Nextel Connects With NASCAR

CONCORD, N.C. - Nextel Communications unveiled its plans to kick off the 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series season today at the UAW-GM Motorsports Media Tour, exactly seven months to the day when Nextel announced it will be the new series sponsor.

Nextel is ready to direct connect to millions of NASCAR fans in 2004, and they've got the marketing plan to prove it.

Nextel opted not to promote the new sponsorship until yesterday with commercials, because they didn't want to take anything away from R.J. Reynolds' last year as the Series' title sponsor.

"Until January, this was still the Winston Cup, not the Nextel Cup, and R.J. Reynolds has been such an important part of this sport, we thought it was important for us to stand back," said Tim Donahue, Nextel president and CEO.

In 2004, there will be more than 1,300 Nextel signs at 23 tracks. The new sign for the entrance to Daytona will say, "New Cup, New Color, Same Race."

Along with the commercials, Nextel will also feature one heritage segment per race, with the first one being Richard Petty at Daytona.

The familiar Winston Vision will now be Nextel Vision, with up to six screens being placed throughout the speedway. Nextel is also looking into placing more big screens outside the track for example in campgrounds, souvenir alley, etc.

Nextel will also launch 11 licensed phones and one Nextel Series phone on Feb. 9. Down the road Nextel plans to add more driver phones and a legend series edition.

The first series will include Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Pictured), Dale Jarrett, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, Tony Stewart, Michael Waltrip and Rusty Wallace.

The next batch of drivers to be released has yet to be determined, but Nextel said they might let the fans vote on who should be next.

The Nextel Experience (Pictured) will be an interactive place for fans to visit outside of the track that will include simulators, pit stop demonstrations and a history section that will include race worn items.

Nextel also plans to hold non-race night entertainment called "Nextel Nights", hand out fan premiums like decals and host driver appearances at each race.

The telecommunications giant will also enhance cell phone reception around the track during Nextel Cup events. Over 80% of calls are blocked at NASCAR events due to lack of capacity, and Nextel plans to help NASCAR fans connect easier with the help of NASCOW (Cellular on Wheels). The NASCOW will be the main cellular enhancer trailer (Macro Cell Sites) that will be placed in the infield. Other Super Cow's, which are littler versions of the main trailer will be placed in various locations around the speedway. These Cellular on Wheels will allow for enhanced voice and data communications throughout a NASCAR event.

Probably the most frequent asked question regarding the new Nextel sponsorship is, "Will I still be able to use my scanner at the races?" And the answer is...Yes.

Nextel has no intention of eliminating current scanners to implement new equipment. The company has said they will work to make the existing frequencies better and have no plans to make the current hardware being used obsolete.

Finally, Nextel will put major emphasis on the Drive for Diversity, driver safety with their "Smart Drivers Talk Safely" program and will be active among charitable organizations including the American Red Cross Donate a Phone and the Victory Junction Gang.

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