OK Nana... just for you
Mike Helton's wife is named Lynda.
Here's a few articles about him ( and of course their source ) for you to read about him.
-----------------------------http://msn.foxsports.com/nascar/story/N ... ime-041311
Updated Apr 13, 2011 11:35 AM ET
Mike Helton is one of the busiest people in professional sports.
NASCAR has one of sports’ longest active seasons, beginning in early February and running through mid-November, and Helton, as its president, attends the vast majority of its national series races.
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When he’s not at the track, he’s in competition or planning meetings at NASCAR headquarters in Daytona Beach or NASCAR’s Research and Development Center near Charlotte, or he’s on the road selling the sport to any number of selected publics.
Before the season begins, Helton is involved in planning and scheduling for the long months ahead, and when the schedule finally ends in November, he and his staff survey the season past and begin work on the next year.
His name also is attached in important roles to various charities.
Helton’s down time, therefore, is quite limited.
He likes to spend much of it on a Harley motorcycle.
“I enjoy being outside,” Helton said. “I enjoy riding my motorcycle when I get a chance. There are little snippets of opportunity here and there.”
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Helton said he occasionally rides his motorcycle to racetracks, joining several other NASCAR types on the road on two-wheelers. The biggest attraction for him, however, is being alone because most of his days are packed with people and things to do.
“It’s the solitude, being by yourself,” he said. “It’s kind of like you’re on horseback. It just feels differently than being inside a vehicle. You can feel and smell. The solitude of being by yourself helps you re-energize.”
Helton occasionally rides with Jim France, son of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. Jim France, a long-time motorcycle enthusiast himself, often rides long distances on bikes.
“He’s much better than I am,” Helton said. “Jim is a very serious motorcycle rider. He’s fun to travel with. But generally, if he’s riding a bike somewhere, I need to be somewhere else.”
Helton said he usually finds time for three or four rides over a span of several months.
“We have so much on our plate,” he said. “I keep telling myself that I’m going to take more time to enjoy that kind of stuff, but it’s hard.”
Even with Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton taking on a much more visible role in the garage and interacting with the media, Helton still is the man with the final say – the sheriff in town.
“I take what time I can get and try to enjoy it,” he said. “You have to take the opportunities when they come.”
Many of NASCAR’s motorcycle enthusiasts have taken part in Kyle Petty’s annual Charity Ride Across America, an institution in NASCAR circles. Helton said he participated in portions of the ride in its early years.
He said he also enjoys the rare opportunity to take a deep-sea fishing trip and occasionally spends some time manhandling a bulldozer on his farm near Atlanta.
----------------------http://www.nascar.com/news/features/nas ... index.html
NASCAR's most visible leader at the race track, President Mike Helton assumed that role in November 2000 when he succeeded Bill France, who had served as president since 1972.
Helton was well-prepared for his new position, to say the least.
In February 1999 he had become the first person outside the France family to take over the day-to-day operations of NASCAR, when he was named senior vice president and chief operating officer. Prior to that, Helton had served as NASCAR's vice president for competition since January 1994.
Born and raised in Bristol, Va., Helton's motorsports experience is multifaceted. In addition to working for a sanctioning body, during his career he has also been a track operator, and even raced a little himself.
Helton's motorsports management experience began in 1980 at what was then known as Atlanta International Raceway. He was promoted to general manager in 1985 before joining the management team at Daytona International Speedway in 1986. Eighteen months later, Helton was offered the job of general manager at Talladega Superspeedway. Within two years, he quickly advanced to vice resident of International Speedway Corporation and in 1989 was promoted to president of the Talladega track. He held that position until January 1994, when he relocated to Daytona Beach, Fla., as the new vice president for competition -- all by the age of 40.
Helton is well-known by NASCAR's many fans as the man who presides in the "big hauler" on race weekends. He is the voice of authority -- and reason. But he also is a portrait of popularity, evident whenever he appears in the garage area, as he takes the time to greet fans, sign autographs and pose for photographs.
----------------------http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m ... _95841612/
FROM 2002 article
The France connection: NASCAR president Mike Helton is among the most powerful figures in sportsand the pivotal link between stock car racing's founding family and its future. He also must deal with rising expectations from fans and sponsors. Follow him around, though, and you'll see `a pretty average guy.'
by Mark McCarter
Pulling alongside a motorcyle cop, Mike Helton says, "Wanna race?"
The cop does a double take, one of those exaggerated looks from a bad sitcom. He looks at Helton, then at his vehicle, which is hardly the stuff of racin.'
"What is that?" he exclaims. "An oversized golf cart?"
It is, in fact, a Humdinger, a six-passenger vehicle that looks to be the offspring of some shotgun marriage between a golf cart and a Humvee. It is broad and sparkling white and eerily quiet. It has the macho face and build of a Humvee, just shrunk in half. It has a CD player and leather seats as soft as a baby's bottom.
As it navigates the grounds of Talladega Superspeedway on this sun-splashed afternoon--the cop serving as escort--it catches hundreds of eyes. "Way cool!" "What that?" "Look at that little Humvee."
Occasionally a fan shouts to Helton, "You're doing a great job!" as the Humdinger weaves through the crowd. Or you can hear a voice fading away in the cart's wake, "Hey, wasn't that ...?"
But, for the most art, scant notice is paid to the bearish man behind the wheel, even if he has become one of the most powerful men in the sports world.
The sits just fine with Mike Helton, president of NASCAR. Let the machinery, not the man, receive the attention. He is, he admits, a private person in a public job.
"I think most people are," he says. "I don't think I'm my different from the next guy. I'm not a talented racecar driver. I'm not good at golf. I'm not a rocket scientist. I'm never going to be a Rhodes scholar. I'm just really a pretty average guy who happens to be in a very great opportunity."
Helton, 48, was named chief operating officer of NASCAR in February 1999. He became NASCAR's president on November 2000, only the third man to hold that post. The other two: Bill France Sr. and Bill France Jr.
Considering that other members of the France family are so active in the sport, isn't it as if Vito Corleone had named Tom Hagen to run the family instead of Sonny and Michael in The Godfather?
Laughing diplomatically, Helton says, "I don't know how to answer that."
The promotion brought with it the responsibility of overseeing both the corporate and competitive sides of NASCAR. The racing is high-profile and lucrative--Winston Cup is only one of 12 series competing under the NASCAR banner--but the marketing side now has become an essential part of the business. Licensing of souvenirs and apparel, television rights, publishing and myriad other ventures are part of his concern, though the primary responsibility is delegated elsewhere.
Compared with commissioners in other pro sports who are hired by--then must kowtow to--team owners, Helton has considerably more power in regard to competition. He is ultimately the man calling shots regarding rule changes, expansion, competitive balance, punishments and, frequently, the conduct of individual races. That's where he is most visible--and most vulnerable to his critics.
The France Empties I and II often were called "benevolent dictatorships." Bill Jr. especially embraced that description.
Despite his battle with cancer, Bill Jr. maintains a powerfully active role in the sport as chairman of the board of NASCAR. Also sitting on the board are his brother Jim, son Brian, daughter Lesa and Helton. Bill Jr. and Helton are in contact "daily, if not hourly," Helton says. "He doesn't have to be present to still be the driving force."
In fact, moments after Helton parks his Humdinger behind the stands at the Talladega start-finish line and ascends to the control tower with its panoramic view of the speedway and the Crayola blur of cars passing underneath, a telephone rings. It is for Helton. It is Bill France Jr., calling as the last pace lap of a Busch Grand National race is beginning.
They discuss the weather and the crowd. It is clear it is a "catch-me-up" call from France, not a "do-this-and-do-that" call.
"I think (Helton) has done a very good job," driver-turned-broadcaster Benny Parsons says. "He's got an awfully hard job, and maybe the worst thing about his job is that every decision he makes, he has four or five Frances looking over his shoulder. And that's got to be really, really tough."
Or ... it doesn't.
"I think that's a good thing," Helton says, "because that family is the core of what we do, and they have been since its existence. I don't have a problem with them looking over my shoulder.
"There's nobody in any sport alive today that has the comprehension of his business like Bill does with this sport and all the elements in it. It's like having a Library of Congress sitting next to you."
Kevin Triplett is managing director for business operations for NASCAR. "Mr. France is different enough from his father, and Mike is different enough from Mr. France for there to be unique stamps on things from all three, but also enough of a similarity to where the philosophy of the company doesn't change," Triplett says.
Triplett points out Helton's advantage in dealing with the sport's toughest audience--the owners and competitors--by saying, "He's not new to the garage area. He's run two different racetracks and worked at a third. He's worked as vice president of competition. It's not like he came in from the soda stand down the street."
Well, not exactly. Though long ago, Helton did.
The Optimist Club of Bristol manned one of Ogden Foods' concession stands at the race track there, helping raise money.
Mike Helton, then a teenager, had his first racetrack job, cooking and selling hamburgers and hot dogs at Bristol Raceway.
He grew up in Bristol, Va., and recalls as a 10-year-old going with his now late father, Orville, to follow the construction of the track across the state line in Tennessee.
"When it opened up and it had racecars on it, I thought that was the slickest thing since peanut butter," Helton says. When the racing began, "we paid a farmer a couple of bucks for a whole carload of us to sit there on the edge and watch the race."
Both the action and the burger business had equal appeal. "The attraction to the racecars was immediate," Helton says, "but then being able to see it from a different spot, I was pulled more to it."
There would be a third aspect to the exposure. Soon Helton would have a press pass and a tape recorder. He would start attending races at Bristol for the city's legendary WOPI radio station. Perhaps appropriate to Helton's later involvement in NASCAR, the call letters stood for "Watch Our Popularity Increase."
Helton was a salesman, on-air sports personality, part-time high school football and basketball referee, occasional dirt-track racer ("It didn't take me long to realize, as much as I loved the idea, I wasn't cut out to be a driver") and student at Bristol's King College. He is now, at least ceremonially, Dr. Helton; his alma mater bestowed upon him an honorary doctorate when he spoke at the spring 2000 graduation.
From Bristol, here is Helton's curriculum vitae. Public relations director at Atlanta Motor Speedway. General manager at Atlanta. Management team at Daytona. General manager at Talladega. Vice president of International Speedway and president of Talladega. Vice president of competition for NASCAR. Senior vice president and chief operating officer for NASCAR.
It was at Atlanta, as general manager, when he found himself learning a lesson after bumping into an intractable force.
"Bill Sr. came up, and he suggested we do something," Helton says. "We were sitting at lunch, and I didn't know any better at the time. I said, `Well, it kind of makes sense the way it is. Why would we change it?' He said, `Well, you're going to change whether you want to or not. You sit still and everything around you changes. Or you can change with it and stay current. And if you get really good at it, you can change and lead the pack.'"
Helton is now away from the crowd, in the sanctuary of his office inside one of the fleet of NASCAR haulers.
A beige leather sofa sits at one end, with three TV screens imbedded into the wall above it. An oval table is surrounded by four leather swivel office-style chairs. The room has an unmistakable new-car smell to it.
He will spend much of his day between the office and the garage area. Some business is being conducted, some dialogue taking place, but much of it is see-and-be-seen, to keep lines of communication open.
"The joy in the deal comes from everything working right," he says. "Like walking through the garage area and hanging out with crew members, crew chiefs, drivers, owners, sponsor people, track operators that are visiting the event--and everybody is happy.
"And then seeing the grandstand full, and the fans are happy and whooping and hollering. And the sun's shining, and the race is good, and we pack up and go to the next one."
Helton spends his race weekends not far away from the office. He, like most drivers, has a motor home in the infield. Nor does he ever stray far from the office, figuratively. He can't remember the last time he and his wife, Lynda
, went to a movie. He does read voraciously, from Grisham to deep non-fiction, but he indulges himself few hobbies, and "what I do (away from racing), I keep to myself, to be honest with you," he says.
"I enjoy Monday through Wednesday at the office in Daytona, and Thursday through Sunday at the racetrack."
Inevitably, the conversation must come around to that dark hour on February 18, 2001. Helton sat behind a microphone and spoke the words that shook the sports world to its foundation.
"This is undoubtedly one of the toughest announcements that I've ever personally had to make," he said. "But after the accident in Turn 4 at the end of the Daytona 500, we've lost Dale Earnhardt."
NASCAR had lost an icon. Helton had lost one of his closest friends. They were quite a pair, the sport's ruler and the man who ruled the sport.
"Mike and my dad were real, real, real close," Dale Earnhardt Jr. says. "They retied on each other. It was a neat relationship. It was fun to watch those two. It was cool."
After hearing Junior's quote, Helton visibly withdraws inside himself, his own words now coming softly and carefully measured. The look in his eyes changes.
"I don't know that I've been able to measure it personally," he says. "I don't know that I can measure it professionally. Dale was the kind of guy you retied on professionally and didn't even know it. He was a great force. He could have conversations with us that helped us understand things a little better. He could have a conversation with other drivers and car owners with his perspective that was beneficial to us.
"It's the biggest challenge NASCAR has ever had to go through. I'm talking about NASCAR as a community as much as NASCAR as a business. There were a lot of times early on when you wondered if it was going to be possible. But Mother Nature creates a Band-Aid of time that gives you the ability to make it through. That's the personal aspect of it. The professional aspect of it--it was challenging, without a doubt."
It would not be an oversimplification to suggest Helton handled things impeccably in his role as spokesman and friend to the Earnhardt family--but NASCAR also had more than its share of bobbles.
The months after Earnhardt's death brought greater scrutiny than ever to the sport: a morass of contradictory testimony from experts and witnesses; a court feud with longtime safety equipment provider Bill Simpson; Teresa Earnhardt's legal right to block the release of her husband's autopsy photos; arguments for and against mandatory use of head-and-neck restraint devices, and calls for even more stringent safety measures.
But, says Earnhardt Jr., "Mike was a protector of anybody. He fought off a lot of people and a lot of things for Teresa and tried to handle everything with class. I was really proud of him and how well he handled it. It was not an easy thing to do."
Though none so tragic, the headaches keep coming for NASCAR, with decisions requiring the wisdom of Solomon--and a whole family tree of Frances. The Kevin Harvick suspension. Restrictor-plate racing. A ballooning schedule. Competitive balance between each of the four makes of cars.
"Everybody knows it's a hard position, team owner Ray Evernham says. "I've found Mike to be fair. I can't think of anybody else they could have put in that position that could do the job. It takes a guy that's not only a big guy, but a guy who can take the pressure.
"I happen to like Mike a lot," Evernham continues. "I'm not happy with all the decisions he makes, but I shouldn't be. As long as everybody is unhappy with him at some point, he's fair."
Hearing that, Helton roars with laughter. "Well," he says, "I must be doing OK, then."
President for a day
NASCAR president Mike Helton doesn't have the final word on some issues, but TSN's resident experts came up with a list of changes they would make in Winston Cup racing if they were Helton for a day. Helton responded to some of them.
* Limit garage passes. The current qualifications--knowing somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody, and having a pulse--have led to dangerous, distracting conditions. The garage should be a place for teams, race officials and legitimate reporters to work, not for "autograph hounds.
Helton: While the garage is our locker room so to speak, its access by sponsors and other key people is part of the difference between us and other sports. While modifications to make it work always are being addressed, we will continue to keep this element as part of our events.
* Rebuild the bridge with ESPN. The network helped NASCAR grow. Restricting certain ESPN shows to photographs of race highlights and driver interviews held outside tracks and at airports is a Mickey Mouse approach.
* Let yellow be gray at times. Don't enforce the rule against passing below the yellow line in such black-and-white terms. If Kenny Wallace is forced down there, as he was at Talladega, be flexible.
Helton: Rules of the sport are better when they are enforced as they are explained before the start of the race.
* Revamp the points system. Consistency is good. Excellence is better and should be more favorably rewarded. Make wins count for more. Give 30th through last the same number of points, to avoid the jalopies running for points at the end of races.
Helton: We have looked at options for the points system, and after running models found the results do not differ much. We have, over time, made modifications to the system and will continue to do so. In the meantime, it works.
* Wield a heavier hammer. The suspension of Kevin Harvick for rough driving in the truck series was perfect. More reckless drivers should be punished.
Helton: Authority is only as good as the respect for it.
* Take a serious look at the schedule. The succession of races must be more appealing for fans to take a caravan from event to event as it was in the old days. Certainly, NASCAR shouldn't over saturate one area with races, but travel and climate must be taken into consideration with a 38-week schedule.
* Helton: If we were able to start over from scratch, the schedule very possibly would look different, but the current schedule is a product of years of growth and changes. Our decisions we make to grow the sport are influenced by our past as much as by our current knowledge and our desire to be solid in the future.
* Consider carbureted, push-rod V8 engines. Theoretically, today's engines could continue running as long as the automakers (or aftermarket suppliers) make the pieces, but there's much to debate. NASCAR doesn't want to find itself in the same engine-supplier predicament CART faces.
* Print a rulebook for public consumption. NASCAR should be held accountable for all of its decisions--end the news media could move beyond second-guessing.
Mark McCarter is a sports columnist for The Huntsville (Ala.) Times.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Sporting News Publishing Co. COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning