Big George Helms had tickets for last weekend's NASCAR race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but died before he got to use them. He still made it to the track, though.
At 6-foot-5 and 400 pounds, Helms wouldn't have been able to fit into a race car. But after his death from a heart attack Dec. 28, loved ones decided to try to fulfill the 54-year-old's dream of participating in a NASCAR race, and arranged for the former logger's ashes to be driven around the track.
"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. "I said 'He'd love that.'"
Driver Mike Harmon taped Helms' urn to the fire extinguisher of his Nationwide Series car during practice last Friday. He told ESPN he could hear someone squealing when he went through a couple of turns.
"I swear I did," Harmon said. "I heard a noise I've never heard before. It happened just one time, through Turns 1 and 2."
Mara Brodeur, a friend who accompanied the urn to Las Vegas, called Helms' family afterward to describe how it went.
"It put tears in my eyes," said Helms' younger brother, Allen.
And Helms will be at the track's next race, in spirit anyway. His friends spread some of his ashes at the speedway before returning the rest to his mother.