Lowe's Motor Speedway's H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler Discusses the News of the Day Selected quotes follow from H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, president and general manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway, concerning Friday's announcements of the 2005 NASCAR ...
Lowe's Motor Speedway's H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler Discusses the News of the Day
Selected quotes follow from H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, president and general manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway, concerning Friday's announcements of the 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule and the return of the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge to Lowe's Motor Speedway on Saturday night, May 21.
Opening statement: "It was a significant announcement by NASCAR in Richmond about the realignment of the schedule. I don't think we've had anything this grand since maybe 1971 when they announced they were not going back to many of half-mile tracks, including a lot of the dirt tracks. This is sad for some people and happy for others. Obviously, the people in Rockingham and Darlington are very sorry about this, but the people in Texas and Arizona are ecstatic because they get more racing.
"People talk about the roots of the sport, but what I think has happened here is that the roots have grown deeper and longer because people in other sections of the country want racing too. We've still got 17 races in the Southeast and I think during the last five or six years the southern tracks that are still on the schedule have added about 250,000 seats-that's Talladega, Bristol, here at Lowe's, Atlanta, Daytona, etc. There's still a lot of racing left in the south and I think there always will be.
"The big problem that all of us are facing in NEXTEL Cup racing is that the sport has gotten very popular nationwide and with that popularity the expense has also jumped dramatically. Purses have increased tremendously in the past five years along with the expense of running the events. The Coca-Cola 600 coming up here on May 30 is going to take over 6,000 people just to produce and millions of dollars. You're going to have to have at least 100,000 seats in the coming years to make it economically feasible to run a race. I'd like to run a Formula One race here, but economically, it's not feasible because we would have to have 250,000 people to make it work.
"We are seeing a change in NASCAR and we are seeing some rather dramatic moves. I think there are probably more changes coming down the road. But at least we know there won't be any more for 2005 because the schedule is set and I'm ecstatic because the NEXTEL All-Star race is coming back here."
What is the economic impact of having the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge back at Lowe's Motor Speedway?: "It's somewhere close to $100 million and you would hate to lose that with the economy being fairly flat around this area. All the people who benefit-service station operators, the hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, etc.-it's good news for all those folks.
"The support we have gotten on this all-star race from the governor's office, the legislature, the Charlotte Chamber, the Cabarrus Chamber, everybody jumped in here to help us and that meant a lot to getting the race back. NASCAR obviously thinks this is the best all-star event in sport and they want to make sure it is front and center. It's been here 19 of the 20 years and we want to keep it for another 40 or 50."
What is it that makes the all-star race such a perfect fit for Lowe's Motor Speedway?: "We like to promote things and this is probably the easiest race to promote because it has such a dynamic format. That's what really makes it. Twenty laps, $1 million to win - that's easy to explain."
Talk about the importance of having two races at a track: "With the economy like it is, it's not only difficult to make it if you have less than 100,000 seats, it's also difficult to make it if you only have one race. You need two races. That's what this whole thing has been built on over a long period of time. It's just really tough if you don't have two races."
Talk about having the lawsuit behind you: "There is nothing more draining than heavy-duty litigation and you always want to get that behind you. We were involved in a lawsuit; it's over and we've got races coming up. Now we are free to think about those races and not worry about depositions and all those other things."
Why do most of the drivers want the all-star race to stay at Lowe's Motor Speedway?: "Drivers are like the rest of us, they want to be home once in a while and this gives them a couple of weeks at home. It also gives them a chance for their friends to come to the race and relatives can come down from wherever they are from. It's sort of like big family reunion."
What's the future for Rockingham?: "We're studying options. There are three driving schools that use Rockingham and I think we'll probably expand on that. The Baker Driving School is well thought of and uses it quite a bit. I think we are also going to look at putting some events on there and some of them could be racing events. They won't be NEXTEL Cup, but we would like to keep it going and keep it operating. You've got the drag strip across the street which is not part of this deal, but they use the oval track for parking and we will continue to work with them. There is no thought of shutting it down at all.
"There are a lot of these tracks sitting around, tracks without NEXTEL Cup dates like Kentucky, Memphis and Nashville. There probably needs to be something else for them. Maybe there is someone out there with a good brain who can think up a new type of racing that we can bring to these tracks. It certainly is needed."
What are your thoughts about Brian France?: "When Brian France came in, a lot of people wondered whether he could take over leadership from his father and do it in a strong way and he certainly has. He has made some very bold moves-the Chase for the Championship, he's looking at the rules to make racing even more competitive and he's settled a huge lawsuit. I've got to tip my hat to him. That's a lot for anybody to do in six months and I'm delighted with the type of leadership he's shown."
Do you have concerns about spending money on your tracks when you only have one-year agreements with NASCAR?: "We just do the best job we can and know that if we do what we normally do here, and that's promote, get a big crowd and take care of the people in the right way, it's going to come back. I'm not worried about that. We've got to continue to earn our keep so to speak. There are no guarantees on anything in life. This will be the 19th of 20 years for the all-star event being here and I'm sure the people in Charlotte, Concord and surrounding area are going to continue to help us promote this event. As long as we are doing that, I think we'll be in good shape."
Talk about the financial part of buying Rockingham: "I noticed ISC spent $192 million for Martinsville and that's two dates there. So $100 million was not excessive at all. Being a public company on the New York Stock Exchange, we've got to grow. That's what investors want; that's what the stockholders want and this is major growth for our company. We've got over $250 million invested in Texas Motor Speedway and we've got to get it back."