The Winston more than just a race, make it hot.
Lowe’s Motor Speedway will get one more shot to prove
NASCAR’s all-star race should stay in Charlotte.
Officials from NASCAR and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
announced this week the 2003 running of The Winston, NASCAR
Winston Cup racing's annual all-star event, will return to
Lowe's Motor Speedway. The event, scheduled for Saturday
night, May 17, will mark the 18th time in 19 years that the
non-points special event has been run at the 1.5-mile
“R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and its Winston brand are
pleased The Winston is returning to Lowe's Motor Speedway in
2003," said Ned Leary, president of Sports Marketing
Enterprises (SME) at RJR. "We have had a very productive
partnership with the track and its location is convenient
for our employees and the SME team.’
The good news for the Charlotte area comes with a catch.
“The cities of Charlotte, N.C., Concord, N.C., and other
surrounding communities have answered the challenge to take
The Winston to the next level ... to make it more than just
a race.” Leary said, “Now, with the support of the area
communities, the vision to make NASCAR's all-star event a
spectacle unequaled in sports can become a reality."
“The objective is bold - make The Winston an all-star
spectacle unequaled in sports. That's the challenge.”
A challenge that Lowe’s Motor Speedway president and general
manager H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler and the staff at LMS are ready
to take on.
“Obviously we are pleased with NASCAR and RJR's decision to
bring The Winston back to Lowe's Motor Speedway where it
belongs,” said Wheeler. “I think we made a strong statement
in May for keeping the event with a record crowd and a great
“The fans and participants really stepped up and showed
their support for keeping the event right here. Fortunately
their voices were heard loud and clear and we appreciate
The Winston has been held at Lowe’s (formerly Charlotte)
Motor Speedway every year since 1985, except for 1986 when
the event was held at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The race was
originally envisioned to travel to a different venue each
year, much like the all-star events in the NBA and Major
Poor attendance prompted the race to move back to Charlotte
in 1987, where Wheeler and the speedway staff pioneered many
innovations to keep the race fresh and exciting, such as
adding lights to the track to run the race at night, field
inversions and an elimination-style format that debuted last
Last year’s record purse of $3 million made The Winston the
richest race in motorsports, as well as the most attended,
bringing in over 150,000 fans.
Wheeler has higher expectations for The Winston in 2003.
Wallace did his part to add some sparks to The Winston
earlier this year.
“Along with our partners at Winston, we have a lot of sweat
equity in this event and plan to make it even bigger and
better in 2003.” Wheeler said, “With strong support from
Charlotte and Concord civic leaders, we have the opportunity
to take this all-star event to a level that will be the envy
of cities which host other major sporting events across the
Still fresh from the sting of losing the NBA’s Charlotte
Hornets to New Orleans, Charlotte can’t afford to lose
another of the area’s biggest sports draws. The Winston and
the Coca-Cola 600 are two of the most attended races on the
Beyond the attendance figures, and the revenue the speedway
would lose, there’s also a good argument to make that losing
The Winston would have a huge economical impact on area
business, perhaps an even larger impact than losing the
Hornets. The Winston anchors two weeks worth of events held
at the speedway that pumps millions of dollars into the
Fear of losing The Winston has prompted local city leaders
to pledge money and support into the event.
Wheeler is not only looking for support from city officials,
but from fans as well, to help persuade NASCAR and R.J.
Reynolds to keep The Winston in Charlotte through 2004 and
“In the past, Charlotte and surrounding communities have put
their best foot forward in hosting the NCAA Final Four and
the NBA All Star game.” Wheeler said, “We're looking for
that type of effort for The Winston. I look forward to
seeing event flags on every street lamp in Charlotte and
Concord, banners at the airports, billboards along the
highways and race week events that will truly make the
Charlotte-Concord area 'Racing's Vacation Destination' for
fans across the country.”
“If we do it right, those 10 days in May will have the
biggest economic impact in the history of our area's
One major point for keeping the race at Lowe’s is that many
Winston Cup teams, drivers, owners, and crew members live in
the Charlotte area, most of them within an hour of Lowe’s
Motor Speedway. Holding The Winston in Charlotte, along with
the Coca-Cola 600 being run the following week at LMS,
allows the teams the chance to stay at home with their
families, rather than spend yet another weekend on the road
– a widely favored respite during the hectic 36-event
Winston Cup season.
“I can't think of a better place to have The Winston than at
Lowe's Motor Speedway,” said Jimmie Johnson, driver of the
#48 Lowe’s Chevrolet. “The NASCAR Winston Cup season is one
of the longest professional sports seasons in the world.
Staging The Winston in Charlotte, where a lot of the teams
call home, is almost like a week off because we get to stay
at home and spend more time with family and friends.
“It might not seem like a big deal to have one more weekend
on the road, but when you have 36 points events, two special
events and a handful of testing dates, that's a lot of time
away from home and your family. Having The Winston return to
Lowe's Motor Speedway just means a great deal to the teams.”
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