Humpy Wheeler

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.

Humpy Wheeler Says What Fans Are Thinking

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.

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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?

Lee Roy Yarbrough

In today’s age of safety innovations, it’s easy to take for granted how dangerous racing can be. The 60s and 70s were a particularly bloody era for motorsports as safety couldn’t keep up with increasing speeds.

Today, Mustang Jackie brings us the story of one of NASCAR’s forgotten legends. Like the story of many of the sport’s early stars, the tale of Lee Roy Yarbrough- named as one of NASCAR’s “50 Greatest Drivers”– is a combination of triumph and sorrow.

Dark Side Of NASCAR

Every driver, young and old has a story behind their careers. And some, like “King Richard” Petty, Junior Johnson and Donnie Allison are remembered by even the most casual NASCAR fan. But behind those big names in every race were drivers that memories of them exists only in record books. Their accomplishments that made the sport what it is today are forgotten except for a few.

In the late 1960’s, there was a man that was considered by many to be one of the best drivers to ever get behind the wheel of a race car. He had over 80 victories in NASCAR modified events and 10 wins in the Grand Nationals (now known as the Sprint Cup Series) and raced in the Indy 500. In 1998, as part of NASCAR’s 50th anniversary celebration, he was voted as one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers. But off the track, his life took a tragic and dark turn.

Lee Roy Yarbrough 98

Lee Roy Yarbrough was born on September 17, 1938 in Jacksonville, Florida. At the early age of 12, he built his first car, a ‘33 Ford deuce coupe with a Chrysler engine. A few years later at the age of 16, in 1957 he entered a race at the local dirt track, Jacksonville Speedway and won.

A local race promoter, Julian Klein took the young driver under his wing and in the following 3 years, Lee Roy won more than a 100 Sportsman class races. But with a easy to enflame temper and harsh attitude, Klein grew tired of Lee Roy and they parted ways. Lee Roy disappeared off the radar for a few years, but just as sudden, in 1962 he showed up at Daytona and won the Modified-Sportsman 250 ran every year as a prelim to the Daytona 500. He went on to win 37 more races that year in the Late Model Sportsman class that year and continued to win a total of 83 more races in the next 3 years.

Lee Roy hooked up with car owner Louie Weathersby in 1964 and won two races at two short tracks, Savannah and Greensville in the Grand National Series. Two years later in 1966, Lee Roy got his first “big” win at Charlotte in the National 500. Driving a Dodge Charger owned by Jon Thorne, Lee Roy lead 450 of the 500 mile race.

In 1967, Lee Roy entered the Indy 500 but got into crash with Cale Yarborough and finished 27th. In 1968, he teamed with car owner Junior Johnson’s Ford team with little success. But in 1969, Lee Roy’s career shined, winning the Daytona 500, Darlington Rebel 400, The Firecracker 400 at Daytona, Atlanta’s Dixie 500 and the Southern 500 at Darlington for a sweep. He had a total of 7 wins that year and was voted American Driver Of The Year.

Then in 1970, Lee Roy’s star begin to fade. While doing tire tests at Texas World Speedway, He hit the wall in a severe crash. In fact, it was so hard that Lee Roy couldn’t remember flying home with Cale Yarborough or even driving in the race at Martinsville the following weekend. Following that crash, Lee Roy won his last race at Charlotte.

Three trips to Indy and losses in 1969, 1970 and 1971 and Lee Roy’s star dimmed even more. On May 8th, 1971, he was driving a car at Indianapolis for Dan Gurney and crashed into the wall. For the next several months, Lee Roy was in and out of the hospital with memory lapses and severe depression.


In 1972, Lee Roy drove a Ford for Bill Seifert and got nine top 10 finishes in 18 starts. And in 1973, he attempted a spot in the Daytona 500 but failed to qualify and was a “go homer”. After that, he never again attended a NASCAR event.

Then in February of 1980, Lee Roy was at home watching TV with his 65 year old mother. He quietly got up, walked over to her and put his hands around her neck and tried to strangle her. A nephew in another room heard the scuffle and had to grab a full jelly jar from the kitchen and hit Lee Roy on the head. And when a police officer arrived shortly after, Lee Roy scuffled with him and attempted to grab the officer’s gun.

That night, Lee Roy became the first and only Daytona 500 winner to be charged with attempted murder and assault on a police officer, both felonies. Later, he was judged incompetent to stand trial and committed to a mental hospital.

From then on, Lee Roy spent more time in mental institutions than out. Most insiders believe it all started with that crash in Texas combined with alcohol abuse through the years. Then on December 7th, 1984, Lee Roy died from yet another head injury caused by falling during a violent seizure.

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Most racing fans today have never heard of Lee Roy Yarbrough, although a few might see his name in a trivia contest ocassionally. And a some think he was a “black sheep” relative of Cale Yarborough even though their names are spelled different. And each year during the festivities at the Daytona 500, chances are you won’t hear his name mentioned as one of the winners. Richard Petty once said “Lee Roy just had one speed….wide open. He didn’t figure nothin’, he didn’t plan nothin’, he just ran flat out lap after lap. He put everything into that strategy….full speed ahead.”

Today, safety innovations such as the HANS device, safer barriers and the COT provide drivers with state of the art defenses against injuries and death during races. It is a shame that Lee Roy, among so many others paid such a high price to give today’s drivers that extra safety.

By now, most of you have heard that the adventurous Richard Petty – who’s done everything from win NASCAR championships to run for political office- will now try his hand at getting a car into the Indianapolis 500 with John Andretti behind the wheel. What you may not now, this isn’t Petty’s first rodeo outside the world of “stock” car racing.


Jeremy Sellers, he of Jerm’s Joint Racing Pub, shares the story of days gone by when Richard Petty veered off his path to NASCAR glory into the world of drag racing. Even more fascinating are the reasons why.

To add a little ambience, I interspersed some photos of old school Petty cars. (However Dawg has astutely pointed out that with the “Busch” sticker, the coupe in the middle is likely not a real Petty car. I’ll leave it there for ambience)

Without further adieu, here’s Jeremy Sellers with:


In this modern, boring, sterile era of NASCAR, I thought it would be nice for a change of pace to go off-beat, and perhaps bring you a story that I would bet most of you are unaware. In fact, my father, a good ol’ school quarter mile, muscle car guy was the one that laid the ground work for this piece. Indeed it was something I didn’t know about the one we have referred to as “The King” and is a tribute to the stance that at least one driving organization took when the France dictatorship was out of hand.


It was no secret that Big Bill favored the Chevys early in NASCAR’s heyday. However, the 427 Mark IV was just too powerful and was the first to suffer the dictatorial ban set forth by the France regime. However, that same year of 1964, Ford was crying tears in their beer as Chrysler tore up the tracks, dominating the Grand National Division. Regardless of the fact that Ned Jarrett gave the Petty’s a run for their money in a Ford, it wasn’t enough. Ford threatened to boycott the 1965 season if the Hemis were not banned from NASCAR competition.

This was a possible move that concerned Big Bill greatly, enough to cave to pressure and indeed, ban the Hemi from all NASCAR competition for the 1965 campaign. However, the founder of NASCAR had no idea just how much this decision would backfire, nearly sinking NASCAR before its modern era began. Chevy held true to its ban, and Chrysler imposed a boycott of its drivers participating in the ‘65 run, thus leaving Fords and Mercurys the sole cars on the tracks. The public stayed home in droves, and financially, was a disaster for NASCAR. Since the Petty’s were on Chrysler’s payroll, they felt compelled to stay racing, some way…some how.


Maurice Petty proved that he was not only professed at building NASCAR vehicles, but wasn’t too bad of a drag car fabricator, either. Racing in a Plymouth Barracuda fastback, hauling a Hemi 426 under the hood, Richard lost only six events in the spring and summer of 1965. Carrying the same number 43 as his speedway car, his quarter mile monster was appropriately named “Outlawed”. Finally, on July 25th of 1965, Bill France relented. Under financial pressure and howling mad track promoters, revisions were made to the rules to allow Hemis back in competition. However, making it known his dislike of Chrysler, Big Bill now favored Fords.

Just a little somethin’ somethin’ to let you know that at one time, Richard Petty was not only the King of round track, but could take care of business on the straightaways as well.

Thanks Jeremy. You know it does make you wonder what might happen if one of today’s drivers felt strongly enough about an issue that they took a similar stand. What would the reaction by NASCAR leadership be?

The story certainly does harken back to a different when racers raced anything. A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti and Johnny Rutherford all better known for their open wheel exploits- raced in NASCAR at one time or another. A handful of NASCAR greats also also ventured into other forms of racing.

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Former NASCAR team mechanic Patrick Reynolds (most recently with the Mike Wallace Nationwide series team) shares the inside story on just how much attention a racing team pays to tires. It’s a fascinating read for those of you who really like to dig down deep and learn the technical aspect of NASCAR. For the rest- it helps one appreciate a little bit more those finer details that figure into NASCAR success.


There are an infinite number of chassis set up combinations that any type of racecar can hit the track with. But with all the development in suspension science, a car only makes contact with a speedway on the four rubber patches the tire on each corner provides. They are extremely important in regards to racing performance.

In NASCAR’s upper leagues, the professional teams do not haul the wheels and tires with them to each venue like a local short tracker will. There is a trucking service provided for the Charlotte, N.C. area-based teams. The team wheels are transported to that week’s race site and the Goodyear workers mount the tires onto the wheels.

Upon arrival to that weekend’s garage area, each team’s tire specialist takes over. Every team had a designated member whose primary responsibility is to manage the tire and wheel inventory for the weekend. This job often monopolizes his time for the duration of an event. As long as tire work is caught up he helps in other areas, but first and foremost he is the “tire guy”.

The specialist will help unload his tire carts and tools and head over to the Goodyear trailer. This is the large eighteen-wheel tractor-trailer truck that fans will see parked in an infield’s garage area.

Tires are stacked in collections of four and lined up by car number. The specialist will haul his sets of tires to his own work area in the garage. Sometimes it will be near the rear of the team’s hauler. This location will vary from track to track depending on space available. There is a difference in elbowroom comparing Bristol to Talladega.

Data is then gathered from the tire’s sidewall and Goodyear sticker. Among the information attained are each tire’s manufactured date, serial number, circumference measurement, tread depth, and spring rate. Although the stacks of tires greet the tire specialist in groups of four, they are not necessarily the four that will stay together to put on a car.


Goodyear makes a left side compound and a right side compound, so a man will wind up with a selection of left side tires and a selection of rights. It is up to the team to put their inventory in sets for each corner. Spring rate is an important tool in this process.

The radial tires that slowly made their way into major league NASCAR racing in the early 90s, were accompanied with a spring rate. Each tire has its own rating and the tire specialist, crew chief, and engineer will move tires into sets largely based upon this number. They same way the actual springs in each corner of the suspension are chosen, tires chosen for each corner is similar to deciding on four additional springs.

Tires are also purged of the air that Goodyear has inflated them with. The atmospheric air that a compressor uses to fill a tire has high rates of hydrogen and oxygen molecules. These together make water, so when a tire gets hot on the racetrack, steam would form and expand in the tire.

Race teams fill all their tires with nitrogen. This will still build up pressure during green flag laps but not nearly as much as the air we all breathe. Nitrogen bottles also cost money, but it is a performance investment.

Each weekend Goodyear has a recommended pressure for the left and right side tires. Teams do sometimes vary from this for performance reasons. A basketball is a fair comparison. If the ball had two pounds of air pressure and it was bounced, the ball would not come back far off the ground. Now put fifty pounds in that same ball and bounce it. It will take off. Tires react similarly, taruhan olahraga.

The inner liner pressure is increased to roughly fifteen to twenty pounds above the tire’s PSI. This holds the inner liner bead in place. If there would be a leak and both the tire and the inner liner wind up with the same pressure, they are said to be equalized. Remember the basketball comparison? A tire can feel like a dribbling ball on the racetrack when this occurs.

During practice runs pressure and tread temperature readings are taken. As we stated earlier the four tire patches are the only points the racecar contacts the track. They are full of information.


A hard working tire will be hotter than others. For example if a car is loose and the rear end wants to slide around, the right rear will be warmer than the front. If a car is pushing and doesn’t want to turn, the right front will be hotter than the rear. That is a basic explanation, but temperature is monitored across the tire surface in the inner edge, middle, and outer edge on all four wheels. Crewmembers look at the information and go about making changes to the set up. A pressure build will usually follow the temperature increase as well.

When a set of tires is removed from the car and a new set put on, tread depth is measured. Tire wear is also a very important piece of data for the team to digest. The depths on all the tires were measured when new, so a wear reading can now be made.

From practice runs, pressure build can now be anticipated to a degree. Teams know that over a long run the pressures will rise, which effects a car’s handling. So a starting point can be reasonably guessed when tires are tightened up and sent out to the track.

During qualifying, pressures are highly increased so they can have maximum performance in only a two lap run.

In the actual race, crew chiefs will use tire pressure adjustments as a tool for improving a car’s handling. This is where our spring rate comes back into play. Prior to radial tires being used, air pressure would be used to adjust the stagger. That is the difference in circumference between tires. Roll a drink cup on the ground and the larger end will always turn towards the smaller end sbobet. The rear tires formerly were used in the same manner. Radials brought an end to that.

Now the tire size doesn’t change with air pressure, but acts more like a spring. Air pressures can be raised and lowered but NASCAR and Goodyear do not want any team dipping below the minimum pressures they have established.

When pressure is adjusted, think of a softer or stiffer spring being put into action. In a case of a car being tight through the turns, one possible change would be to take a pound of air out of the front tires. This would soften the spring rate, give the front more bite, and allow the nose to turn better.

On a loose condition, the rear tires could be dropped by a pound, giving the car’s tail a better bite, and tightening a car up.

There are multiple combinations that can be used when adjusting tires. A single corner could be changed, right side pressures, left side pressures, or instead of dropping rear pressures maybe raising the front pressures.

These come from testing, gathered data, and experience with driver to crew chief communication on a team. Different drivers react differently to any changes in the racecar.

Being successful in professional motorsports is extremely difficult. There is quite a bit of information involved strictly with tires. Every tire specialist has a very busy job managing his team’s inventory. So much can affect a car’s speed here and we have not discussed anything mechanical on the car itself.

There is simply so much detail that goes into every aspect of racing. What fans may see as routine from the grandstands, might actually be a team member pushing himself to the limits so he doesn’t fall behind. A good “tire guy” lives this every weekend.