NASCAR: No Humpy on charlotte’s 50th anniversary
By Mike Cranston
CONCORD ó As Lowe’s Motor Speedway celebrates its 50th anniversary this weekend, the man who ran the track for more than three decades is attending the Indianapolis 500 instead.
There’s no end in sight to Humpy Wheeler’s feud with his old boss, track owner Bruton Smith.
“I thought after 33 years there that they would ask me to be there to be part of the celebration,” Wheeler said by phone Saturday from Indianapolis. “When they decided not to, I didn’t get bent out of shape. I wasn’t surprised. I thought about going fishing, but the people up here invited me.
“I certainly miss being at Charlotte and I’m going to miss seeing the drivers and the fans. You get to know a lot of people.”
Smith’s reasoning for Wheeler’s absence Saturday was that, “We don’t send invitations to anybody.” Smith then claimed their relationship turned sour last spring when Wheeler asked for a $5 million severance as they discussed his impending retirement.
“I think that his attitude changed when we said, ‘No, we can’t,’ ” Smith said.
Wheeler claimed a severance deal is common.
“I wanted a severance agreement which is pretty much what you do after someone has been there as long as I have,” Wheeler said. “I don’t remember the amount or it being anywhere near like that. I ended up not getting any severance pay at all.”
Smith said Wheeler is getting paid $13,500 a month as part of his retirement agreement, which includes $1,000 a month as a consultant even though “we weren’t going to consult with him about anything.” Smith said he also gave Wheeler a $560,000 check in November 2007 as a gift after selling a piece of property.
“I made Humpy a lot of money,” Smith said. “Humpy’s net worth is about $26 million now. I’m very proud of that. What else do you need?”
The feud comes after the two men helped create one of the top tracks in the country. Wheeler has been lauded as a leader in motorsports marketing, from introducing night racing at a superspeedway to orchestrating elaborate pre-race shows.
But Wheeler claimed after he told Smith of his retirement plans, Smith wanted to quickly replace him. It led to Wheeler announcing his retirement before last year’s Coca-Cola 600, a week earlier than Smith wanted.
Wheeler said he hasn’t spoken to Smith since.
“It was sad to see it end that way because we have done a lot of good things together,” Wheeler said. “We had a good team going there for a long time.”
By Sarah Hall email@example.com For six months, a sentinel stood silent guard near the boundary of what was the site... read more