Possible departure of R.J. Reynolds stuns Spencer. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 6, 2003) - When news trickled out this week of the possible departure of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company as the title sponsor of NASCAR's top series, many eyes and...
Possible departure of R.J. Reynolds stuns Spencer.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 6, 2003) - When news trickled out this week of the possible departure of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company as the title sponsor of NASCAR's top series, many eyes and ears turned toward Jimmy Spencer - a sure bet to always put things in perspective. Spencer has been a vocal supporter of the company for years, dating back to his days driving the Travis Carter-owned race cars that were sponsored by RJR in the mid '90s.
On Thursday, the future of NASCAR sponsorship was just one of many topics thrown at Spencer during Daytona Media Day. And as usual, Spencer had a lot to say.
"When I heard about it, it bothered me, and it still bothers me," Spencer said. "They (RJR) were the ones who brought this sport to the forefront, whether it was going out on the town and giving away tickets, or doing promotions. I feel they brought us at least 75% of the fan base. This is NASCAR Winston Cup. It's hard to think that it could be called something else. It just doesn't sound right if the word 'Winston' isn't there."
Spencer's admiration for T. Wayne Robertson, the former president of sports marketing for RJR who oversaw the company's NASCAR Winston Cup program, has been well documented. Spencer credits Robertson for the boost in popularity in racing, and even since Robertson's 1998 passing, the sport is still affected by his leadership.
"He did incredible things for this sport," Spencer said. "The Winston Cup Preview was his idea to give back to the fans and give to charity. He used to give out tickets like it was candy, just to get people going to the tracks."
Winston and NASCAR have reportedly discussed the prospect of the sanctioning body finding a new title sponsor for its top racing series, which, if it happens, would end a relationship of 32 years. The speculation comes one week after longtime NASCAR sponsor Unical 76 announced it was leaving the sport.
"I feel it's the economy," Spencer said. "There is a lot of stuff going on all over the United States right now that we can't control. But if Winston leaves NASCAR - and right now it's just people speculating - but if it happens, it would certainly be something I never thought would happen. Hopefully the economy will turn around, not only for RJR but for a lot of people."
OTHER MEDIA DAY TIDBITS: Spencer had a chance to show off his new look in the SIRIUS uniform on Thursday. The Berwick, Pa., native profiled for four different photo shoot sessions before taking questions from the enormous gathering of media assembled at the Daytona Club right outside Daytona International Speedway.
FULL DAY FRIDAY: Team SIRIUS will officially begin pre-race preparations Friday morning when the garage opens at 7 a.m. The No. 7 SIRIUS Dodge Intrepid won't hit the track, however, until Saturday when the first practice session is set to begin at 9:15 a.m. Crew chief Tommy Baldwin and the second wave of the crew arrived here late Thursday afternoon.
APPEARANCE SCHEDULE SET: Spencer will be appearing at a handful of SIRIUS and Dodge Motorsports events from Feb. 10-16. Three autograph sessions are also scheduled, starting with a 30-minute signing at Dodge City on Wed., Feb. 12, at 3 p.m. Spencer's other autograph sessions will be one-hour signings on Fri., Feb. 14 at Circuit City (6 p.m.) and Sat., Feb. 15 at the SIRIUS "Rhythm of the Road" tour exhibit outside of the track (approximately 30 minutes after the NASCAR Busch Series race.)