheeler has never been short of ideas. And in his latest YouTube dispatch, the former president and GM of Charlotte Motor Speedway puts his mind toward trying to revive IndyCar racing’s mainstream presence.
In the five-minute-plus video, Wheeler commends IndyCar for its great on-track product but also critiques it on several fronts. To start off, he believes that the open-wheelers are simply too quick for those in the grandstands and that they need to be slowed down.
From there, he says that the IndyCar starting grid needs to be increased at every race to 33, which is the number of cars that take the green every May for the Indianapolis 500.
But then, he proceeds to go off on a tangent about the importance of the younger fans and how IndyCar should cater to them.
“You’re entertaining people – Who’s leading the race? What does he look like?” he says. “Little kid, 12 years old, he goes to a race. He’s been in video games, he’s seen all this great stuff. He can’t tell which car is which. You can’t confuse those people. They’re not coming back to a race if you confuse ’em!
“He’s not confusing a monster truck show, because monster trucks are big and huge, they got teeth, all these things on ’em. IndyCars are little teeny cars. A 12-year-old boy – why should he like ’em? Grow that car up, folks! Make it geared toward the 12-year-old, because the 12-year-old is tomorrow’s race fan.”
Finally, he closes with the thought that IndyCar ought to seek out more American drivers from the short-track ranks.
“[Foreign drivers] add to the spice, but let’s get some Saturday night heroes out of America and stick them in IndyCars,” he said. “That’s what’s made NASCAR so good – they got a great field of drivers from around the country.”
The whole video seems a bit bizarre to me. Wheeler’s an entertainer, so it’s only natural that he approaches IndyCar’s image problem from that perspective. Fair enough.
But while it may be true that most people can’t tell the difference between 225 and 195 mph – both are insanely fast to the average Joe – that extra speed is an important part of what makes an IndyCar, well, an IndyCar. From my standpoint, that additional 30-40 mph over the stock cars helped get me hooked on watching open-wheel during a time when it was bleeding fans during the Split.
Then there’s Wheeler’s idea of bigger starting grids. He mentions how there should be 33 at every race. Well, the 2011 IndyCar finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway started with 34 cars.
We know how that ended. I’m fine with 24-26 cars at races outside of the ‘500,’ thanks.
Finally, the whole argument of adding more American drivers has been played out over and over. IndyCar’s an international sport. Americans should be a part of it, but if IndyCar were to have an all-American field like NASCAR, something would be missing.
Yes, Wheeler mentions he has nothing against the foreigners. But you get the sense that if he were in charge of IndyCar, he’d prefer the all-American field.
Altogether, a strange clip. But perhaps you agree with him? Or maybe you have your own ideas on what IndyCar should do? Drop ’em in the comment box if you like, just be sure to keep them clean.