Auto racing kicking the tobacco habit

By Anthony Rhoads

NASCAR and my wife Lori have entered new eras this year.

Both are giving up the tobacco habit.

Lori had been smoking for about 13 years before finally giving up cigarettes right after the beginning of the year. She started smoking when she was a teen-ager and regretted that decision. She tried to quit smoking several times before but just wasn't able to give up cigarettes for good until this January.

What was bad about the situation in January was she had to be in the hospital to finally kick the nicotine addiction. When she was in the hospital for several days, she wasn't allowed to smoke and it turned out to be a blessing.

She figured that if she could go for a few days without smoking, she could give up cigarettes for good.

Now, she has gone nearly two months without a cigarette.

Like most folks who have given up smoking, she was more irritable and grouchier than uusal, but the positive changes certainly outweigh the negative.

In that short period of time she has quit smoking, she has already felt the positive effects. She can breathe a lot better now, she doesn't have chest pains and her overall health is better. Imagine that.

She's also served as an inspiration for me because I have also had my own battles trying to live a healthier lifestyle and now I am more determined to change things.

NASCAR's affiliation with the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company lasted more than 30 years. Back in 1971, RJR's Winston came on as the title sponsor and in those years, NASCAR Winston Cup grew tremendously.

Back before Winston came aboard, most race teams were sponsored by automotive-related industries. After Winston, the floodgates were opened and more non-automotive companies began to sponsor racing.

Now, race teams are sponsored by just about any product you can imagine.

The money Winston poured into racing was unbelievable and by the end of the company's run as the main sponsor in NASCAR, the Winston Cup point fund grew to some $17 million. Since 1971, Winston contributed more than $100,000,000 to the point fund. It was a good partnership and it's hard to imagine what NASCAR would have been like without Winston as the main sponsor.

But that partnership finally came to an end last year when Nextel came aboard to sponsor stock-car racing's premier series. As racing advances into the 21st century, it makes sense that NASCAR would partner with Nextel. Even though NASCAR benefited from Winston, Nextel will be able to expand the sport's popularity even more.

Nextel, as a communications company, doesn't have the advertising restrictions that a tobacco company has and will be able to promote racing on a level that Winston couldn't.

(Anthony Rhoads is a sports writer The Daily. He can be reached at arhoads@news-daily.com or sports@news-daily.com.)