Humpy Wheeler: “It would be one of the greatest shows on earth. And it would put us back to what people really wanna see.”
Humpy Wheeler explains how a NASCAR Cup Series event on the dirt could come to be
Tony Stewart stated he has interest in hosting a NASCAR Xfinity Series and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series on the dirt at Eldora. With the comments, the internet lit up with excitement and discussion of the topic.
But how can an event like that come to be? Humpy Wheeler is the former President and General Manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway. He was known for pumping excitement into his events with unique and brilliant ideas.
The idea of a NASCAR dirt race is right up his ally. He also comes loaded with the knowledge of how the business end of the race track business works. He has idea on how a NASCAR dirt race could be arranged.
“I would vote 5000% for both of them,” Humpy Wheeler stated to Dave Moody via Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.
“A cup race here [at Eldora]. They would put at least 35,000 people, paid into this place. You’d see a show you haven’t seen before.”
“We wouldn’t run some 250-300 mile race. You’d run some heat races then maybe run a 100 lap main or whatever it is.”
“It would be one of the greatest shows on earth. And it would put us back to what people really wanna see. They wanna see action, they wanna see passing. They wanna see bumping and grinding. This would be back in the day racin’ if there ever was.”
There’s an argument to be made that adding the NASCAR Xfinity Series and/or Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series to the week wouldn’t take away from the trucks at all. More people would be at Eldora that week. Thus, more would see the truck race.
“The trucks did their thing. They showed NASCAR and they showed the world that if you took a race and put it in an unusual place … This wouldn’t have been unusual 30 years ago. But, if you put it in an unusual place, you’re going to fill the place up.”
“I think it would be absolutely one of the biggest events on the circuit. Eventually, you could put 50,000 people in here.”
Scheduling a NASCAR Cup Series dirt race
It’s complicated. A lot of tracks are locked into 10 year contracts with NASCAR. These tracks aren’t just going to give up a date because Eldora wants it.
NASCAR can technically step in and take a date away anyway. However, that’s a sure why to end up ears deep in lawsuits as well. But, there’s a less aggressive way of making it happen.
“We need something to get some people back to the race track. We need some people watching on TV. This would be one of the highest rated shows in the history of racing.”
“Getting the event, that would be interesting.”
Currently, there’s only 4 total races on the MENCS schedule that aren’t hosted at tracks owned by the two main track owners. ISC and SMI control all events except a race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, another at Pocono raceway and two races at Dover International Speedway.
“Rockingham was kinda going downhill one time. They had a rainout and I went down there and talked to them about moving the race to Charlotte. I think we could have put twice as many people in there and I was going to cut them a deal where they’d make more money than they would just running it themselves. I almost did it!”
“That’s probably the way it’s going to have to be done. To go to Dover or Pocono and make them an offer to move one of their dates to Eldora and put them in the cut.”
A NASCAR Cup Series event on the dirt would bring outstanding TV numbers. Outstanding TV numbers brings outstanding TV revenue to the race track as the track receives 65% of the TV revenue payout.
Using that TV money could help fund the cost of purchasing or renting a date from another race track. Dover or Pocono could make more money just by selling off their date to a dirt track like Eldora Speedway.
The following are TV ratings from 2017. It compares the NASCAR Truck Series dirt race to MENCS events at Dover and Pocono. Keep in mind, a cup series event would blow truck ratings out of the water.
2017 Eldora Dirt Derby TV numbers:
660,000 viewers (July)
2017 Dover TV numbers:
3.4 million (June) | 2.0 million (October)
2017 Pocono TV numbers:
3.7 million (August) | 3.56 million (July)
“What type of racing is growing? It’s the dirt tracks. They’re doing extremely well even though they’re not running cup races.”
NASCAR needs a kick in the butt. Attendance has seen a steady decline since 2008. In the last 10 years, the sport has lost 50% of it’s attendance. Maybe a NASCAR Cup Series dirt race is exactly what the sport needs.
What would it cost for Dover or Pocono to give up a cup date?
“I would think you probably could make a deal for somewhere around $10-12 million dollars.”
“You may think that’s a lot of money. But, if you put 50,000 people in the place you’re looking at a gate that’s up there toward $5 million.”
“Then you got the TV money which would be outstanding in this case. So, it would pay itself back. And you could get a big [race] sponsor for a deal like this.”
“You might be able to take in $14-15 million. You could make some money”
Humpy Wheeler started visiting Eldora Speedway in the 1960’s. In 1966, he went to Ohio to watch AJ Foyt run some sprint cars at the half mile dirt track.
While he was there he had a discussion with the man that built Eldora Speedway. Humpy Wheeler recalls that conversation with Earl Baltes from 50 years ago.
Wheeler: “How in the world did you find this place?”
Baltes: “I had a bandstand here. I wanted something more exciting. So, I figured I’d build a race track.”
Earl Baltes was a band leader at that time. He promoted and put on music events. From there, he decided to take this promoting job up a notch. But, he did it in the middle of nowhere, Ohio.
Wheeler: “Didn’t they tell you that nobody lived around here?”
Baltes: “I figured they would come.”
They came in droves. From sprint car events, dirt late model events, a million dollar dirt late model event and now a NASCAR race.
Eldora Speedway is easily the most well know dirt track in the world. And it’s about to get bigger…
Related: 2018 Eldora Dirt Derby Results
Related: 2017 Eldora Dirt Derby TV Ratings
Related: 2017 Eldora Dirt Derby TV Ratings