It’s been established that former Charlotte Motor Speedway president and legendary racing promoter Humpy Wheeler is not afraid to state his opinions on the sport.
Last November, Wheeler prescibed what he believed were the cures for what’s been ailing IndyCar racing in North America. Then in January, he discussed the sometimes thorny subject of “pay drivers” in motorsports.
Now he’s sounded off again to Autoweek, this time on what NASCAR needs in order to build its fan base back up after it eroded somewhat over the last decade.
Wheeler says that the new Chase for the Sprint Cup format, which enables drivers to effectively make NASCAR’s post-season with a regular season win, was a good call.
However, he believes that NASCAR needs to take away some speed from the cars in order to really improve the on-track product.
“You can’t really race when you’re more than 200 mph on an intermediate track,” he said. “They should slow ’em by at least 10 mph. And they need to attack the dreaded “aero push” problem.
“They haven’t done it yet, but they’re starting to look at it. Downforce is creating aero push, so they have to figure that out.”
Wheeler is also critical of what he sees as a lack of compelling figures in the sport. To him, the sport desperately needs “a superhero, like Tiger Woods or Joe Namath, somebody like that.”
And what does every superhero need in order to be, well, a superhero? That’s right – a villain. But Wheeler doesn’t see those around, either.
“Walt Disney told his people to draw in a villain within the first 90 seconds,” he said. “We need something like that. We need villains, but, instead, we have too many pretty boys. There just aren’t any personalities.”
Still, Wheeler is optimistic about the sport as a whole is about to come into a relative boom period.
“Racing is at a plateau right now like so many other sports have been at plateaus,” he said. “It’s a normal thing because you just can’t have these 10- or 15-year periods of percentage growth like we did. I think it’s about to turn the corner.”