NASCAR Rings In Nextel

NASCAR put out a call for a new series sponsor at the beginning of the year. On Thursday, it was officially answered.

Nextel Communications will become the title sponsor of NASCAR's top series beginning in 2004. The ten year agreement will turn what has been known as the Winston Cup Series since 1971 into the NASCAR Nextel Cup. The announcement was formally made at a media conference in New York Thursday morning.

Terms of the agreement were not announced but sources report Nextel will pay NASCAR approximately $50 million annually with an additional $40 million earmarked for television advertising in support of the series.

"Nextel is a partner with a strong brand, a bright future, and a vision for growing our sport," said NASCAR Chairman Bill France. "They are one of the most technologically advanced and an acknowledged leader in a sector that helps drive the U.S. economy."

Nextel is based in Reston, Va. and was ranked the No. 1 Info Tech company by Business Week. The Fortune 300 company is a leading provider of fully-intergrated wiresless voice and data communications services.

"It's unmistakable that NASCAR and Nextel have a shared passion for performance, innovation, loyalty and excellence," said Nextel president and CEO Tim Donahue. "We can't wait to begin this new chapter in NASCAR-Nextel history, to connect with everyone involved in the sport. This is a truly monumental day for us."

Nextel replaces R.J. Reynolds, which has had its Winston brand as the title sponsir of the sanctioning body's premier series since the 1971 season. The company invested millions of dollars into the series in the course of the 33-year partnership, helping to bring it to national recognition.

However with increasing government regulations and marketing hurdles, RJR chose to transition away from NASCAR.

"R.J. Reynolds has been an invaluable partner for more than 30 years," said France. "The company and its people have invested heart and soul into our sport, helping to grow NASCAR to what it is today. We will always be grateful for our long and successful partnership."

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