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Winston Cup fund rings in 2000 with big bucks


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 12, 2000

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The first day of the UAW-GM Motorsports Media Tour started off Tuesday with a bang. Or was that the sound of a ringing cash register?

NASCAR announced the Winston Cup points fund will double to $10-million for the 2000 season, and the champion's cut will increase from $2-million to $3-million.

The increase is the 17th since 1971, when the points fund began with $100,000. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., in its 30th season as Winston Cup Series sponsor, is putting up much of the cash along with NASCAR and the tracks that host Winston Cup races.

"We think it's important given the growth of the sport," said Rick Sanders, president of RJR's Sports Marketing Enterprises. "Number two, it's our 30th year. Number three, it's the new millennium, so we had to do something spectacular."

As always, the fund will be distributed to the top 25 drivers. The runner-up will get $1.05-million.

"It's pretty incredible," defending champ Dale Jarrett said. "When guys hear about this, every race is going to be more exciting."

SAFETY FIRST: Nationwide Insurance will sponsor a safety program at tracks owned by Speedway Motorsports.

The company will make a $1,000 donation to Speedway Children's Charities in the name of a driver who most notably demonstrates safety during a race. It will provide fan assistance during races and a booth so pictures of children can be taken to assist in identification in case they become lost.

The tracks involved are in Charlotte, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Fort Worth, Texas, Fontana, Calif., and Bristol, Tenn.

GREENER PASTURES: Nestle USA announced it will be the primary sponsor for the Busch Grand National Series ppc Racing team. Jeff Green, who finished second in points last season, will drive. Jeff's brother, David, drives for the BGN Cicci-Welliver team that announced a two-year, primary-sponsorship agreement with AFG Glass.

TERRORISM CANCELS DAKAR: The next four stages of the Dakar Rally, scheduled in Niger, were canceled because of a threat of terrorism. The race was rescheduled for Libya.

In a statement, organizers said the French government believes there is "a serious risk of an external terrorist attack" on the event while it is in Niger.

Jean-Claude Killy, head of the organizers, told France 2 television that the competitors and their vehicles would be airlifted to Libya.

"That will take four or five days," he said, meaning the resumption of the race would be delayed until Monday or Tuesday.

Niger government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the terrorist threat was posed by Algerian extremists in the Armed Islamic Group, known by its French initials GIA.

The GIA is blamed for some of the bloodiest civilian attacks during the Islamic insurgency in Algeria. It also has been blamed for bombings in France in 1995 and 1996 and an airplane hijacking in 1994.

The group also has been linked to the recent arrests of several people suspected of trying to smuggle explosives into the United States from Canada.

Carlos Sousa won the sixth stage Tuesday, his second triumph of the race.

Sousa, driving a Mitsubishi, completed the 424-mile course between Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, and Niamey, in 5 hours, 46 minutes, 2 seconds.

A.J. SIGNS ROOKIE: A.J. Foyt has signed Mike Bliss to pilot his NASCAR Winston Cup effort.

-- Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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