Fantasy Stock Car - Season 2
The season starts July 20. Don't delay ... be sure to sign up now!.

Live Odds
» get them now!
photo gallery
riding with junior
greatest drivers
power poll

fantasy games
stock car season 1 - '03

The Experts' Choice for in-depth coverage:
Draft Kit
access now

2003 Pro Football Preview
2003 College Football Preview
Baseball Hall of Fame
St. Louis Cardinals

customer service
commemorative covers

stock car
sell tickets

sporting news t-shirts
sporting news proshop
sports trips
sports art & calendars

      Fantasy Stock Car '03 Season 2 -- Sign Up Today
   Fantasy Stock Car Draft Kit Prepare for the season -- Access Now

RJR Tobacco hints at leaving NASCAR

February 5, 2003 Print it

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., the top sponsor for NASCAR's Winston Cup Series since 1971, hinted Wednesday it is considering ending its longtime partnership.

RJR signed a five-year contract extension with NASCAR in July, exactly one year after the company picked the stock car series as the one program it can bankroll under the 1998 tobacco settlement.

But a weak economy has forced RJR to reevaluate its commitment since signing the contract extension.

"Since that time, our business dynamics have changed dramatically," said Ned Leary, president of RJR's Sports Marketing Enterprises division. "In our ongoing conversations with NASCAR, we have discussed the potential of their exploring a new series sponsor at some time in the future."

RJR's possible withdrawal from the series was first reported Tuesday by

NASCAR vice president George Pyne said the sanctioning body enjoys its 32-year relationship with the tobacco company, but is now looking at future opportunities with other companies.

"Through the years we've had one of the best partnerships in sports," Pyne said. "But through their changing dynamics, they've told us that if there is an option that would be in the best of our industry, we should take that into consideration."

Pyne said he fully expected RJR to fulfill its five-year contract extension.

NASCAR's drivers, teams and partners have all shared in an estimated $100 million in purse, bonus and point fund money since becoming the Winston Cup Series in 1971.

The brand has become synonymous with NASCAR since the two companies partnered, with the cigarette brand Winston becoming a staple of the top racing series in America.

The tobacco company was forced to pick one sport to sponsor to comply with the Master Settlement Tobacco Agreement, which forced cigarette manufacturers to reduce their sponsorship to a single program in a 12-month period.

So Winston ended its sponsorship of the National Hot Rod Association and professional golf. Last month, RJR announced it was ending its NASCAR's No Bull 5 Program for 2003 after a five-year run. The bonus program offered $1 million to a driver and a NASCAR fan in five selected events.

RJR has continued to sponsor NASCAR's Winston West stock car series.

Word of RJR's possible split comes just a week after ConocoPhillips, owner of the 76 gasoline brand, said it was ending its half-century-long relationship with NASCAR.

The familiar logo -- an orange ball with the number "76" in blue at its center -- has been a fixture at races as "the official fuel of NASCAR."

But 76's Houston-based parent company said it was ending the sponsorship deal of more than 50 years by Dec. 31.

"Due to changing business strategies, we are unable to take full advantage of NASCAR's national and international marketing platform," Mark Harper, president of wholesale marketing for ConocoPhillips, said last week.

Pyne said it shouldn't be hard for NASCAR to find more sponsors in the future.

"We're coming off our best year in television, our best year in attendance, our best year in almost every area," Pyne said. "We offer a once in a lifetime opportunity to major companies that is equivalent of branding yourself with the NFL or major league baseball."

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

print this article
Email this article to a friend:

NASCAR: chat | message boards

more from The Sporting News

  • EXCLUSIVE - Lee Spencer Top drivers will be under the magnifying glass
  • EXCLUSIVE - Lee Spencer Common engines could become commonplace
  • EXCLUSIVE - Lee Spencer Proving ground: Scouting the 2003 season

  • Related Audio

    = Sporting News Radio Pass
    Sporting News Radio
    Listen Live

    Winston may end relationship with NASCAR

    » audio vault


    EXCLUSIVE - Lee Spencer Top drivers will be under the magnifying glass
    When you finish second in a Winston Cup race, you're simply the first loser. That's the mentality of this all-or-nothing sport.

    EXCLUSIVE - Lee Spencer Common engines could become commonplace
    Here's a look at what technical changes to expect for 2003, including the possibility of NASCAR exploring the use of common engines.

    EXCLUSIVE - Lee Spencer Proving ground: Scouting the 2003 season
    Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart has his priorities in order, but Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and others will be hard to outrun again.

    Bodine's wife charged with making threats
    The wife of NASCAR driver Brett Bodine was charged with making harassing phone calls and threatening a woman she suspected was involved with her husband.

    » NASCAR news archives

          Fantasy Stock Car '03 Season 2 -- Sign Up Today
       Fantasy Stock Car Draft Kit Prepare for the season -- Access Now | Radio | Fantasy Source | Fantasy Games | Ultimate Analysis | Books | Magazine

    advertising info | link to us | contact info | tsn jobs | wired world | privacy policy | terms of use

     ©  2003