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Jeff Gordon won his second NASCAR Winston Cup championship Sunday, finishing 17th at Sunday's season- ending NAPA 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS). With the $1.5M championship bonus from series sponsor R.J. Reynolds, Gordon became the first race-car driver to win $5M in a season (USA TODAY, 11/17). In K.C., Shannon Rose profiled Gordon, and wrote that "whether fans like it or not, Gordon has another talent besides driving. He can convert the average person into a race fan." Rose: "Like it or not, Gordon is the future of NASCAR. And both are only going to get bigger and bigger" (K.C. STAR, 11/16). GET OUT ON THE HIGHWAY: In Atlanta, Al Levine wrote that "about" 160,000 were expected this past weekend at the newly renovated AMS. The complex accommodated "about" 20,000 corporate sponsor guests, including title sponsor NAPA who built a 60,000-square foot village for its 3,500 guests (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 11/15). Also in Atlanta, Steve Hummer wrote on NASCAR's fan following: "Pick an adjective. Best. Most blindly loyal. Most put out. Just flat craziest. The NASCAR Winston Cup fan can answer to them all." More Hummer: "As the sport continues to gain altitude, it is only going to become more difficult to serve in racing's ranks. It's choking on its own popularity, leaving the corporate interests and the grassroots fans to battle for its soul" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 11/16). NAPA'S AUTO RACE: NAPA has signed on to sponsor the November Winston Cup race at AMS for five more years (Ben Blake, INDIANAPOLIS STAR-NEWS, 11/16). BRING ALONG DUPER? Dan Marino has signed an agreement with NASCAR's Bill Elliott to jointly own the second car on the Elliott team for the '98 NASCAR Winston Cup season. The Elliott-Marino Motorsports entry will make its debut at the Daytona Int'l Speedway on February 15. Jerry Nadeau will be the driver, while TX-based FirstPlus Financial, Inc., a consumer finance company, will be the primary sponsor of the #13 Ford Taurus (FirstPlus Financial).
One day after Nike execs visited UNC-Chapel Hill (UNC) to "counter accusations of sweatshoplike working conditions in Southeast Asia, the company agreed Friday to send UNC students to the factories to see for themselves," according to Jane Stancil of the Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER. In a meeting Thursday, UNC Chancellor Michael Hooker "suggested" that Nike pay the expenses of a four-member contingent: the Chair of the faculty council and three students, including a member of the campus paper. Nike Dir of College Sports Marketing Kit Morris: "Conceptually, Nike has agreed to the idea. We welcome the opportunity to educate our university partners on this issue" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 11/16). THE WHITE STUFF: Nike-endorser Reggie White has "joined the ranks" of Nike critics, "blasting the company's labor practices," according to Friday's Portland OREGONIAN. White: "The reason they have these sweatshops is for cheap labor. They'd rather hire the cheap labor than hire the kid in the neighborhood who is buying their shoes. There are people who need jobs here." Nike spokesperson Antonio Tijerino said that White should "know that we employ 500,000 people around the world. There are poor people everywhere." White has a deal with Nike "estimated" at $200,000-$250,000 a year and said he has no plans to end his relationship with the company. White: "Nike has treated me well. But I'm not going to lie to you. I've been disappointed with them" (Portland OREGONIAN/AP, 11/15). MORE NICKS AT NIKE: In S.F., Tim Keown wrote that Nike's "hypocrisy knows no bounds." Keown: "It aligns itself with just causes -- the courage of Jackie Robinson, racism in country clubs, the plight of inner-city kids -- then indignantly wonders why anybody gives a damn about the respiratory problems of a few thousand young women in Vietnam" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 11/14). In an op-ed in today's PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, Fredrick McKissack writes under the headline, "Nike Workers Get No Assist From Jordan." McKissack notes Jordan's recent statements on Nike during an interview on ABC's "PrimeTime Live." McKissack: "Once again, Michael Jordan had a chance to speak out about working conditions in Nike plants in Southeast Asia. Once again, he failed to do that" (PHILA. DAILY NEWS, 11/17).
MAIL ORDERS: In the CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, Jeffrey Shaffer noted the prevalence of NFL mail-order catalogs such as The Ultimate Football Shop and From the Sidelines: "These up-and-coming mail-order companies want to knock the front- line veterans flat on the turf. They offer a simple solution to may wardrobe needs: Surrender to the glamour and expertise of the [NFL]. ... Their strategy is to combine style with team spirit" (CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, 11/14). NOTES: A TV spot for Nike's new Penny Hardaway shoe, the Air Penny ($150), is scheduled to debut Thanksgiving Day (USA TODAY, 11/17)....In Sunday's N.Y. TIMES, Alex Kuczynski examined brand marketing in the 90's, which included Michael Jordan's Cologne and Nike brand. Starbucks Senior VP Scott Bedbury: "The most powerful brands have human qualities. And this is why there is a buzz these days about people being seen as brands" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/16). DEALS: Volvo Trucks North America did "extensive research" before deciding to run a 30-second spot during the upcoming Super Bowl at a cost of $1.2M. Volvo Trucks NA President Marc Gustafson: "The research we've done shows that drivers love football, and this [is] the event they appreciate the most" (Greensboro NEWS & RECORD, 11/16).... The Blackhawks' Chris Chelios, Tony Amonte and Gary Suter filmed a TV spot for Wendy's in N.Y. on Friday that will tie in with the Winter Olympics (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/15).