Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

NASCAR Gets New Boss

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

NASCAR Gets New Boss

Article excerpt

DAYTONA BEACH -- For 51 years, NASCAR has been tightly managed by the family of William Getty France. That era ended yesterday when control of daily operations was passed on to veteran racing executive Mike Helton.

Bill C. France, who has served as president since 1972, made the announcement at Daytona International Speedway. "Bill Jr.," 66, will retain the title of president, but Helton, who has been vice president of competition since 1994, will run the sanctioning body as vice president and chief operating officer.

Helton, 45, "has the unique experience of being involved in all aspects of the sport, including marketing, public relations licensing, and most importantly, our core business, which is racing," France said.

NASCAR was founded in 1948 by the late William Getty France, and control was passed to his eldest son 25 years later. Bill Jr. has overseen stock car racing's growth from a regional phenomenon in the '70s to one of the country's most popular sports today.

France said that he is in good health and that his decision had nothing to do with the fact that he underwent angioplasty after a heart scare that occurred in November 1997 while traveling to Japan for NASCAR's postseason exhibition race.

He indicated that although he'll still be involved in some capacity, the move is the first step toward retirement.

"I was born in 1933," France said. "You can look at the tea leaves as well as I can. That's the best answer I can give you."

Asked whether he will attend fewer races, France joked, "It depends on how the fish are biting."

France's younger brother, Jim, and son, Brian, will continue in their capacities as executive vice president and senior vice president, respectively. A daughter, Lesa FranceKennedy, is executive vice president of International Speedway Corp., which the France family controls.

Helton, born and raised in Bristol, Va., is a former short-track race driver who has held various administrative posts in racing for the past 19 years.

He was director of public relations and then general manager at Atlanta International Raceway (now Atlanta Motor Speedway) in the early '80s. In 1986, he joined International Speedway Corp. as director of promotions and market development at Daytona.

He was general manager at Talladega Superspeedway for one year, vice president of ISC for five years and then vice president of competition from 1994 on. He'll continue as competition director.

"There's a lot of neat things about the announcement, but the most important one is that there's nothing broke with the system," Helton said. "There's not necessarily a need for a change in direction as much as there is for continued management of NASCAR as it moves forward.

"We've just come off the 50th anniversary of NASCAR. …

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