CONCORD, N.C. – Gary Baker has the distinction of racing in the 1980 Daytona 500 with Waylon Jennings as his sponsor.
Baker, a former Nashville-based attorney, also once owned Nashville Speedway and the track currently known as Bristol Motor Speedway.
But as co-owner of the No. 27 Baker-Curb Racing team sponsored by Red Man Moist Snuff, Baker will soon have the daunting task of finding a replacement for the company that has backed the team back to its Brewco Motorsports days.
"Because of federal regulations we're losing our sponsor," Baker said on Thursday. "I think (President) Obama signed that into effect in late March. It's an idea that has been floating around for a while -- smokeless tobacco having to leave sports marketing.
"But before it was more about personal freedom over government intervention. So, I'm one of the guys that has taken a bullet in the head over the new law."
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's website (http://www.fda.gov), "the new rule, Regulations Restricting the Sale and Distribution of Cigarettes and Smokeless Tobacco to Protect Children and Adolescents, restricts the sale, distribution, and promotion of these products to make them less accessible and less attractive to kids. Published March 19, 2010, the new rule becomes effective June 22, 2010, and has the force and effect of law."
Despite NASCAR's long relationship tobacco, the Master Settlement Agreement between the Attorney Generals of 46 states and the four largest U.S. tobacco companies (including R.J. Reynolds) ended the 32-year relationship with Winston and the Cup Series.
The Regulations Restricting the Sale and Distribution of Cigarettes and Smokeless Tobacco to Protect Children and Adolescents eliminates the marketing of tobacco products to minors altogether.
Baker Curb Racing, which is currently eighth in owner points with Greg Biffle seventh in the driver standings, took precautions before the season began. BCR signed its contract with Red Man until June to reflect the possible legislation.
"The apprehension was there," Baker says. "We certainly hope we can get a sponsor on the car by New Hampshire. We're diligently trying to replace that sponsor now but being that it's the middle of the season and the current economic times, it won't be easy."
Baker expects that Red Man will sponsor the car through Nashville, possibly Kentucky. Scott Wimmer will pilot the No. 27 Ford for those two stand-alone events but Baker says Biffle hopes to remain in the car.
"We put this team together as the beginning of the year," Baker said. "And when you have a driver the caliber of Greg Biffle, it makes you want to work that much harder. He and (crew chief) Rick Viers fit together like a hand and a glove.
"This team has so much heart. I just want to see what they're able to accomplish with both heart and money."