Several American sources are indicating that tobacco company RJ Reynolds is considering pulling its Winston brand away from NASCAR's premier division after more than 30 years as the series title sponsor.

In a story that was first reported earlier this week on ESPN.com, one of the most enduring and successful sports sponsorship deals could be nearing its conclusion with news that NASCAR may be losing its Winston sponsorship.

Although currently no more than a rumour it is believed that RJ Reynolds Co., whose current contract with NASCAR ends at the conclusion of the 2007 season, may be looking to end its Winston title sponsorship in the next couple of years.

RJR's Winston brand has become synonymous with NASCAR's highest echelon since becoming the series sponsor in 1971.

The emergence of the NASCAR Winston Cup (previously the Grand National division) coincided with the berth of what is referred to as the 'Modern Era,' when dirt tracks were finally abandoned and a more compact, coherent points fund was created.

With Winston onboard NASCAR moved from a largely regional series into a nationwide phenomenon that has long since overtaken IndyCar racing as America's favourite form of motorsport. The tobacco company has pumped millions and millions of dollars into the series and today, most drivers who qualify for all 36 points paying Winston Cup races is almost guaranteed a single-season purse of $1 Million plus. Last year 29 drivers earned more than $1 Million in prize funds. The 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion will pocket a cool $4.25 Million.

Winston has also designed many innovative fan-marketing strategies that have proved to be lucrative for drivers, spectators and the series alike. The Winston, Winston Million and Winston No Bull 5 programs have proved to be tremendously popular with the now defunct No Bull 5 program producing more than a dozen lucky millionaire spectators as part of its novel fan/driver pairing system.