Smith dismisses Wheeler questions
By Mike Cranston
CONCORD ó The day after Loweís Motor Speedway president Humpy Wheeler announced he was retiring, the frostiness continued with his boss, Speedway Motorsports CEO Bruton Smith.
Wheeler acknowledged Thursday while it was his decision step down after 33 years at the track, he wanted to stay on in a part-time role. Smith desired a clean break, and the 69-year-old Wheeler will leave after Sundayís Coca-Cola 600.
iNext year is the (trackís) 50th anniversary,î Wheeler said. iI donít want to work full-time until next year, but I could have played some role. But it wasnít to be.î
Just as Smith skipped Wheelerís retirement news conference Wednesday, Wheeler was absent from Smithís announcement Thursday that his company had purchased Kentucky Speedway. Smith declined to answer a question about Wheelerís legacy as one of NASCARís top promoters.
iI might be able to answer that for you later,î Smith said. iSee, this is all about Kentucky Speedway. Thatís what Iím here for.î
Wheeler plans to write a book and host a television show. He said heíd entertain jobs consulting for NASCAR and the new NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, although he doesnít want a full-time job.
Wheeler, who insisted heís healthy, said it was time to go after working decades for the demanding Smith. The two have a relationship that dates 50 years.
iI wouldnít say there was a falling out,î Wheeler said. iWe had some differences of opinion, but thatís normal. Iím not a yes man. Good management should be able to argue back and forth. Thatís what makes good companies.
iI just got to a point where I felt like I needed to move on. I hated it. I love this place. But I can still promote and advise people on how to do things and not have to work full-time. I was tired of the day to day grind more than anything else.î
WHATíS HIS NAME: AJ Allmendingerís first NASCAR victory in Saturdayís Sprint Showdown came after he put Elliott Sadler into the wall. After getting knocked out of the race, an angry Sadler referred to Allmendinger as iwhatís his name.î
Allmendinger said he called Sadler this week to apologize.
iHe didnít call me back,î Allmendinger said. iI donít know if he knew who it was because I did say, íThis is whatís his nameí when I left the message. So Iím not sure if he knew who it was. Iíve done what I can. Iíve apologized enough and now Iím just focused on this week.î
Sadler said he had no desire to chat.
iIíve got better things to do and more things to worry about than talking to him,î Sadler said.
Allmendingerís win in his No. 84 Toyota earned him a spot in the All-Star race, where he finished 17th. Allmendinger is trying to get into the top 35 in the points standings so he doesnít have to qualify on speed for every race.
iIt gives me a lot of confidence to know that I can go out there in a race situation and get the job done,î Allmendinger said.
FRANCHITTI UPDATE: Dario Franchitti plans to get back inside his car next week for the two-day test at Pocono Raceway, but heís unsure if heíll be ready to race at Dover next weekend.
Franchitti broke his left foot in a crash at Talladega last month and will miss his fifth straight race this weekend. Sterling Marlin is filling in for Franchitti for a second consecutive race.
iIíd like to get more comfortable, see how we are for Dover,î Franchitti said Thursday as he proudly displayed his foot, which no longer has a protective boot on it.
Franchitti, the defending Indianapolis 500 winner, recently visited his old friends at the track and said he wasnít overcome with desire to climb back into an open-wheel car.
iI didnít have that feeling,î Franchitti said. iSo that shows me I made the right choice and am looking forward to getting back in the car.î
DIVERSITY: In another effort to diversify NASCAR, Michael Waltrip Racing and Toyota will offer a one-year apprenticeship for a minority to work on Waltripís cars.
The person selected will work in a technical position in North Carolina. It comes as NASCAR continues to be criticized for its lack of a black or female driver in Sprint Cup.
iDiversity is something that is very hard to just make happen,î Waltrip said. iDiversity happens over time.î
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