Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

Will NASCAR's Humpy Wheeler become the new boss at Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

Humpy Wheeler: the next career step? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   DOVER, Del.
   Will legendary NASCAR promoter Humpy Wheeler be asked to take over the reins of legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
   That's part of the speculation swirling around the 100-year-old track the past few days, following Sunday's Indy 500, which showed yet another significant TV ratings drop.
    Wheeler, at Indy over the weekend instead of at Charlotte's Lowe's Motor Speedway, which he ran for more than 30 years for Bruton Smith, has been noncommittal about the Indy affair.
   Tony George, the 49-year-old who has been running the privately owned Indianapolis track for his family, has been equally noncommittal about what lies ahead, except to deny that he has been ousted as Indy boss.
   George says he's still the CEO.
   But there is pressure on George, from family members, to pump up the Indy Racing League, which has struggled to make a go of it.
   So NASCAR's France family isn't the only American racing giant operation under the gun in these turbulent economic times.
   George and his family, which owns Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy Racing League, is suddenly in the news for an internal squabble over how that family's racing operations are going.
   George himself denies reports that his family has asked him to step down as boss of the deal, but the mass confusion over what really has been happening this week behind closed door in Indianapolis has everyone wondering just what's up.
   George is one of America's three most powerful racing figures, along with NASCAR's Jim France and Charlotte's Smith.
   The big question at hand for George is the Indy Racing League. 
   The Indy 500 itself is one issue. The IRL, George's personal creation, some 14 years ago, as he moved to wrestle control of open-wheel racing away from the team owners who had been running that branch of the sport since about 1979, is another issue.
   To fund the then-fledgling IRL, George invited NASCAR to Indianapolis, a highly controversial move at the time, but one that has paid richly since, with the late summer Brickyard 400 not only rivaling the Indy 500 itself for prestige and ratings but even taking the lead.
   And when the Indy 500 TV ratings Sunday came in 14 percent down from last year, and down 40 percent over the past four years, things got hot for George.
   Now George is not a man who likes the limelight. Not only is his family and his family's business very private, but he himself is a very low-keyed personality.
   However, in the wake of reports this week that his family had in effect fired him – or at least told him to pump up business – George had to come out and face the media.
   Now all this would not be all that big. Yes, it would be one of the biggest stories of the year, if Tony George were getting the boot. But still it would be just another 'big' story. What makes it even more intriguing is that several news outlets that reported the news, reputable journalists, were quick to pull those stories and go with more bland reports.
   Not that the American media industry is not facing its own turmoil, but when highly reputable journalists have their stories pulled by editors on what looks like the biggest story of the season, well, there's clearly something more at play here.
   Just what, that isn't clear.
   But clearly Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IRL are suddenly a focal point.
   And the possibility that Wheeler may get the call to take over that track makes it all the more intriguing.


Yes! Humpy in Indy/IRL is

Yes! Humpy in Indy/IRL is just the competition that NASCAR needs. Great news.

I don't think change in

I don't think change in management of the track has anything to do with TV ratings for the Indy 500. It is the IRL that needs to have Tony George removed from.

It might all be simply Wall

It might all be simply Wall Street economics: if George has indeed spent some $600 million over the last 10 years on the IRL and F1, then where's the return on investment? That might be the real question.
But NASCAR -- the NASCAR Frances, as owners of so many race tracks -- can't afford for the IRL simply to go under, because it needs those events. Hence, my suggestion that the Frances take the IRL under their wing. If the Frances and Bruton Smith were simply to shut out the IRL from any of their tracks, the IRL wouldn't have many places to race, except through streets. And a successful IRL means money in the France family bank account. Looks pretty straightforward to me. But then I'm just a journalist, so what do I know?

I personally think that it

I personally think that it has nothing to do with the track it has everything to do with the IRL. The drivers, the reputation of the sport. I live in Indy. I attend both Nascar and Indy car races at the track. There is a difference of night and day. What makes the difference? The fans, the teams and the drivers. Nascar rocks and IRL well I think the numbers speak for themselves. Tony George does need to be removed though. I expect more excitement, advertising and hype in Indy when Nascar comes to town. If you are not a die hard fan you would never know the cars were rolling in, except for traffic:)

The IRL and IMS are both too

The IRL and IMS are both too big to be run by one person. While their objectives are closely related their physical operations and potentals are vastly different. Seperating them would be a good business move. Humpy Wheeler is a first class promoter who made Lowes what it is and would likely be good for the IMS while TG would be free to focus on moving the IRL back to the promonance it once had. Certainly TG and others might see it as a demotion for him but I believe in the end everyone would benefit.
The critical issue is the health of the business and is the overiding factor that must be addressed especially if the IRL is to reach its full potential.
Butler PA

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com