"Growing Up NASCAR", A Review Of Humpy Wheeler's Fast Book

Dwight Drum@@racetakeCorrespondent IIIApril 18, 2010

Title: Growing Up NASCAR
Subtitle: Racing's Most Outrageous Promoter Tells All
Authors: Humpy Wheeler and Peter Golenbock

"Growing Up NASCAR" is really a story about Humpy Wheeler growing up tough. It just so happened that Wheeler grew up in the South with a Scottish-Irish background while stock car racing developed also.

Along the way, NASCAR popularity exploded and tough guy Wheeler prospered too.

Wheeler worked with virtually everyone in NASCAR history, often well before their names became familiar, like Junior Johnson, Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, David Pearson, Bobby Allison and more.

Wheeler isn't all about history though as he has worked with present day drivers like Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and all other drivers too.

We all have stories to tell, ranging from hilarity to tragedy. Some have more stories than others owing to determination and circumstance.

Life experiences vary immensely, but Wheeler's aggressive and bold personality created many scenarios worth a vicarious visit on the pages of this intriguing autobiography.

As Mr. Wheeler, now in his early 70s, understands that the chronicle of his life and the times that shaped his experiences are understood more easily by those who are middle age and older.

Contemporaries experience dramatic national events during the same decades. For young folks the early part of the book, which details moonshining along with some unfamiliar names of drivers and track promoters years before their birth, requires learning too.

As a bonus, all readers learn why Mr. Wheeler is named Humpy.

NASCAR wasn't always huge and Wheeler was there for the incredible uphill rise. One purpose of this book is to share the past that shaped present day NASCAR, a trip through dirt track infancy to today's juggernaut sport.

By necessity, Wheeler and Golenbock bounce around chronologically to complete thoughts about topics and personalities, but cogent comments come in bursts to make reading brisk.

For the most part the book moves from a young pugnacious Wheeler to the outrageous character who retired as president of Charlotte Motor Speedway. Along the way NASCAR history evolved while he molded some of it.

Wheeler takes the reader through history to the present and beyond. One can't ask much more of a book about a fascinating person who witnessed and was a part of extraordinary motorsports times. One can't help being impressed by a person who impacted the era as well.

Many points in the book accent his exceptional insight with clever comments. Among the many a here is a sampling of a few.

Wheeler's early definition of a superspeedway in the early 1960's was, "A track with flush toilets."

When Dale Earnhardt complained to him about the problems of team ownership he told him, "You're the dog that caught the Mack truck."

Sports Marketing Inc. owner Bruton Smith and Wheeler have had ups and downs over their 33-year association and Wheeler described Smith in many ways during the book but midway he said, "He could be like a pit bull that gets his jaws into your arm."

Eventually Wheeler retired.

Wheeler understands what it takes to win and is willing to share his expertise with fans.

"Except for Daytona and Talladega, at every track you have to get off the throttle," Wheeler said. "And knowing when precisely when to get back on it is a huge, huge part of winning."

Media members often field this question from fans, "What is so-and-so (my driver) really like?" Wheeler answered that question for fans about many legendary and contemporary drivers.

Wheeler's ideas and concepts are numerous, noteworthy and explained throughout the book. The concept and inception of the very popular All Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway was all his doing and Wheeler was also an early proponent of a mandatory requiring drivers to wear the Hans Device.

Wheeler's forte is his ability to understand what creates excitement in racing and his view of the future in the final chapter might well become the norm in the next decade. The satisfaction of comprehending the last chapter should begin with the reading of the first page.

It's recommended that you buy a copy of "Growing Up NASCAR". Next, install a seat belt in your favorite easy chair, then get your reading glasses on if needed and strap in for a great read of 298 pages divided into 31 chapters.

Wheeler and Golenbock are sure to take you for a memorable, fast ride.