Mike Hilton joins the French Family Party, and becomes NASCAR’s third president

NASCAR President Bill France, Jr., 1999 Daytona 500

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  • In late 1999, Bill France Jr. could have chosen his son, Brian France, to lead the series, but instead chose the more experienced Mike Hilton.
  • During his tenure running NASCAR, Helton became known throughout the sport for his imposing size and extremely bushy mustache, but he was also known for his relative fairness in his decision-making.
  • Arguably the most iconic day of Hilton’s career was also one of the most tragic in sports.

    when NASCAR President Bill France Jr He decided he needed help running the sanctioning body, and he didn’t have to look away – but with one unique twist.

    From its founding in 1948 through 2000, the sport was led by a member of the France family, starting with NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. (aka “Big Bill”), followed by his son Bill Jr. (aka “Little Bill”).

    Bill Jr. could have chosen his son, Brian, to lead the series, but instead chose his more experienced son. As it turns out, Brian France would succeed his father as CEO and Chairman of NASCAR in 2003 until he was forced to resign in 2018 after a traffic stop led to his arrest for DUI and oxycodone possession.

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    Mike Hilton, left, served as NASCAR’s president from November 1999 through 2015. He remains the organization’s vice president and a member of its board of directors.

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    Meanwhile, Helton went from humble beginnings growing up in Bristol, Virginia, to become one of the most powerful men in the sport, first as NASCAR’s Chief Operating Officer in February 1999, and then 21 months later in November 1999, named as the sport’s third president.

    After leaving college, Helton worked as an accountant, as well as a high school football and basketball referee in and around the Bristol area. This led to him becoming a sports director for a Bristol radio station, covering all kinds of sports but taking a special interest in covering NASCAR racing with many venues such as Bristol Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, North Carolina International Speedway, Darlington Raceway and others. at a relatively short distance.

    Helton was highly communicative with NASCAR officials and was finally rewarded when he was named Director of Public Relations at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1980, and eventually General Manager of the track in 1985. He wouldn’t be in that role long, as he was promoted to join the management team at Daytona Motor Speedway in 1986. Again, his tenure there was relatively short, as Helton took over as general manager of the track at one of NASCAR’s premier venues, Talladega Superspeedway, in 1987. Two years later, he was promoted to track president, while simultaneously adding duties as Vice President of NASCAR’s parent organization, International Speedway Corporation.

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    For nearly two decades, Mike Hilton served as the voting council for driver concerns as president of NASCAR.

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    Helton returned to Daytona as NASCAR’s vice president of competition in 1994, and was promoted to senior vice president and chief operating officer in February 1999, leading to his rise the following year as NASCAR president and becoming one of NASCAR’s five-member board of directors, a spot he still holds.

    Hilton was also elected to membership NASCAR Hall of Fame in Class of 2023.

    During his tenure running NASCAR, Helton became known throughout the sport for his imposing size and extremely thick mustache, but he was also known for relative fairness in making decisions that were in the best interest of the sport, and for never showing favoritism to any team, driver, owner, track, or group ( Although some critics might argue with that).

    Arguably the most iconic day of Hilton’s career was also one of the most tragic days in sports: It was Helton who stood in front of countless television cameras and microphones and uttered the fateful words, “We have lost Dale Earnhardt,” sadly announcing to the world that the world’s biggest star In sports, Dale Earnhardt was killed in a last-lap crash in the season-opening Daytona 500 on February 18, 2001.

    Hilton is now somewhat in semi-retirement, though He still holds the title of Vice President of NASCAR He oversees competition for the sport’s three major series – the NASCAR Cup, Xfinity Series and Truck Series – and remains a member of the Board of Directors.

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