Bristol native Helton wins top NASCAR honor | Sports
Mike Helton received stock car racing’s ultimate honor on Wednesday when he was selected as the winner of the Landmark Award during the announcement of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2023.
The Landmark Award is given for outstanding contributions to NASCAR. Helton has held many positions, including at the highest level of sport.
The Bristol native was named chief operating officer of NASCAR in 1999 and a year later became the first person outside of the French family to serve as NASCAR chairman. He held this position until 2015, when he was named Vice President of NASCAR. He remains in the sport in an advisory role.
“It’s overwhelming. You have the NMPA Hall of Fame in Darlington, the International Hall of Fame in Talladega, and other sports and motorsport halls of fame. I never considered myself worthy of any of them,” Helton said in an interview with FOX Sports’ Alan Cavanna. “I got to a point in my career where I was inducting different people in the hallways. It was fun and exciting. I just never thought of myself to share a plaque with the names that are on the Landmark Award or in this building (the NASCAR Hall of Fame).
Helton, 68, graduated from John Battle High School. He then attended King’s College, where he received an honorary degree in 2000.
His love of racing goes back a long way. He was a child when Bristol Motor Speedway was built and worked in the dealerships after the track was completed. He later covered races for WOPI radio and served as the station’s sports director.
In parallel, Helton worked as a football and basketball official for local high school games. He has often said that the role of being under pressure has served him well in his racing career.
His first big breakthrough in NASCAR was being named public relations manager at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1980. He was named the track’s general manager in 1985. He then became general manager of Talladega and was named president of the track in 1989.
Helton became NASCAR’s vice president of competition in 1994. Six years later, he became only NASCAR’s third president after founder Bill France Sr. and his son, Bill France Jr.
For many fans, Helton is best known for the difficult announcement he made after Dale Earnhardt’s fatal crash at the end of the 2001 Daytona 500.
Serving admirably in the difficult role of organizational leader, Helton has earned respect throughout the sport.
Former Cup Series driver and current FOX TV analyst Clint Bowyer tweeted, “They just don’t do better than Mike Helton.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted, “This is amazing class. I can’t wait to celebrate them,” about the 2023 group that includes his father’s former crew chief Kirk Shelmerdine, former series champion Matt Kenseth and legendary West Coast racer Hershel McGriff.
STREET CAR CANCELED
The tram takeover at Bristol Dragway has been canceled due to a rain weather forecast for Friday and Saturday. It is possible that it will eventually be rescheduled at Bristol Dragway and TBS officials are working to find another date in 2022.
On Wednesday afternoon, there were still plans to race at Kingsport Speedway on Friday evening. This follows last Friday’s thrilling spectacle with Ronnie McCarty crashing across the finish line past Kres VanDyke in the Late Model feature.
This Friday’s NASCAR Weekly Racing Series schedule is highlighted by another 60-lap feature for the Late Model Stock class and twin features for the Sportsman class. Street Stock, Pure 4 and Mod 4 features are also available.
Grandstands open at 5:00 p.m. with practice followed by qualifying and races at 8:00 p.m.
CHEROKEE RACE PARK
Scotty Fields won the Pro class at the IHRA Summit SuperSeries support race at Cherokee Race Park last Saturday. Dustin Light was second and Terry James was third. Chris Yates was the No Box winner with Jada Davis picking up the Junior Dragster victory.
The Rogersville drag strip hosts another “Budget Race” on Saturday with only $25 entry and $20 redemption. That’s $800 up for grabs for the Pro and No Box classes. There is an alumni race for 50+ with a $500 purse and the winner placed back into the main race. Junior dragsters are also in action.