SCR: From having been involved in bringing Winston to the sport, what were your feelings when Winston announced it was getting out as the sponsor of the series.

JOHNSON: "I knew about the time I was quitting that they were getting closer and closer to getting out of the sport. Being involved with them from the start to where they got out, you could tell when things were winding down.

"They stayed long enough, because they got to where they could not get out of it what they were putting into it. That wasn't their fault and it wasn't NASCAR's fault. I think more it was the government's fault.

"The government was leaning on them very hard in courts. People were suing them. You could only take so much, and I don't care how big a company you got, they can wear you down. You start fighting those cases and you don't promote your product. It puts it on a secondary burner and you leave it sitting there until you get time to go back to it. I could see that way before I quit."

SCR: Talk about your involvement in getting Winston on board.

JOHNSON: "Well, it's sort of an accident that I was involved in it.

"I went to Winston--[their ads] had just been taken off TV--and they were highly advertised on TV. I knew they were putting a lot of money into that to promote their cigarettes.

"I said, 'Well, they got a lot of advertising money and they can't do anything with it because the government has shut them out.'

"So I went to them for a sponsorship. And in the process, another fellow, George Bloom, was working for Hanes, which was involved in racing. He knew the people at Reynolds and I had him get me an appointment and go with me and try to help me get a sponsorship.

"We got into a meeting with them and I told them what I needed as a sponsorship for my car. It was like $850,000 then.

"One of them made the comment, 'Oh, Lord, we got millions of dollars. We got to do something with it.'

"And, you know, you rattle off what you think and sometimes it hurts you. I said, 'Well, if you got that kind of money you want to spend, you need to sponsor the whole circuit.'

"And they said, 'Well, how do we go about doing that?'

"And I still thought I was going to get a sponsorship out of it. I didn't think I was going to lose my sponsorship from them. They were a prime sponsor for a race car.

"When he said that, I said, 'I'll get you connected with Bill [France] Sr. and you can go from there.'

"And they said, 'We'll give you a phone number for him to call, and we'll work it out someway.'

"So I called Bill France and gave him the phone number and told him it was a possibility he could get them to sponsor the whole NASCAR circuit.

"He couldn't believe that somebody was talking like that, because it was pretty hard to get a lot of people involved in racing back then--because they thought it was a redneck ruckus everytime you went out to the race track.

"They got together and kept talking about it, and the following year they were the sponsor of NASCAR--and I lost the sponsorship. I had to go hunting for me a sponsorship.

"But, it worked out for the best. It was the best thing, I think, that happened to NASCAR."