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Humpy Wheeler tries to solve what’s wrong with IndyCar (VIDEO)

Nov 22, 2013, 10:40 PM EDT

As one of the greatest promoters in NASCAR history, Humpy Wheeler has never been short of ideas. And in his latest YouTube dispatch, the former president and GM of Charlotte Motor Speedway puts his mind toward trying to revive IndyCar racing’s mainstream presence.

In the five-minute-plus video, Wheeler commends IndyCar for its great on-track product but also critiques it on several fronts. To start off, he believes that the open-wheelers are simply too quick for those in the grandstands and that they need to be slowed down.

From there, he says that the IndyCar starting grid needs to be increased at every race to 33, which is the number of cars that take the green every May for the Indianapolis 500.

But then, he proceeds to go off on a tangent about the importance of the younger fans and how IndyCar should cater to them.

“You’re entertaining people – Who’s leading the race? What does he look like?” he says. “Little kid, 12 years old, he goes to a race. He’s been in video games, he’s seen all this great stuff. He can’t tell which car is which. You can’t confuse those people. They’re not coming back to a race if you confuse ‘em!

“He’s not confusing a monster truck show, because monster trucks are big and huge, they got teeth, all these things on ‘em. IndyCars are little teeny cars. A 12-year-old boy – why should he like ‘em? Grow that car up, folks! Make it geared toward the 12-year-old, because the 12-year-old is tomorrow’s race fan.”

Finally, he closes with the thought that IndyCar ought to seek out more American drivers from the short-track ranks.

“[Foreign drivers] add to the spice, but let’s get some Saturday night heroes out of America and stick them in IndyCars,” he said. “That’s what’s made NASCAR so good – they got a great field of drivers from around the country.”

The whole video seems a bit bizarre to me. Wheeler’s an entertainer, so it’s only natural that he approaches IndyCar’s image problem from that perspective. Fair enough.

But while it may be true that most people can’t tell the difference between 225 and 195 mph – both are insanely fast to the average Joe – that extra speed is an important part of what makes an IndyCar, well, an IndyCar. From my standpoint, that additional 30-40 mph over the stock cars helped get me hooked on watching open-wheel during a time when it was bleeding fans during the Split.

Then there’s Wheeler’s idea of bigger starting grids. He mentions how there should be 33 at every race. Well, the 2011 IndyCar finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway started with 34 cars.

We know how that ended. I’m fine with 24-26 cars at races outside of the ‘500,’ thanks.

Finally, the whole argument of adding more American drivers has been played out over and over. IndyCar’s an international sport. Americans should be a part of it, but if IndyCar were to have an all-American field like NASCAR, something would be missing.

Yes, Wheeler mentions he has nothing against the foreigners. But you get the sense that if he were in charge of IndyCar, he’d prefer the all-American field.

Altogether, a strange clip. But perhaps you agree with him? Or maybe you have your own ideas on what IndyCar should do? Drop ‘em in the comment box if you like, just be sure to keep them clean.

  1. ironcurtainantihero - Nov 22, 2013 at 11:21 PM

    Let me take Wheeler’s points one by one.

    Increase the field to 33 every race. Who exactly is going to pay for the extra drivers? Wheeler doesn’t mention that, unless he wants to pony up for the extras, this probably won’t happen.

    I do agree that Indycar needs to cater to younger fans, but the concept of sizing Indycars to monster trucks makes no sense based on where they run. Monster trucks wouldn’t be able to run the way Indycars do.

    And finally, the whole “let’s find some American short trackers to run Indycar.” Memo to Wheeler: that was already tried and if was working, then why did the IRL change to start running street/road courses?
    Clearly it wasn’t working as well as some would like to believe.

    Why should Indycar go out and find these drivers? If they want to run in Indycar, no one is stopping them or saying they can’t. All they need to do is raise the cash to fund a ride and they are there. Simple as that. I’m sure someone will whine and complain about “ride buyers” but this is the way things are. You either learn how to play the game or you step aside so those that do can play. If these “short track drivers” are so popular, then certainly they can find a way into Indycar.

    Wheeler is trying to basically shoehorn Indycar into a open-wheeled version of NASCAR. As mentioned before, that was already tried and the philosophy was abandoned. Even though I am an American and proud of it, I do not solely root for American drivers, I root for everyone in the series, no matter where their birth certificate says they were born. I do understand that not everyone thinks like me, and I pity those people. If you can’t appreciate someone’s talent simply because they weren’t born here, that’s a reflection more on you than on the series. BTW, not one person in this country is purely American. Every one of us can trace our history to other countries.

    As for what Indycar can or should do to improve its popularity, I will leave that to the people who know what they are doing, the staff and management of Indycar. They-and only they-know the truth of how to make things better.

  2. Nathan Gruenholz - Nov 23, 2013 at 8:14 AM

    I was a young fan when IndyCar tried a nearly all-American series full of ovals and cars doing only 195…

    …I ditched it quite quickly.

  3. manik56 - Nov 23, 2013 at 9:21 AM

    Are 12 year olds these days not taught their colors? I must have been a 12 year old genius.

  4. indycarseries500 - Nov 23, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    195 and 225 is a big gap, I remember the 2010 Indianapolis 500 when Dario, Dan and most of the field went from 220ish to around 200 you could really tell.

  5. kono760 - Nov 23, 2013 at 10:27 AM

    Estrada give us the news, your a reporter and we don’t care what you think.

  6. feblock352 - Nov 23, 2013 at 11:04 AM

    I quit watching IndyCar when they destroyed CART at the end of the 1995 season. The crap cars they currently are running are only just now (after 18 long years) finally approaching the capabilities of the 1995 cars. And this idiot wants to slow the cars down again!?!?!?!? Racing cars ARE SUPPOSED TO GO FAST moron!!!!!
    And on another note, most of the best races and rivalries at Indy have always been among drivers/teams of different home countries.

  7. testover6370 - Nov 23, 2013 at 2:38 PM

    A few months ago he wrote a column where he argued people didn’t watch Indycar because they couldn’t see the mid-engine cars well enough, and going back to front engine roadsters would fix that. Its sad, he has enough experience where he could probably contribute something helpful, but it all too often comes across as “back in the good old days” nostalgia.

  8. theracefan - Nov 24, 2013 at 7:12 AM

    Humpy stay with NASCAR. Go down to Daytona and slap brain dead Brian around a little and knock some sense into him as NASCAR is going down the tubes at a high rate of speed.

  9. mrjoe33mrjoe31 - Nov 24, 2013 at 12:32 PM

    NASCAR fans love NASCAR because of the legacy in bootlegging. It has a history….I like indy but it will never have the nostalgia that NASCAR brings every weekend.
    You just can’t change that.
    Sorry indy.

    JDG

    • indycarseries500 - Nov 24, 2013 at 5:49 PM

      If it was based on history, IndyCar racing would probably be the third most popular sport in the US behind Boxing and Baseball.

  10. drylake - Nov 25, 2013 at 11:43 PM

    This is what happens when you listen to a guy with a name like “Humpy”.

  11. midtec2005 - Nov 26, 2013 at 9:10 AM

    You can tell Humpy has no idea what he’s talking about when he calls them teeny tiny little cars. And Indycars wheelbase is quite a bit longer than a NASCAR car, I believe by about a foot. They aren’t small.

    And we can see the cars just fine, they don’t need to be slowed down. you CAN tell the difference between 225 and 195… that difference is part of what got me hooked on indycar. After going to several Brickyard 400s, I went to a 500 and was blown away on the first lap. Instant fan. That’s probably actually the best way to make an Indycar fan, take them to some Brickyard races first, get them used to the speed, and then show them what a real race car can do.

  12. goliac492 - Nov 28, 2013 at 6:37 PM

    What the heck is he talking about????? The road races, outside of the Indy 500, are what is keeping the Indy Car Series afloat. Stands are packed or almost packed at most road/street races vs the dismal crowds at the oval races. That’s why there are more street races now vs ovals genius. They tried that philosophy back in the 90’s and it failed financially both tracks and sponsors wise. There is no comparison there. And if he remembers, the IRL also first tried that All American philosophy back in the mid 90’s when they split from Cart. It was horrendous!! It was laughable. Putting guys in cars, that should be driving trucks on the road, just because they were American. And open wheel cars traditionally are more single file type of machinery. Slowing them down won’t bring more side by side racing. That’s like saying some of the drivers can’t handle faster speeds like other drivers can so we need to slow the cars up to help them keep up. Huh What???!! The Indy Racing League Oval racing sucked at 195mpn as it does at 225mph.

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