Helton (left) meeting with Admiral Thomas Collins
|Born||Bristol, Virginia, U.S.|
|Predecessor||Bill France, Jr.|
Michael Helton (born c. 1953) is the president of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR). He replaced Bill France, Jr. in November 2000 as the company's third president. He was named the Chief Operating Officer of NASCAR in February 1999.
Helton is from Bristol, Virginia. After graduating from John S. Battle High School in Washington County, Virginia, where he was senior class president, he attended King College in Bristol, Tennessee, home of the Bristol Motor Speedway. He majored in accounting and minored in math displaying an aptitude for numbers. He was awarded an Honorary Degree from King College in May 2000.
Following college, Helton worked as an accountant plus supplemented his income by refereeing football and basketball. A fellow referee would introduce him to a small local AM radio station where he become the station's sports director. One of Helton's favorite assignments as sports director in the mid-1970s were the frequent NASCAR events in his area. By 1980, Helton became a public relations director at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
In 1980, Helton began at Atlanta International Raceway and was promoted to general manager in 1985. He joined the management team at Daytona International Speedway in 1986. After eighteen months, Helton became the general manager at Talladega Superspeedway. He became vice president of International Speedway Corporation in two years and was promoted to president of the Talladega track in 1989. Helton held that position until January 1994, when he became the new vice president for competition for NASCAR taking over for Les Richter.
Helton was named senior vice president and chief operating officer, in February 1999, and became the first person outside the France family to manage NASCAR's day-to-day operations. A year later, Helton was named President of NASCAR and sits on its five-member board of directors.
NASCAR signed a new network television deal near the end of 1999. NASCAR's premiere event, the Daytona 500, was the first race broadcast under that deal in 2001 but it was marred by Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s death on its final lap. Helton's announcement after the race was nationally televised, "This is undoubtedly one of the toughest announcements that I've ever personally had to make, but after the accident in Turn 4 at the end of the Daytona 500, we've lost Dale Earnhardt." The tragedy marked the beginning of a seven-year design program within NASCAR to develop the Car of Tomorrow. This effort was championed by Helton to increase driver safety and was implemented for the 2008 season.
On race day Helton occupies an observation point referred to as "control" where he and NASCAR officials observe the events. Rulings are made by this group to maintain the integrity of the sport.
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