Common ground in protection from morons

The owners of Lowe's Motor Speedway and Talledega Superspeedway don't often agree on much, but they both got it right in banning 14 morons caught throwing beer cans at Jeff Gordon.

Updated: May 18, 2007, 4:30 PM ET
By Bill Whitehead | Scripps Howard News Service

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.

H.A. Humpy Wheeler
AP Photo/Chuck BurtonH.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, president of Lowe's Motor Speedway, did the right thing in following Talladega's lead.

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.