Citgo pulls out of NASCAR sponsorship

Monday, June 16th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Citgo Petroleum Corp. will no longer sponsor a NASCAR racing team, the company announced Monday.

The Tulsa, Okla.-based company said the millions of dollars used to sponsor Roush Racing's No. 99 car, would be better spent on specialized marketing campaigns to get more customers to Citgo dealers and suppliers.

``The decision to get out of NASCAR racing was prompted by a shift in marketing focus that involves targeting a specific marketing area, said Kent Young, manager of Citgo public affairs. ``We believe we can do better with specialized local marketing plans than with a national program like NASCAR.''

Citgo, which has sponsored a NASCAR car for the last 18 years, will end its three-year relationship with Roush Racing and driver Jeff Burton when the season ends in November. The company would not disclose exactly how much it has spent on the sponsorship.

Roush Racing officials say they are actively looking for a new sponsor.

``So far 2003 has been a banner year for attracting sponsorship interest in our programs,'' said Geoff Smith, Roush Racing president. ``Now that the Jeff Burton, No. 99 program is available for sponsorships, we can complete our program sales mix by offering one of the top primary sponsorships in NASCAR Winston Cup.''

As the driver for Citgo's team, Burton, 35, has had 17 Winston Cup victories and is ranked 20th on NASCAR's all time career win list. He is ranked 10th among money makers in the sport.

Citgo officials say the millions of dollars used to sponsor Burton's car will be used to increase its customers base.

The oil company does not own or operate gas stations. Stations and suppliers agreed to carry only Citgo products to use the company's name.

Citgo, whose parent Petroleos de Venezuela SA is the South American country's national oil company, employs 4,500 people. About 950 of those are in Tulsa.

The company was hit hard earlier this year during the Venezuelan oil strike, when its credit rating fell and officials worried the strike would affect business. About half of Citgo's crude oil comes from Venezuela.