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Now Humpy's Take: And he gives as good as he takes....on Bruton Smith

Humpy Wheeler, for 33 years the boss of one of the sport's most legendary tracks, now on the outside (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   The sudden split between Humpy Wheeler and Bruton Smith here one year ago appears no closer to any resolution.
   A day after Smith gave his side to the split, Wheeler Sunday night gave his. And where Smith had said he anticipated "an apology" somewhere down the line, Wheeler insisted he had nothing to apologize to Smith for. And Wheeler refuted Smith's claims that Wheeler was now remarkably wealthy, worth some $26 million, and that Wheeler had asked for a $5 million "exit bonus."
   It was yet another strange venture into what looks like the no man's land between these two, who were for more than 30 years tight buddies and two of the most powerful men in NASCAR, Wheeler as Smith's number two in command of the Speedway Motorsports empire (NYSE: TRK) and as boss of Lowe's Motor Speedway.
   Smith's decision to branch out into the NHRA and build a $60 million dragstrip just across the street from the empire's home track, and Smith's threat to move Lowe's Motor Speedway out of Concord, and Smith's decision to buy Kentucky Speedway, near Cincinnati, Wheeler says all led to his decision "that it was time to leave."
    However Smith did not take it well, in his reaction to Wheeler's decision a year ago that he wanted to move, Wheeler said. Wheeler said his departure was rushed, and he said he "did not feel welcomed" at the track he ran for 33 years – hence, when Wheeler was invited to the Indy 500, he accepted the Sunday tour.
   "I haven't been to Indy for the 500 in 40 years…and while I miss all my friends down in Charlotte, I did not feel welcomed," Wheeler said.
   "Being the former president, you would think the chairman I worked with for 33 years would invite me to be part of the celebration.
   "But it's no big deal. You understand that's how Bruton is, and I understand that.
   "When I told Bruton last year that I wanted to resign, that I had had enough of it, I don't think he liked that. And I would have preferred to have stayed around a while, because it takes a couple of months to clear things up. But when I told him I wanted to go, he said he thought the Wednesday after the 600 would be appropriate."
   In a nearly hour-long interview on Claire B. Lang's Sunday night pre-600 Sirius show, Wheeler made a number of points, some quite sharp:
   -- He denied asking for any $5 million severance: "That is a bunch of bull. I don't know where he got that," Wheeler said.
   "And that stuff about him giving me all this stuff…he didn't give me a damned thing. I worked for every dime. Blood, sweat and tears, and a lot of them. Me being worth all that money, that's a bunch of junk. I wish I was…if I was I'd probably be building a track across the street from him.
   "He doesn't like anyone to say no to him, and that was what I was doing. I didn't want the drag strip, I did not want us to buy Kentucky. It's hard to make money with a drag strip, especially when you put $60 million in one.
   "And I really didn't like the gesture of moving the track from Concord, where we had spent 33 years establishing good relations with the city and the county.
   "But he's the chairman of a public company, and it was my decision to leave.
   "But I told him I would give him time….that I would stay as long as he wanted me to stay there. And I thought he would at least give me the courtesy of cleaning my office out.
   "Bruton and I did a lot of good things together, and it's too bad things ended the way they did. But that was his choice and not mine.
   "He's just got such an ego that he thinks everything that was done there he did himself. Now that's fine, if he wants to try to rewrite history.
  "But I think he was totally off-base saying the things he did.
   "We had a good run at the Speedway, but we weren't communicating very well, and I thought it was time to go. It's a public company but it's still a family business, and it's tough to work in that environment.
   "If I were analyzing Kentucky, I would have to take an awfully big pill and go into some kind of dreamland. I have no idea why he bought Kentucky.
   "What can you do with a track with one (Cup) date? I know how tough that is. So why would you want to do that? These big ol' tracks just eat money, like huge dinosaurs. And they're building a beautiful road course right next to Kentucky Speedway; I just met him.
   "So I don't know how you're going to make money at Kentucky. And I don't know where that (Cup) date would be coming from.
   "Atlanta is a much, much bigger market than Cincinnati. Charlotte is a bigger market than Cincinnati. Now Cincinnati is a nice town…but this track is in Kentucky.
   "If NASCAR gives him a date for Kentucky, I will personally eat the first turn…with a spoon. And I've tasted asphalt, and it doesn't taste good."
    So would Wheeler now be interested in running another track? "If it were the right track, with the right owner," Wheeler responded.

  "The Wheeler Company (his new venture) has some good things going on….
    "I've been doing a little work for NASCAR. They don't always like to hear what I've got to say…but they understand there are things that have to be done.
   "I wish I was as rich as Bruton says I was; I'd give some away to some of my friends who have gone broke."
    An apology?
   "I have nothing to apologize for…after my 33 years working there," Wheeler said. "He's not an easy man to work for. He is very demanding. Marcus (Bruton's son) says Bruton has patience, but I haven't seen that," Wheeler added with a light laugh.
   "Money has never been a motivation for me. I have a passion for racing. And this sport is not doing nearly as well as it should be. It has lost a lot of momentum. So anything I can do to help rebuild that momentum I would certainly want to do..and that would probably be in the NASCAR camp…until this thing with Bruton dies down.
   "You never say never, and animosity is not something I want to carry around. It burns up energy unnecessarily.
   "I just hope that someday Bruton Smith and Humpy Wheeler will be amiable again. His daughter is my god-daughter; she's just been through a terrible accident and she's coming back well. His ex-wife is still good friends with Pat (Wheeler's wife) and me. When you get older, you shouldn't have any enemies at all. You should forgive and forget.
   "I just didn't like the way things were going last year…and it will take me some time to get over that."


c'mon humpy quit being a baby

c'mon humpy quit being a baby about ky...kentucky has the cincinnati market and the louisville market. they sell out nationwide races every year...atlanta barely had half capacity this year...if i was humpy...i would get ready to eat some asphalt.

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