Commentary

Humpy's promotions at Lowe's made us laugh -- and cringe

Updated: May 21, 2008, 11:56 AM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

A look at the memorable promotions, and the forgettable ones, cooked up over the years by outgoing Lowe's Motor Speedway president Humpy Wheeler.

THE GOOD

Three promotions for which Humpy Wheeler is most proud:

1. The Invasion -- Wheeler surprised everybody in the stands in 1982 when he had military helicopters fly over the grandstand and drop airbornes with howitzers down 60 feet on rope for the pre-race show. "It was just one of those magic moments," he said.

2. Guinness record -- Wheeler got the 2001 pre-race show into the Guinness Book of World Records when he gathered 5,000 firefighters, including four from New York City, three weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It got even better when Wheeler announced just before the race started that the United States had invaded Afghanistan. "People in the grandstands just went crazy," he said.

3. The Flying Greek -- Wheeler hired a Greek driver named Jimmy Koufus to jump over cars the width of a football field in a school bus in 1987. "We had a Cup engine in it to get him going," Wheeler said.

THE BAD

Three promotions Wheeler wishes he would have bagged:

1. Thumbs down -- In 1997 Wheeler came up with the brainstorm to have a military invasion in which howitzers were going to be used to blow up a house that could be seen from the speedway's grandstands. Unfortunately, the house, which was rigged with dynamite, did not blow up on time. "About two minutes later it blew," Wheeler recalled. "The poor guy operating the dynamite lost his thumb."

2. Flag football -- In 1982, a few months after Clemson won college football's national championship, Wheeler invited six Tigers players to participate in a flag football game against six players from the Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers. "It was the most boring thing I'd ever seen in my life," Wheeler said. "These great big guys were out there not doing anything."

3. Debris on front stretch -- Also in 1982, Wheeler decided to conduct a three-ringed circus on the track. The kids loved it ... and so did the elephants brought in to entertain. "They were making deposits on the track," he said.

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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