R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company issued a statement on Wednesday, Feb. 5 saying that it has held discussions with NASCAR about the possibility of pursuing a new series sponsor at some time in the future. A few Ford drivers gave their reaction to that...
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company issued a statement on Wednesday, Feb. 5 saying that it has held discussions with NASCAR about the possibility of pursuing a new series sponsor at some time in the future. A few Ford drivers gave their reaction to that statement during media day at Daytona International Speedway.
DALE JARRETT - No. 88 UPS Taurus:
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE RJR SITUATION? "I think that's all kind of premature. In my talks with the people at R.J. Reynolds, you can't say anything is forever. We don't know what may happen in the future, but they're still very happy with their involvement in the sport. I know that they just signed a new five-year deal that started this year. I don't know exactly how all of this got started, but, obviously, when something like that comes out people will take it and kind of run with it. I know that they're very happy to be here. We certainly appreciate what they've done and we foresee them being here for awhile. We have no reason to believe that they're not gonna be, but are NASCAR and R.J. Reynolds both exploring opportunities for the future? Yeah, I think everybody is always doing that. It's no different than when we were sitting there with Ford Quality Care as a sponsor and thinking that was gonna continue to go until something else came along, so everybody is always looking. You don't ever know what may happen, but I don't foresee R.J. Reynolds going away as a sponsor anytime soon, again, unless somebody comes in with such a great offer that NASCAR can't turn that down. But I don't think that's gonna happen anytime soon."
THE SPORT HAS GOTTEN SO BIG THAT IT'S KIND OF GOOD TO THINK OTHER SPONSORS MAY WANT IN. "Yeah, I think it does show a lot and says a lot about what NASCAR has done. You've got to give R.J. Reynolds a lot of credit for helping since 1971. They have helped make this sport what it is today. We would move on if that were to happen. Obviously, it would be for the betterment of this sport probably dollar-wise because I would think that's what would make a change, if indeed that happens down the road. We like things the way they are. I guess we get a little bit set in our ways, but it kind of flows good -- the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. I don't know what would happen with somebody else coming in. That would be a change for all of us, but, again, the way NASCAR and R.J. Reynolds have gone about this partnership, they've taken this sport to levels that nobody really dreamed we would ever be at, so let's hope there's not any change for awhile. I think everybody is extremely happy with what we have, but we do have to keep growing this sport."
JEFF BURTON - No. 99 Citgo Taurus:
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE RJR SITUATION? "I think it's important to understand that what Winston said was that if there was an opportunity that presented itself for another corporate partner to come in, that they would consider backing away and let someone else take the sport if they were gonna do a good job. It's unfortunate that in these tough economic times that the pressure on the tobacco industry is what it is because Winston has done such a great job. But by no means am I saying today that Winston is gonna be out because that's not what they said. They said that they would consider making a move if there was someone that could come in and take it off of them and relieve some financial burden. That would be disappointing because Winston has meant a lot to this sport and done a lot to promote this sport and it would be a shame to see them go."
AS NASCAR HAS EVOLVED DO YOU THINK IT MAKES SENSE TO MOVE AWAY FROM TOBACCO? "I'm not much into the politically correct thing. I figure that this is America and that's what makes it a great place to live. If you choose to smoke or whatever it is you choose to do, that's your choice. That's why we live where we live because we do have choices. Some people would say that this sport would be best served if we were sponsored by something other than a tobacco or an alcohol product. On the other hand, this is a great country that provides freedom and I think the opportunity for every company to have a chance to have their product on a national stage is part of what makes our country work."
TODD BODINE - No. 54 Army National Guard Taurus:
ARE YOU SURPRISED TO SEE A COMPANY LIKE RJR CONTEMPLATING GETTING OUT OF THIS SPORT ONE DAY AND WHAT IS THE STATE OF THIS SPORT? "For one thing it shows the state of the economy when companies are just afraid to be spending that kind of money in one marketing venue. I said it for two years now and being that I'm a little fish in this big pond nobody wanted to listen to me, but our sport has been financially in trouble for a while. I think it's not been addressed, for whatever reason, and that's when it's gonna catch up to you. I think you're gonna see when the Busch cars roll in here on Monday morning, you're gonna see what the state of our sport is. You count how many cars have full-time sponsors and how many full-time cars there are, and you can count how many cars are just gonna be here in the Busch Series and that's gonna tell you the state of our sport."
ARE YOU SURPRISED TO HEAR THAT? "Surprised and disappointed. They've done so much for our sport. We'd love to have them around forever because they've done so much for us and whatever we could do for them we would love to do, but I'm definitely not surprised. Like I said, I've been watching this happen for a couple of years and knew it was gonna get worse before it got better."
MATT KENSETH - No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Taurus:
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT RJR AND THEIR ANNOUNCEMENT? "I think R.J. Reynolds and the Winston brand has been a great supporter of our sport. They've taken NASCAR Winston Cup racing to a different level that it wouldn't be at without their support. I'm very thankful for all the support Winston has provided and I hope they remain in the sport. I can't imagine NASCAR Winston Cup racing with out Winston in it, so I'm real thankful to be a part of this sport and I'm real thankful for everything they do for this sport. I just don't mean sinking money into it, but the way they've promoted the sport and the drivers and they way they've given fans a chance to win all the money that they have. It's been really exciting to be a part of all the things they've done."