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NHRA: Automobile Club of Southern California to Sponsor NHRA Finals

10 December 1998

GLENDORA, Calif. -- The Automobile Club of Southern California, the nations largest AAA affiliate with almost five million members, has reached a multi-year agreement with the National Hot Rod Association to become title sponsor of NHRAs season-ending event beginning in 1999, NHRA officials announced Dec. 9.

The 35th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals will be held Nov. 11-14 at Pomona Raceway, Pomona, Calif.

"As the Automobile Club of Southern California approaches its 100th year of service to the motoring public and NHRA its 50th anniversary of outstanding competition, we are honored to merge the rich traditions and vitality of both organizations through our sponsorship of this prestigious and historic event," said Thomas V. McKernan, president and CEO of the Automobile Club of Southern California. "Southern Californians have long enjoyed a love affair with the automobile and the sport of NHRA Winston Drag Racing presents a dynamic opportunity for the Club to increase its name awareness and showcase our wide range of products and services in an exciting, high-performance environment."

Sponsorship of NHRAs fourth-oldest event marks a significant increase in the Automobile Club of Southern Californias already impressive commitment to the sport of NHRA Winston Drag Racing. The Club is an associate sponsor on Gary Denshams Funny Car team and sponsor of the Automobile Club of Southern California "Road to the Future" Award -- a $10,000 prize presented annually to an NHRA professional category driver destined for future greatness. The 1998 winner was Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta.

The Auto Club is presenting sponsor of the NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion, a large gathering of historic race cars and vintage hot rods held annually at historic Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif. The Club is a founding partner of the NHRA Junior Drag Racing League and "Vision 2000" youth and education program and co-sponsors the NHRA Career Opportunities Fair -- an annual event benefiting more than 4,000 high school students held at Pomona Raceway in conjunction with the season finale.

"It's rewarding to see an organization with such an impressive membership significantly increase its presence in NHRA Winston Drag Racing by sponsoring one of our marquee events," said NHRA President Dallas Gardner. "The Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals will continue to be one of our greatest traditions, showcasing tremendous competition as well as the exciting drama that unfolds as all NHRA Winston champions are crowned."

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and its Winston brand held the title sponsorship of the NHRA Finals for the last 24 years. Winston made the decision to give up the Winston Finals to allow the Auto Club to increase its role in the sport.

"We decided to step aside so that another company could be a title sponsor," said Cliff Pennell, president of RJRs Sports Marketing Enterprises. "Weve enjoyed a fantastic 24-year sponsorship of the Winston Finals. However, a year ago, we were advised that if we ever wanted to give up the Winston Finals, the Automobile Club of Southern California would like to have it.

"We agreed that given the importance of the event to them, it was a good idea. Otherwise, we would never have given up the Winston Finals. Allowing a sponsor that is already involved with NHRA Winston Drag Racing to get even more involved is definitely good for the sport. The Automobile Club of Southern California and a race at Pomona are a perfect match.

"Despite not having the Winston Finals, our commitment to NHRA Winston Drag Racing in 1999 remains the same. All of the money, energy and effort that went into the Winston Finals will stay in the sport. We are focusing our event sponsorship on the Winston Showdown next summer."

Founded in 1900, the Automobile Club of Southern California has a rich history in motorsports, including sanctioning and promoting track and endurance races in the early 1900s. While it stopped sanctioning races to focus on member services, the Club for decades has worked closely with manufacturers, mechanics and state agencies to improve vehicle technology and safety.

The Club has also encouraged thousands of teens to pursue automotive careers by sponsoring career fairs, automotive skill contests and teen road rallies.

Today the Auto Club has grown into a multiple benefit organization with a selection of quality automotive, financial, insurance and travel services.