Mike Helton on the state of NASCAR

On Thursday afternoon, Mike Helton addressed a group of officials, competitors, track officials, sponsor representatives, and the news media on the state of NASCAR. The following is a transcript of his comments: "On behalf of Bill France,...

On Thursday afternoon, Mike Helton addressed a group of officials, competitors, track officials, sponsor representatives, and the news media on the state of NASCAR.

The following is a transcript of his comments:

"On behalf of Bill France, the France family and all of NASCAR, I'm delighted to welcome you to our 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup awards weekend here in New York City at the Waldorf-Astoria.

"As we begin the festivities today, to culminate our 2001 season, it is fitting that we reflect for a moment...

"2001 has truly been a 'Let's see what you're made of' type of year. I don't think it's possible to find anything new to say about Dale Earnhardt.

"His contributions throughout his career will always be a vital part of NASCAR. His absence this weekend will be realized because he is the true champion's champion.

"We swell with pride when remembering his accomplishments and his contributions to our sport that will be here forever.

"We feel the same sort of pride at being back in this great city, A city at the forefront of America's task of rallying, rebuilding and defending freedom.

"2001 has been a challenge in many areas.

"To help us through this difficult period, we found strength in each other and produced some impressive milestones.

"Nineteen different drivers won NASCAR Winston Cup races this year; five of those were first-time Winston Cup winners. Eighteen different drivers won bud pole positions this season.

"Kevin Harvick became the first driver in NASCAR history to win The NASCAR Busch Series championship, Raybestos Rookie Of the Year and finish ninth in points in Winston Cup -- all in the same season.

"His car owner, Richard Childress became the first owner in the history of NASCAR to win titles in the Winston Cup, Craftsman Truck and now, the Busch Series.

"We visited new speedways and markets in Chicago and Kansas City for the first time, racing in front of sellout crowds at both venues.

"We saw sponsorship interest continue to grow, with a number Of new companies joining forces with our teams, recognizing what others have known all along -- that NASCAR continues to be the best value in sports marketing today.

"This season also kicked off our new television partnership, as we made a high-speed transformation from a cable sport, to a network sport. We broke ratings records this year and expanded our household penetration by 38 percent.

"This success resulted in driving our business in ways we could never imagine, especially on the values of a team sponsorship.

"Fox, FX, NBC and Turner hit the sport just the way we like it -- wide-open. Their creative style and authenticity took our sport to new heights.

"I'd like to recognize NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol, as well as the president of NBC Sports Ken Schanzer and Turner Sports President Mark Lazarus, who are with us today.

"These gentlemen certainly appreciate the results of our most recent brand study:

-- there now are 75 million NASCAR fans in the united states, an increase of 12 million this year.

-- of those 75 million our hard core fan base grew from 20 to 30 million fans.

-- these hard core fans watch as much as nine hours of NASCAR related programing each week.

-- our 18-to-34 demographic grew by 40 percent this year.

"Younger people are finding our sport to be a 'cool thing.' we are now second only to the NFL in this key demographic category.

"In a year when most professional sports struggled, our sport continued to grow.

"And the good news doesn't stop with the Winston Cup series.

"The Busch Series is second only to Winston Cup in both live attendance and television viewers.

"The Craftsman Truck Series is also attracting bigger audiences than many professional sports, including open wheel auto racing.

"These remarkable numbers are possible due to your efforts, first in delivering a great product at the race tracks and secondly by being committed to our common goal; to be the best TV partner in sports.

"We also are making advancements, in the most vital area of all -- safety.

"Make no mistake that our efforts are sincere. Our efforts will be steadfast, as we listen, search for answers and continue to communicate more effectively to advance the development of safety for the future of NASCAR.

"I want to congratulate Dupont's driver Jeff Gordon on your fourth NASCAR Winston Cup championship.

"I want to congratulate Robbie Loomis, on your first Winston Cup championship as crew chief.

"And I especially want to congratulate Rick Hendrick on being here, in good health, celebrating once again as a championship car owner.

"All of us at NASCAR are energized about the future. We want to keep growing, to keep improving, to seek and find the safest ways to manage our destiny.

"This entity called NASCAR is as strong as it has ever been.

"We have all helped build it. We must all play an ongoing role in making it better.

"As Rick Hendrick and Richard Childress puts it, 'We all have a stake in this.'

"We all have a stake in the future of NASCAR and what it means to our fans. Our fans are the most loyal, passionate fans in the world.

"The family values we put so much stock in are the same family values our fans cherish. Fans relate to our drivers as down to earth, fun loving people who share the same values, the same spirit of fair-play, The same desires for goodness and decency both on the race track and away from it.

"In closing, I want to emphasize how important it is for us to remain connected to those fans. They are our heart and soul -- the real key to our future, to our growth.

"We have a solid foundation for that growth and we have the France family to thank for that. They have been the driving force, The vision behind NASCAR's success.

"But Bill, Jim, Lesa and Brian would be the first to admit they have not done it alone and cannot proceed alone. "NASCAR is bigger than any one person, any one team, any one driver, Any one track or any one sponsor.

"We are all in this together. Together, we can make this sport bigger. Together, we can make it safer. Together we can make it stronger.

"Enjoy your week in New York."

-nascar-

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