Victory Lap tribute unveiled for outgoing sponsor

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 1, 2003) -- NASCAR announced today that R.J. Reynolds, whose 33-year sponsorship of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series helped elevate the premier stock car series to one of the most popular sports in the United States, will be...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 1, 2003) -- NASCAR announced today that R.J. Reynolds, whose 33-year sponsorship of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series helped elevate the premier stock car series to one of the most popular sports in the United States, will be officially recognized for its contribution to the sport through the "Victory Lap" tribute program.

The "Victory Lap" tribute will recognize drivers who captured a championship during R.J. Reynolds' sponsorship tenure at designated tracks throughout the remainder of the 2003 season. Among the highlights of the tribute will be special paint-schemed cars of selected champions that will showcase the "Victory Lap" logo that honors R.J. Reynolds, which will conclude its relationship with NASCAR as title sponsor at the end of this year.

The Tribute begins at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23 before the Sharpie 500, lasts through the NASCAR Winston Cup season's final race, the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, and includes special activities at the NASCAR Winston Cup Champion's banquet in New York in early December. All along, NASCAR fans will be brought special moments in NASCAR Winston Cup history on exciting radio broadcasts of NASCAR Winston Cup races, and will read about great NASCAR Winston Cup battles in newspapers across America. NASCAR Winston Cup Scene is planning a commemorative NASCAR Winston Cup edition and special features, while other NASCAR dedicated media will run photos, statistics, graphics and other information as a fan's keepsake of the Winston era.

"RJR has been the perfect partner in helping NASCAR become one of the most popular sports in America," NASCAR President Mike Helton said. "They deserve and have the gratitude of the entire NASCAR industry, and we are proud to pay tribute to everything they have done for our sport."

Helton, accompanied by Ned Leary, president of Sports Marketing Enterprises at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and an impressive assembly of series champions, made the announcement at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, site of Sunday's Brickyard 400 NASCAR Winston Cup Series race. The NASCAR Winston Cup champions on hand consisted of legendary Richard Petty (1964, '67, '71-'72, '74-75, '79), Benny Parsons (1973), Terry Labonte (1984, '96), Bill Elliott (1988), Rusty Wallace (1989), Jeff Gordon (1995, '97-'98, '01), Dale Jarrett (1999), Bobby Labonte (2000) and Tony Stewart (2002).

"We're humbled that NASCAR has chosen to celebrate our 33-year partnership in such a significant manner," Leary said. "I'm sure the 'Victory Lap' will capture not only the fan's interest, but also the rich history of the last 33 years.

"On behalf of all the people from Sports Marketing Enterprises who have contributed to the NASCAR Winston Cup program, let me emphasize the pride we have in our longstanding relationship with our partners at NASCAR. They've worked with us as the series sponsor, but more importantly, welcomed us as part of their extended family."

"The Victory Lap" tribute will honor a series champion or a pairing of a former and active one during pre-race ceremonies at designated tracks during the remainder of the season. The honored driver will take a ceremonial parade lap prior to the start of the race in a specially designed "Victory Lap" race car emblazoned with the "Victory Lap" logo.

The "Victory Lap" tribute will kick off with Wallace and the late Alan Kulwicki, the 1992 NASCAR Winston Cup champion, being honored Aug. 23 prior to the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Other tributes scheduled are for Cale Yarborough (Darlington, Aug. 31); Bobby Allison and Terry Labonte (Talladega, Sept. 28); Dale Earnhardt and Gordon (Charlotte, Oct. 11); Darrell Waltrip (Martinsville, Oct. 19); Elliott (Atlanta, Oct. 26); Jarrett (Phoenix, Nov. 2), Parsons and Bobby Labonte (Rockingham, Nov. 9); and Petty and Stewart (Homestead, Nov. 16).

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Darrell Waltrip , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Richard Petty , Benny Parsons , Mike Helton , Cale Yarborough , Alan Kulwicki