HA 'Humpy' Wheeler, chief operating officer and president of Speedway Motorsports and president and general manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway, has revealed that he will retire from both positions following the Coca-Cola 600.

Born in Belmont, North Carolina, Wheeler attended the University of South Carolina on a football scholarship and graduated in 1961 with a degree in journalism. In addition to football, he proved to be an outstanding amateur boxer, compiling a 40-2 record, including a dozen Golden Gloves championships.

Prior to joining Lowe's Motor Speedway, Wheeler worked as a sports writer, a real estate manager and a dirt track promoter, and served in a variety of executive positions in the racing division at Firestone Rubber & Tire Co from 1964-71. He joined the Speedway in 1975 and has been general manager since 1976. He was named president in 1980.

"While it is with sadness that I announce my retirement from Speedway Motorsports and Lowe's Motor Speedway, it is time for me to move on to other things," he said, "I have devoted my entire life to racing and I don't intend on leaving it, just serving it in different ways.

"I have made arrangements with a well-known author to co-write a unique book interweaving my various experiences in the sport with the wonderful human drama and rich characters that abound in it, and I will resume the Humpy Show on SPEED Channel, as well as looking forward to being chairman of the Charlotte Regional Partnership in 2009. I also look forward to other endeavours, including lecturing and working with the motorsports management program at Belmont Abbey College."

During his 33 years at the Speedway, Wheeler worked closely with long-time colleague Bruton Smith to set the industry standard for motorsports entertainment and to build Lowe's Motor Speedway into the showplace of NASCAR facilities.

"'Humpy' Wheeler is a true legend in motorsports and his contributions will be missed," said Smith, currently chairman and chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports, "His career with Lowe's Motor Speedway and Speedway Motorsports Inc has been filled with many innovative promotions and I am sure that he will be remembered as one of the greatest promoters in racing history."

In April 2006, Wheeler joined an elite group of those who shaped motorsports history when he was inducted into the prestigious International Motorsports Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame; the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame; and the North Carolina Public Relations Hall of Fame.

"I am grateful to the fans, the staff, the media, the sponsors and everyone who has helped me throughout my racing career," Wheeler said, "I have been blessed with a wonderful family and many close and dear friends who I hope to spend more time with.

"The people I've met along the way - from the Salt Flats of Bonneville, to Indianapolis, to my early dirt-track days, to the wild ride of NASCAR to the top - have furnished me with experiences beyond my wildest dreams. For a boy from the little town of Belmont who dreamed of a racing career, I can only say that it ain't over yet.

"I look forward to addressing the crowd for the last time at Lowe's Motor Speedway Sunday during my 32nd Coca-Cola 600, and thanking them for being there because, without them, we have nothing," Wheeler concluded.

Tributes will no doubt come from all aspects of the sport, but Texas Motor Speedway's Eddie Gossage was one of the first to arrive. Gossage worked for Wheeler between 1989-95 as Lowe's Motor Speedway's vice-president of public relations before leaving to build Texas Motor Speedway and move into the position he holds today.

"I'm surprised to hear the news because I envisioned Humpy running Lowe's Motor Speedway another 20 years," Gossage said, "I could see him sitting in a wheelchair with a blanket across his lap by the driver introduction stage giving drivers his advice, seeing old friends and calling the shots. He is such a force, such a creative energy that has played a vital role in shaping the sport we enjoy today.

"People that don't even know his name became NASCAR fans solely due to Humpy's creative promotions. I know that I am a far better promoter as a result of being a graduate of 'Humpy University'."

A decision will be made on Wheeler's successor in the near future by the Speedway Motorsports Inc board of directors.



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