Winston Cup No More?

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Not so fast. Only one day after denying a report it was considering dropping its sponsorship of NASCAR's Winston Cup Series, the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company did an abrupt about face.

Despite signing a five-year agreement to continue as title sponsor of NASCAR's premier series, RJR now says a change could be forthcoming.

"Since that time, our business dynamics have changed dramatically," said Ned Leary, president of Sports Marketing Enterprises, which handles the execution of the sponsorship on behalf of RJR. "In our ongoing conversations with NASCAR, we have discussed the potential of their exploring a new series sponsor at some time in the future."

"We have always worked with NASCAR and others to do what was in the best interest of this great sport," Leary said. "As the series sponsor, we will continue our work to grow this sport."

The statement is the direct opposite of what was said just 24 hours earlier.

"We have just signed a multi-year deal with NASCAR to continue our long-running partnership," said Denny Darnell of SME "We're looking forward to the 2003 season and beyond."

The Winston Brand has been associated with NASCAR racing for more than 33 years. This year's Winston Cup points fund was increased to $17 million, including a more than $4 million payday to the champion.

There is no timetable set on when a replacement sponsor would be lined-up, but reports of interest from UPS, McDonald's and Coca-Cola have been mentioned as possibilities.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2003, The Winston

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