Sponsorship Trouble For Burton

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Contrary to the belief by team owner Richard Childress that sponsor Cingular Wireless “is in it and is in it for the long haul" less than two months ago, it seems the company's new parent has different ideas.

A published report in Tuesday's Advertising Age reveals that AT&T, which is in the process of acquiring Bellsouth and its cell service Cingular, plans to eliminate the brand and rename the cellular phone division AT&T Wireless.

It is being reported that the decision was made in order to “eliminate customer confusion and make a much more elegant solution.”

While the ramifications of the switch will be felt in various places, it could be a major blow to Childress and his No. 31 team, which will lose its sponsor because of the switch.

Cingular was one of the three wireless phone company sponsors that were grandfathered in, along with Alltel and Samsung/Radio Shack, when NASCAR’s premier racing division switched sponsorship from Winston to NEXTEL at the end of the 2003 season. Because of the AT&T/Cingular name change, it would be considered a new entity and not be allowed to sponsor a car in the Series.

RacingOne has attempted to contact both RCR and NEXTEL regarding the situation but representatives for both companies were traveling Tuesday.

The news couldn't come at a worse time for Burton, who has turned around the No. 31 team's fortunes this year. His fourth place run at Talladega was the veterean's best performance of the season.

"It got pretty wild there the past five laps," said Burton. "It was fun because we made it. It wouldn't have been fun if we had wrecked."

And the prospect of losing his sponsor would be even less fun.

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