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Common ground in protection from morons

5/18/2007

Sometimes everything works out as it should, even in these quirky
times. Sometimes good overcomes bad, opposing groups collaborate to
better the sport and a true icon gets the credit he deserves -- in his home state, no less.

Welcome to the two-weekend May adventure at Lowe's Motor Speedway
in Charlotte, the center of all that is NASCAR, as Saturday's Nextel
All-Star Challenge and next Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 take place over the next nine days.

All of this started two weeks ago when LMS president and general manager H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler announced that the track, owned by Bruton Smith, would follow the lead of Talladega's officials, who handed down a lifetime ban to 14 can-tossing morons after Jeff Gordon won last month. Humpy -- and with a nickname that great, I can't refer to him as H.A. or Wheeler -- did the same: the 14 will never be permitted to attend a race at LMS either. Not in this lifetime, just as Talladega won't admit the stupid 14 ever again.

It's bad enough to do something as ridiculous as tossing a can at a
driver protected by a car, especially in broad daylight with plenty of
witnesses; it's another to possibly short-arm the throw and hit an
innocent bystander or a kid down front attending his or her first race.

Humpy, Bruton and everyone involved nailed this one from the
outset. And that took some cooperation between personnel at a speedway
owned by Bruton's Speedway Motorsports, Inc. (SMI) and one
controlled by NASCAR's International Speedway Corp. (ISC), which
often negotiate with each other like warring factions from enemy countries.

The Charlotte-based superspeedway piled on the logically good
decision-making when it named Michael Jordan, arguably the best
basketball player ever and a Tar Heel from the coastal city of
Wilmington, the grand marshal for Saturday night's high-dollar, bragging rights race.

The numbers for the University of North Carolina alum speak loudly:
A 14-time NBA All-Star, five-time league MVP, an NBA career-best 30.1
points per game and a six-time NBA Finals MVP during his six
championships with the Chicago Bulls. As an 18-year-old freshman at
UNC, Jordan canned one of the most clutch shots ever, clinching the
1982 title with a 20-foot jumper from the wing. What better North
Carolinian to preside over LMS than Jordan, the legendary native son and consummate winner?

Fearless forecast

Humpy stepped out on a sturdy limb Tuesday and picked his race
winner, selecting Lowe's driver Jimmie Johnson to win Saturday.

That's a strong choice that would be tough to argue with,
especially considering the No. 48 driver's success at the track that
shares his sponsor's name. Outside of the best racers in NASCAR duking
it out for a hefty paycheck, Saturday night's exhibition will be about
who's there -- Jordan -- and who's not -- the offending,
can-hurling losers whose last NASCAR race in attendance, hopefully forever, was Talladega.

The jury's out on Humpy's pick of the 48 car to win the All-Star
Challenge, but he's already been right twice this month.