Southern Oregon NASCAR fan gets last wish, his ashes take a lap at Vegas race
Posted by mrollins March 05, 2008 05:51AM
"Big George" Helms had to wait 'til death to get the ride of his life.
Helms loved NASCAR racing, but at 6-feet-5 inches and 400 pounds, he couldn't fit into a race car. When the 54-year-old died from a heart attack Dec. 28, his friends decided to help make his dream of participating in a NASCAR race come true.
"His friends came up to us during the memorial service and asked us if they could take his ashes to the NASCAR race," said Helms' mother, Dixie Helms told the Medford Mail-Tribune. "I said 'He'd love that.
They did more than just take the Talent man's ashes to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway last week. Mara Brodeur of Medford approached race car driver Mike Harmon and asked him to drive Big George's ashes around the track.
Harmon taped the urn to the fire extinguisher of his Nationwide Series car during the practice session Friday. He told ESPN he could hear someone squealing when he went through Turns 1 and 2.
"I swear I did," ESPN quoted Harmon as saying. "I heard a noise I've never heard before. It happened just one time, through Turns 1 and 2.
Brodeur phoned Helms' family afterward, including his mother, two brothers and five sisters.
"It put tears in my eyes," said Helms' younger brother, Allen.
Big George, a logger, went to a NASCAR race every year with a group of friends. He bought tickets to the Las Vegas race before his death and reserved a spot for his camper.
His mother said Big George and his father, Bernard Helms, who died in 1987, used to watch car races together. When Helms was in his 20s, he worked in the race track pits in Ashland. But as Helms grew older, sitting for long periods at a race became increasingly painful, Allen Helms said. He had arthritis, which was exacerbated by his weight.
Besides getting Harmon to take the urn for a spin, Helms' friends spread some of his ashes on the Las Vegas speedway. The rest will be returned to his mother.