NASCAR’s Winston Cup Series will keep its title sponsor, Winston, through the 2002 season, but the National Hot Rod Association has fallen victim to the so-called “Big Tobacco” settlement.
Rick Sanders, president of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company’s Sports Marketing Enterprises branch, announced that RJR will continue its long-standing relationship with NASCAR’s premier league through 2002. Due to the Master Settlement Agreement, tobacco companies are limited in their sponsorship opportunities. When it came down to deciding between NASCAR and the NHRA, the Winston Cup circuit won out.
“These decisions were extraordinarily difficult to make,” Sanders said. “Our sponsorships are highly valued, but the MSA is clear on this matter and we had to make a decision.
“Currently the limitation we have is to a single brand-name sponsorship, so we will continue our 31-year sponsorship agreement with NASCAR, which includes Winston Cup and Winston West, and relinquish our relationship with the NHRA.”
RJR also sponsors a Senior PGA Tour event, and will make a decision on that relationship at a later date.
“We are very happy with our sponsorship with both organizations,” Sanders said, “and we had to consider many factors in order to reach our decision. In the final analysis, NASCAR had the edge in attendance and number of events, and we had to select only one.”
RJR has been affiliated with the NHRA for 27 years. Aside from pulling out as a title sponsor at the close of the current season, it will also end its relationship with Team Winston at year’s end. Team Winston features Top Fuel dragster champion Gary Scelzi, as well as Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Angelle Savoie.
Angelle Savoie, Pro Stock Motorcycle champion and current points leader, will also lose her Team Winston sponsorship to the Master Settlement Agreement.
NHRA President Tom Compton thanked RJR for its support.
“We know how much RJR and Winston value our 27-year sponsorship and appreciate how closely they’ve worked with us in the decision-making process,” he said. “While Winston must relinquish title sponsorship of NHRA drag racing in order to comply with the MSA, we’re continuing to work in partnership to explore other ways to maintain involvement with the sport next year and beyond.”
It was only a matter of time before RJR would be forced to pull the plug on one of its sponsorships. In compliance with the MSA, the Winston brand pulled out of Talladega Superspeedway’s fall race in 2000, ending what was the longest race sponsorship in NASCAR history.
Winston established the first point fund for NASCAR competitors ($100,000), and since becoming involved in NASCAR in 1971 has pumped more than $70 million into the bonus system. The brand also sponsors the No Bull 5 program, which awards a seven-figure bonus to both a driver and a fan if the pilot wins one of the five designated No Bull events.
All told, Winston has contributed $105 million in purse, bonus and point fund money.
NASCAR President Mike Helton also issued a statement concerning Winston’s continuing involvement with stock car racing.
“We’re fortunate to have had a long-term relationship with Winston and Sports Marketing Enterprises and look forward to expanding in the future,” Helton said. “Winston has played a key role in the growth of NASCAR.”
Motorsports Hall of Fame Names 2002 Finalists
The first round of ballots has been tabulated, and media members across the globe have narrowed the International Motorsports Hall of Fame Class of 2002 down to 21 finalists. For the third straight year, one of Alabama’s own is in line to join the prestigious class.
Red Byron, NASCAR’s first champion and a former resident of Talladega, joins Cannonball Baker, Ettore Bugatti, Briggs Cunningham, Ray Fox, Janet Guthrie, Ray Hendrick, Ted Horn, Denis Hulme, Jackie Ickx, Jack Ingram, Mel Kenyon, Alan Kulwicki, Jan Opperman, Cotton Owens, Maurice Petty, Tim Richmond, A.J. Watson, Glen Wood, Lee Roy Yarbrough and Chuck Yeager.
On Feb. 15, 1948, the fledgling stock car sanctioning body now known as NASCAR held its inaugural Modified event on the Daytona Beach road course in Florida. Marshall Teague led the first lap, but when 149.6 miles of racing on the hard, hot sand was done, it was Byron who took the checker and became NASCAR’s first winner.
Byron had raced on fly-by-night, dirt track circuits for years, and it appeared the story would end there when he volunteered for the Air Force in 1942. Serving as a bombardier during World War II, Byron completed 57 missions by 1943. On his 58th, he was shot down by the Japanese over the Aleutian Islands.
Byron was hospitalized for 27 months, but upon his release he vowed to get back in the driver’s seat. By then “Big” Bill France, a race car driver-turned-promoter, was planting the seeds for the National Association of Stock Car Automobile Racing – a circuit that would feature guaranteed purses and give grease monkeys the chance to get paid decent wages for speeding.
Byron moved to Atlanta and hooked up with soon-to-be-famous car owner Raymond Parks, and the pair decided to give NASCAR a go.
When the green flag fell at Daytona 53 years ago, Byron guided his 1939 Ford past the likes of Teague and Fonty Flock. By the time the whirlwind 52-race season was in the books, Byron had scored 11 victories and claimed the Modified championship, edging Flock by 32.75 points and collecting $1,250 in postseason awards.
Here’s a quick look at the 20 other nominees:
- Baker was the first NASCAR commissioner, and set 200 records in various forms of motorsports.
- Bugatti built race cars that won more than 4,000 races between 1911 and 1945.
- Cunningham was an American racer who developed the Cunningham sports cars.
- Fox, a stock car builder and crew chief, built cars for David Pearson, Fireball Roberts, Junior Johnson and Buddy Baker, among others.
- Guthrie was primarily a sports car driver, but competed in three Indy 500s as well as 31 Winston Cup events.
- Hendrick had more than 500 wins in the NASCAR Modified and LM Sportsman classes, and was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers.
- Horn claimed three consecutive Indy Car titles (1946-48) and had five career wins.
- Hulme was the 1967 Formula One champion, had eight Grand Prix wins and won two titles and 22 checkers in the Can-Am series.
- Ickx won LeMans six times, had eight wins in Formula One and won the 24 Hours of Daytona.
- Ingram claimed five NASCAR Late Model Grand National crowns and was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers.
- Kenyon was a USAC Midget champion and went on to register 111 wins and seven titles.
- Kulwicki was the 1992 Winston Cup champion and also had an ASA championship. He’s also ranked as one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers.
- Opperman won hundreds of races in sprint cars and midgets under various sanctioning bodies.
- Owens won more than 400 Modified and Late Model Sportsman races, nine Winston Cup events and 40 more as a car owner.
- Petty was a crew chief and chief engine builder for his brother, Richard.
- Richmond, the 1980 Rookie of the Year in Winston Cup, had 13 checkers in the series and was also named among NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers.
- Watson was an Indy Car chief mechanic and car builder who had 27 career wins – 18 with Rodger Ward.
- Wood had four Winston Cup wins and 11 poles, and is ranked as one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers.
- Yarbrough closed out his career with 14 Winston Cup victories and 11 poles.
- Yeager, a test pilot, set world records for speed in point-to-point flights and is immortalized in the book and film, “The Right Stuff.”
Ballots have gone out to vote on the six individuals who will be inducted into the IMHOF Class of 2002.
MEET THE DRIVERS
Resides: Danbury, Conn.
The driver of the UAW-Delphi Chevrolet is in his fourth full season on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit. He picked up his first series win last season when he took the checkered flag in the season-ending race at Atlanta.
Nadeau, who lists golf, water skiing, jet skiing and video games as his hobbies, started his career driving open-wheel cars. In 1992, he finished second in a go-kart race on ice in St. Petersburg, Russia.