Winston Cup may lose title sponsor

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company stated that they are looking to leaving NASCAR's popular top tier series, the Winston Cup, at the end of this season. The company has suggested to NASCAR that even given the ongoing talks, the sanctioning body should...

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company stated that they are looking to leaving NASCAR's popular top tier series, the Winston Cup, at the end of this season. The company has suggested to NASCAR that even given the ongoing talks, the sanctioning body should look for another company to be the title sponsor.

RJR has been the title sponsor since 1971 and helped to build the series into what it is today -- recognized worldwide with a multi million fan base. RJR has pumped millions of dollars, has set up a points fund, and has made "Winston Cup" a household name.

Ned Leary, president of Sports Marketing Enterprises, the arm of RJR that handles sports sponsorship, including the NASCAR series, acknowledged that a recent five-year agreement was signed in 2002; however, he stated that times and the economy have changed.

"Since that time, our business dynamics have changed dramatically," Leary said. "In our ongoing conversations with NASCAR, we have discussed the potential of their exploring a new series sponsor at some time in the future."

Earlier in January of this year, RJR had pulled out of the "No Bull 5" driver/fan program. And with the recent announcement of fourth quarter losses in 2003, the announcement, even though shocking to the longtime NASCAR fans, is not a real surprise in today's economic turmoil.

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Series NASCAR Cup