Who put him up to it? Who has Humpy Wheeler been talking to? I can’t answer the first question, it is unclear what prompted the legendary promoter and former Lowe’s Motor Speedway President to post an 18 minute manifesto on YouTube Sunday. As to the second question, it would certainly appear NASCAR Nation has poured out their hearts to a man who has forgotten more about stock car auto racing than many of us will ever know, and he has delivered the message to whomever will watch or listen.
If you click here, it will take you to Jayski’s “Cup News” page, and you will find a link that takes you to the video. If you’re like me, you will find that what Wheeler has to say makes a lot of sense.
He hit the nail on the head, because at the heart of all the changes that have disaffected fans, it comes down to this: a whole bunch of marketing and various corporate types tried to make NASCAR something it wasn’t. Now what you have is a largely unhappy fan base, and the fans the suits tried to reach still perceived “stock car auto racing” to be something that just didn’t interest them. Put another way, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”
Wheeler addresses everything from the absence of a charismatic “everyman” to rally behind to devising a point system that compels drivers to compete harder for passing and wins. We won’t go through it all, because basically, you’ve said it, I’ve said and it just makes too much sense.
Yes, things have to change with the times on some level. Even the cars you and I drive are a far cry from the production models of the 50s and 60s. With that said, if you take a look around the dirt tracks of America, it is still possible for NASCAR to appeal to a new generation of fans. Will it ever top the NFL? I don’t think so. The reality may be that motorsports will be among the leaders in the “niche sports” category- like it once was.
The question NASCAR has to ask itself is one of whether or not they want to keep pursuing a fan they can’t win, or if they want to plead a mea culpa and admit an extreme makeover is overdue and it needs to happen sooner, rather than later.
How will NASCAR react? Will Humpy Wheeler be dismissed as some crazy old man, or will they realize a well known and influential figure has made his observations, and after much thoughtful consideration, has brought that message forward.
OK, Daytona, do we have your attention now?