SBJ/September 14 - 20, 1998/No Topic Name

R.J. Reynolds giveaway pays off

When R.J. Reynolds said No Bull, it meant it.

The cigarette manufacturer has given away $3 million this year to drivers and fans as part of an incentive package tied to five NASCAR Winston Cup series' keystone events — the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis, Southern 500 at Darlington and Winston 500 at Talladega. It will give away another $1 million to one fan at Talladega next month and could part with another $1 million if an eligible driver wins that race.

That's a significant boost over what RJR was paying out for its previous bonus program, the Winston Million, which was in place from 1985 to 1997, but was claimed twice.

"This has re-invigorated the program once known as the Winston Million," said Chris Powell, media relations manager for Winston's sports marketing arm. "The Winston Million was a great program for us, but if it had a down side it was the fact that it wasn't won very often. It got off to a great start, but it was not often achieved."

The Winston Million was built around four races: the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 500, Southern 500 and Winston 500. To collect the bonus, a driver had to win three of those races in a season. Bill Elliott did it in the program's inaugural year. It wasn't won again until the final year, when Jeff Gordon collected the bonus.

Drivers qualify for the No Bull 5 by finishing in the top five at one of the races. Those drivers become eligible for a $1 million bonus by winning the next race on the No Bull circuit. Fans qualify for a matching payout by mailing in sweepstakes entries. Gordon has collected the bonus twice this year, most recently for capturing the Southern 500 on Sept. 6.

Though Powell would not discuss the specifics of how RJR funds the program, he conceded it was paid for in a manner similar to other "sweepstakes" events. Those giveaways typically are underwritten by insurers who base premiums on the likelihood that the money will be given away.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that the No Bull already has paid off twice. Had it been in place for the last four seasons, it would've paid off eight times — four times in 1994 and twice each in '96 and '97.

"We did our homework and knew there would be a likelihood that it would be won multiple times,'' Powell said. "It's more attainable now. That's one of the things we like about it."

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