Humpy Wheeler – The Don King Of Stock Car Racing

On the surface, H.A. ?Humpy? Wheeler and Don King have little in common.

Wheeler, the President and General Manager of Lowes Motor Speedway, is nothing personally like King, who ruled the world of professional boxing promotion for three decades.

Wheeler is a soft-spoken South Carolina gentleman, preferring to sell his promotions with a joke or a wink. King, meanwhile, is a bombastic Ohio preacher, shouting out his messages to his assembled ?congregations.?

Smith is also always perfectly coiffed, his hair and clothing conservative in style. King?s trademark is a huge shock of hair standing straight up as if he had just stuck his fingers in a light socket. His flamboyant clothing and jewelry are just as electric.

No two individuals could be more unlike each other, right?

Not really.

Wheeler and King share the title of ?Showman.? It?s a term that goes well beyond the realm of promoter ? another title they share. Most marketing and public relations individuals stage events to sell their products, Wheeler and King create happenings that far exceed any promotional boundaries or expectations.

Both Wheeler and King hit their stride in the 1970?s. Wheeler and O. Bruton Smith, owner of Lowes Motor Speedway in Charlotte, knew the value of promotion in selling tickets to an auto race. With Smith?s blessing and the mantra of give the fans a little extra, something they?ll remember long after the checkered flag waves, Wheeler became the king of the pre-race show staging all forms of frivolity and mayhem at the then Charlotte Motor Speedway.

School busses jumping over cars through rings of fire, parading a dead shark with a chicken in its mouth around the track to bring attention to a driver?s feud (Darrell ‘Jaws’ Waltrip versus Cale Yarborough) and staging mini-military actions with live explosions were just a few of Wheeler?s early eye-catching promotions.

Wheeler also helped redefine NASCAR racing by promoting Smith?s brainchildren like condominiums at race tracks. The two, meanwhile, also brought speedway night racing to the sport and gave it one of it one of its greatest spectacles ? The Winston (now the Sprint All-Star Race).

King, meanwhile, was ruling the boxing world in the 1970?s with mega fights like the ?Rumble in the Jungle,? a heavyweight boxing championship contest in Zaire between Muhammad Ali and George Forman. He also staged countless other championship bouts bringing the sport of boxing unprecedented popularity through the 1980s. For good measure, King also managed The Jackson?s VictoryTour in 1984.

While King and boxing have faded from the glory days when Ali, Foreman and Joe Frasier ruled the ring, Wheeler is still going strong. Last season, he announced the first Lowes Motor Speedway all-you can eat grandstand section by having world champion hot dog eater Joey Chestnut power through a plate of weenies during the press conference.

Last week, Wheeler, now 70, made his annual winner?s prediction for the All-Star race by dressing up a number of dogs to represent different drivers. The dog representing Wheeler?s choice to win the race – Carl Edwards ? did back flips on command.

This weekend, Wheeler will return his promotional roots staging a Memorial Day tribute to American military personnel. Included in the Coca-Cola 600 pre-race spectacular will be a performance by the 82nd Airborne Division Chorus and the U.S. Army Drill Team. The U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team will then drop in, ?securing? the frontstretch with a mock invasion of 1,500 troops in full combat gear supported by military ground vehicles, Blackhawk helicopters and an M109 Howitzer gun.

Following driver introductions, the Fort Bragg Honor Guard will present the colors prior to the playing of Amazing Grace and the firing of a 21-gun salute. Taps will then be played and country music star LeAnn Rimes will sing the national anthem highlighted by a flyover featuring four F-22 fighter jets

Nobody else in racing gives the fans this kind of over the top entertainment besides Wheeler. He is the ?King? of motorsports promotion.
Enjoy the festivities.

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