Humpy Wheeler re-creates Hudson Hornet as a tribute to his friend, Paul Newman
The Great Race (formerly known as The Great American Race) is about to receive a visit from Hollywood thanks to legendary racing promoter H.A. (Humpy) Wheeler.
Wheeler has just finished recreating the 1953 Hudson Hornet coupe which the late Paul Newman was the voice of in the award winning Pixar movie, Cars.
Wheeler said he, along with his 16 year old grandson, Austin Hardy, would run the event which begins June 21 in Ogunquit, Maine and ends June 29 near Orlando, Florida.
The rare Hudson of which there were only 900 made will contest 100 other vintage cars in the $150,000 event.
"I have done this in honor of my friend Paul Newman who I first worked with in 1966 when he was filming 'Winning' at the old Riverside Raceway in Southern California. Paul was indeed a good race driver himself, and I used to keep a car for him at Charlotte when I was running that speedway. He and I had a lot of good times together and enjoyed working on John Lasseter's Cars 1 with him," Wheeler said.
"The car is essentially a Cup car with a Hudson body on it. It has a detuned 500 hp engine which is a little overdone for what is essentially a rally, but a very demanding motorsports event, that requires great finesse, Wheeler said. By the time we get to Florida ol' Doc and all of us will be worn out. I just wished Paul had lived long enough to drive this car."
Wheeler said Newman, a road racer, had everything it took to make it in NASCAR. "Rick Hendrick and all of us who knew him well said he had the guts and focus to make it big time. I once made the mistake when I introduced him to a friend who was president of a major university as a guy who was as good at racing as acting. He said to me later… don't do that because that is where my livelihood comes from. I said back that if he had started racing before acting we may have never seen him in the movies!"
Wheeler retired from promoting NASCAR races five years ago. He has since been inducted into 13 Halls of Fame including the prestigious International Motorsports.
He is presently chairman of Speedway Benefits, a firm specializing in North America's short tracks and drag strips.