Champion central Kentucky racer dies
Long-time central Kentucky dirt racer Johnny Wheeler of Campbellsville died unexpectedly Monday night after suffering a heart attack. He was 54.
Known to fans as The Wheelman, the popular driver of the No. 31x was a multitime Late Model track champion, including 2011-’12 titles at Lake Cumberland Speedway in Burnside, Ky. and 2000 at Bluegrass Speedway in Bardstown, Ky. He is also a former track champion at Taylor County Speedway and also at the old Barren County Speedway in Glasgow, KY.
“Johnny was a great guy to be around, always a smile on his face and he’s one that will sorely be missed,” said Chris Tilley, promoter of Ponderosa Speedway in Junction City, Ky.
Racing around the state of Kentucky, Wheeler was a six-time winner on Battle of the Bluegrass DirtCar Series, finishing third in the tour’s 2004 points standings. Three of his series victories came in 2003.
Wheeler’s biggest career victory came in the 2002 Coca-Cola 100 at Lake Cumberland, where he earned a $10,000 payday driving a Larry Yantz-owned car. He also had a $10,000 payday in 1998 at Barren County Speedway in Glasgow, Ky.
Weekly Late Model victories came at tracks including Lake Cumberland, Bluegrass, Ponderosa, Barren County and Richmond Raceway. Entering events as recently as Saturday, Wheeler posted a pair of runner-up finishes in April events at Lake Cumberland.
Wheeler's survivors include his wife Jammie, son Jonathan Wheeler and Amber (Wheeler) Vaughn, stepson John Hoosier and stepdaughter Ashley Hoosier. Visitation is at 4 p.m. Thursday, May 31, at Parrott and Ramsey Funeral Home in Campbellsville; the funeral is 11 a.m. Friday, June 1, at the funeral home. For more details, visit parrottramsey.com.
Editor's note: Adds arrangements and other details.