With his melodic drawl and polite demeanor, HUMPY WHEELER personifies the term Southern Gentleman. And to hear him tell it, the longtime motorsports promoter still enjoys spending his weekends working on cars, sipping on moonshine and saddling up his horse. Wheeler, perhaps best known for his days as the outspoken leader of Charlotte Motor Speedway, now spends most of his time focusing on his motorsports agency, The Wheeler Co. Below is a snapshot of his coming weekend and tales from his home in Charlotte.
GIDDY UP: I’m going to Aiken, S.C., and I’m going to do two things: I’m gonna ride a horse most of the weekend and then I’m going to watch a parade promoting a big horse carriage event next weekend. I’m going down there with my wife and another couple and four of the ladies that ride with us at the stable next to my house.
A HORSE, OF COURSE: I have a horse that is called a Tennessee Walker, and he’s a beautiful horse. He’s kind of a chestnutty color, but he’s got a blonde mane and tail, so that sets him off. His name is Bandit. … Bandit is the only horse I have, the only one I want. One’s enough.
HONEY DO LIST: Last weekend my neighbor wanted me to take one of my antique cars over to a car show that his church was putting on. They were trying to raise some money, so I did that. Those things, you got to clean them up, they’re constant maintenance. The only thing is you don’t have to feed them like you do a horse. I’ve got a ’39 Ford Coupe, I’ve got a ’48 Jaguar Sudan, and I’ve got a ’53 Hudson Hornet. That was the car that’s identical to the car in “Cars,” the one that PAUL NEWMAN played.
STAR STUNNER: I was the voice of one of the cars in “Cars.” I was the voice of the big Cadillac with blow horns on it, “Tex,” the owner of Dinaco Oil Company. I was the one who got 'em to put that Hudson in it, so I thought well I’m gonna -- cause it was a great race car -- I’m gonna find one and rebuild it just like it was. I tried to buy the car that was there but this guy Bill wanted it and put it on the road tour for the promotion of the show. But he wasn’t ready to sell it. So I said well, I found this one out in California and it will be fun, kids will love it. I thought well heck, I’m not gonna rebuild an old Cadillac when that Hudson is there and I love the Hudsons. So I decided to do Doc Hudson instead of Tex. Paul Newman was a good friend of mine and he’s dead now and I kind of felt like that would be a neat thing to do.
RIDIN’ AROUND IN MY AUTOMOBILE: I took the ’39 Ford, which is a replica of a bootleg car up to North Wilkesboro two weeks ago to a bootlegger moonshine reunion of bootleggers and also old law enforcement agents. Everybody got a charge out of that. All I do is let other people make it and I’ll drink a lil' bit of it. My buddy JUNIOR JOHNSON is making it legally now. And I said well it doesn’t taste as good legal as it did when it was illegal.
GOOD FOR THE SOUL: Probably the thing that would surprise you the most is that I go to a black church. I’m token white. I go to Our Lady of Consolation (in Statesville, N.C.). There’s some white families in it, not a whole lot of 'em. But we’ve been going to it 'bout 10 years, so we like it. Black people just seem to go to church differently. They seem to get into it, get into the spirit and the mood and all that. I just enjoy going. Being a Catholic you can go on Saturday afternoon, and so that’s when we usually go. And then afterward we’ll eat somewhere really fancy, like the Waffle House (laughs). Then we will usually watch our favorite show on television. I don’t think anyone else watches it at all. It’s called “Lark Rise To Candleford.” Now Lark Rise is a little village eight miles to Candleford and it’s 1890s England. And it’s about the people in those two little towns, and we love English movies and TV shows and things like that. It comes on the public television in South Carolina.