California driver Eric Humphries has made his mark in recent seasons, running with the King of the Wing series. The winged pavement sprint car series races coast to coast and bills itself as a true National touring series.
The series is the brainchild of former IndyCar driver Davey Hamilton. Just prior to the 2014 season, Hamilton had a vision to combine 360 and 410 engines with the use of engine restrictors. It was hoped that a fair and level playing field could be achieved by integrating both engine sizes in the same events. The series would travel the country to each region where pavement sprint car activity was healthy. At the end of the year a National champion would be declared.
Humphries began his pavement sprint car career competing with the USAC Western Sprint Car Series regularly from 2007-09. Prior to sprint cars he had been competing in late model events. Eric looked at home on the pavement. The 2008 season may have been his coming out season – he scored three runner-up finishes and was awarded the USAC Western Sprint Car Most Improved Driver award.
Shortly thereafter, pavement sprint car racing began to disappear from California. During this time, Humphries began to compete in a few events with NCMA, the carbureted non-winged pavement sprint car series. Due to a limited NCMA schedule, Humphries also began competing in winged 360 dirt sprint car events for the first time. In 2013, he captured the 2013 NCMA championship.
“When the USAC Western States series ended, that was kind of the end of asphalt sprint car racing on the west coast,” Humphries explains. “About that time, we started racing with the NCMA series. We started playing around with that, running local and having fun. Davey Hamilton got ahold of us and said he was gonna start a series. He said ‘It’s gonna be called King of the Wing and this is what we’re gonna do.’ We started looking at it. By the end of the first year of him running it, we put a car together and that’s how it started.”
“The first year (2016) we didn’t travel much. We stayed close to home and only ran the west coast stuff with KOTW. We were really surprised how well we ran. From there we decided to run the full series with KOTW and travel the country for the next few years.”
Humphries picked up feature victories at Irwindale, California, and Meridian, Idaho for his HSI Harvest Supply team. He finished seventh in the final 2017 KOTW standings in his first full season of competition.
In 2018, he bagged another KOTW feature victory at Colorado National Speedway in Dacono and claimed his first KOTW championship. He would follow it up with a second consecutive KOTW title in 2019 before setting 2020 out, as the entire 2020 KOTW season was put on hiatus due to the pandemic.
2021 may be his finest season to date. As of press time, he has already won half of the six KOTW events contested. In addition, he is the current points leader as he looks to three-peat in 2021.
Humphries credits his recent success to his team and a group effort rather than individual success. “As a group, Harvest Supply, my brother Scott and I, we sat down and said what do we need to do to make this work so we can be competitive. We really looked at our motor program. We stepped up our motor program dramatically.
Speedway Engine Development builds our motors now. They’re one of the top three on the World of Outlaws tour. We started looking at components on the car, shock packages, and brake packages, anywhere we could improve. If we’re not 100 percent ready, we’re gonna stay home and catch a race another weekend. It starts in the shop. That’s really the reason we started hitting our stride a couple years ago.”
The King of the Wing schedule usually only consists of less than 10 races per year and Humphries finds himself with the desire to race more. “I think another thing that’s helped me out a lot is dirt racing. We got a winged dirt 360 program we run on the side. We mainly stay close to home in California. Seat time is important and that may have helped me more than anything. We’ve learned a lot from the dirt side of things and carried it over to the asphalt side.”
As for what the future holds for Humphries, he acknowledges he’d like to do some more racing on dirt. “I do want to pursue the dirt more in the next couple of years. I wanna be able to say we’re a top-10 car week in and week out, or top-five, and catch a win here and there. Our focus the last few years has been the asphalt. We’ll continue running as much asphalt as we can.”