Mike Helton named NASCAR vice chairman; Dewar added to Board of Directors

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Two of NASCAR’s most powerful figures have been given new roles.

The sanctioning body has announced that Mike Helton, president of the sport since 2000, has been named Vice Chairman. Additionally, NASCAR’s Chief Operating Officer Brent Dewar has been named to the sport’s Board of Directors.

Helton will continue to serve as senior official at all national series events (Sprint Cup, Xfinity Series, and Camping World Truck Series) and will also stay on the Board of Directors.

He began working with the sanctioning body in 1994 as a vice president for competition. In 1999, he was elevated to senior vice president and chief operating officer before succeeding Bill France Jr. as president in 2000.

“Mike Helton’s steady hand and decades of experience in every facet of our business have made him a close, trusted advisor to me and my family, and his overall impact on NASCAR cannot be overstated,” NASCAR Chairman Brian France said in a release.

“With a strong team ready to take on more day-to-day management responsibilities, I’m pleased to now have Mike in a role that will allow us to utilize his unique skills in advancing key priorities for the future of the industry.”

As for Dewar, he now assumes additional day-to-day operational responsibilities in racing development, innovation, and work with the sport’s partners and shareholders.

Dewar became NASCAR’s Chief Operating Officer in late 2013 following a career of almost three decades at General Motors. Prior to joining NASCAR’s executive team, he had also been a consultant for NASCAR on competition aspects such as rules, penalties, officiating, and inspecting.

“Adding someone as talented and experienced as Brent Dewar to our board will be highly beneficial to our company and the industry overall,” France said in the same release. “Brent’s operational expertise already has made a big impact and his understanding of how our sport works from multiple perspectives will bring immediate value to how we operate and future initiatives.”

Lewis Hamilton takes F1 pole in dramatic Russian GP qualifying

Russian pole Lewis Hamilton
Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton took a step closer to equaling the Formula One win record Saturday by clinching pole position at the Russian Grand Prix, after narrowly avoiding early elimination when Sebastian Vettel crashed.

Hamilton charged to a track-record time of 1 minute, 31.304 seconds, beating the Red Bull of Max Verstappen by 0.563 for his fifth straight pole position. Hamilton can achieve his 91st career win in the race on Sunday, matching the record held by Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was beaten into third by Verstappen’s fast run at the end of the session and was .652 off Hamilton’s time.

The long run from the grid to the first significant turn means Bottas could yet threaten to overtake Hamilton at the start Sunday using the slipstream from his teammate’s car.

“It’s nice being on pole but here is probably the worst place to be on pole,” Hamilton said.

“This year you’re seeing that our cars are more draggy and there’s more tow this year than we’ve seen in other years. So I generally expect one of (Verstappen and Bottas) to come flying by at some point. I think I’m just going to focus on my race and run the fastest race I can.”

Bottas earned his first win at the 2017 race in Russia after starting third and overtaking the two Ferraris ahead of him at the start.

Verstappen and Bottas both start the race on medium tires, which could give them an edge in terms of pit strategy over Hamilton, who is on soft tires, which wear much faster.

“I’m just going to have to nurse those tires for as far as I can. These guys, if they get by, they’re going to be pulling away,” Hamilton said.

Verstappen said he was delighted to start second.

“I wasn’t expecting that and of course it’s great for us. If we can get a good start tomorrow you never know what can happen,” he said.

Vettel lost control of his car over the kerb on the inside of the 90-degree, right-hand turn four and spun into the wall, before the Ferrari bounced back onto the track. Teammate Charles Leclerc was following closely behind and narrowly missed the wrecked car, driving over its discarded front wing.

“Oh my God, that was very, very close,” Leclerc told his team over the radio. Leclerc qualified 11th and Vettel 15th as Ferrari failed to reach the top-10 shootout with either car for the third time in four races.

Vettel’s crash meant the red flag was waved while Hamilton was trying to set his first valid lap time to make the third session – after his first attempt was earlier ruled out for going off the track.

After the track was cleared and the session restarted, Hamilton had to rush his out-lap to make it over the line in time for another flying lap with just a second to spare.

“It was horrible,” Hamilton said. “Heart in the mouth.”

Hamilton was also asked to report to race stewards over another incident in which he went off the track in the first part of qualifying. No further action was taken. It was found Hamilton didn’t gain an advantage because the lap time wasn’t counted.

Hamilton is the runaway championship leader with a 55-point advantage over second-place Bottas and 80 over Verstappen. If he can earn four more pole positions in the last seven races, he would be the first driver to 100 in F1 history.

Earlier in the third and final practice Saturday morning, Hamilton set the pace with a time of 1 minute, 33.279 seconds that was 0.776 better than his Mercedes teammate Bottas, who had been quickest in the first two sessions.