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R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. announced Tuesday it will continue its commitment to NASCAR,
choosing to maintain its sponsorship of the Winston Cup Series and the Winston West Series as its
sole brand-name sponsorship under the terms of the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) drafted in the 1998 tobacco settlement.
Under the MSA, with which tobacco companies had to be in compliance by the end of the year, cigarette manufacturers had to reduce their sponsorship to a single program in a 12-month period.
RJR had to choose between NASCAR, the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) and the Vantage Championship, a Senior PGA Tour event.
RJR said it would end its 27-year partnership with the NHRA at the end of the year. It is still deciding what to do with the Vantage Championship, a golf tournament held near its headquarters in Winston-Salem, N.C., since 1987.
RJR can continue to sponsor the event, but it can't be called the Vantage Championship because Vantage is another brand of cigarettes.
Rick Sanders, president of RJR's Sports Marketing Enterprises, said the decision to cut its ties with the NHRA was difficult, but the opportunities NASCAR provided made it the obvious choice. "Both NASCAR and NHRA deliver an excellent product to fans, are experiencing tremendous growth and have promising futures," Sanders said. "In the final analysis, however, we had to choose a single sponsorship and felt that the NASCAR sponsorship had the edge in supporting Winston's overall business objectives over time."