The NCMA Motorsports Industry Awards Ceremony presented by Fifth Third Bank pays tribute to North Carolina's $6 billion motorsports industry. Each year, the Achievement in Motorsports Tribute Award recognizes a person whose contributions to racing have made an immeasurable impact on motorsports in North Carolina. Previous recipients were Benny Parsons, Richard Petty, Richard Childress, Dale Earnhardt, Junior Johnson and O. Bruton Smith. In addition, NCMA presents industry awards to various North Carolina entities that have positively affected the motorsports community within the state.
Often referred to as the P.T. Barnum of motorsports, Wheeler is best known for serving as president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway for 33 years, ending in 2008. During his tenure at CMS, his extravagant pre-race ceremonies and dedication to the fan experience were second to none. Under his leadership, the speedway became the first modern superspeedway to host night racing with the NASCAR All-Star race while making the Coca-Cola 600 one of NASCAR's premier events. He also served as president of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., the parent company of CMS. SMI became the first publicly traded motorsports company when it was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1995.
In 1992, Wheeler created 600 Racing, Inc. (now U.S. Legends International) under the SMI umbrella. Recognizing a need for small, affordable "spec" race cars, Wheeler was instrumental in the creation of the Legends Car. With the success of the Legends Car, the company has grown into one of the largest race car manufacturers in the world and has launched the racing career of numerous drivers. Graduates include NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt and Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, David Ragan and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion James Buescher.
Born in Belmont, N.C., Wheeler is a 1961 graduate of the University of South Carolina. Before joining Charlotte Motor Speedway, he was the director of racing at Firestone Tire and Rubber during the tire manufacturer's most visible years in motorsports. He has also worked a sports writer, television producer and dirt-track promoter.
Wheeler continues to have a tremendous impact on the motorsports industry. He operates The Wheeler Company, a management consulting firm focused on professional sports, motorsports and general business. He is an active board member for Belmont Abbey College, the National Motorsports Council, the Governor's Sports Commission and the President's Advisory Committee at the University of South Carolina.
Wheeler is a member of nine Halls of Fame, including the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. He is a past chairman of the Charlotte Convention & Visitors Bureau and worked with the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce and the Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce.