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NASCAR today announced that Nextel Communications will become the title sponsor of NASCAR's premier national series and one of America's most popular sports.


Under the 10-year agreement, Nextel, a leading provider of wireless communications services on the largest all-digital wireless network in the country, will have unlimited opportunities to market and promote the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, beginning in the 2004 season.


"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. The serious and substantial commitment Nextel brings to our sport will benefit the fans, drivers, teams, owners and tracks."


"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, and to connect with everyone involved in the sport. This is a truly monumental day for us."


"This is a perfect fit," said NASCAR Vice Chairman and Executive Vice President Brian France. "Technology is an emerging area of growth for NASCAR and its fans “ who have a penchant for using wireless communications. Nextel will be able to promote its association with NASCAR in a variety of media, targeting fans across the country. While NASCAR is No. 1 in fan brand loyalty, No. 2 on television, and No. 3 in licensed products sales, our objective is to continue to grow our sport and to expand and diversify our sponsorship base."


The NASCAR Nextel Cup Series will consist of 36 championship points races at 23 tracks in 19 states, including events in the Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas/Ft. Worth and Miamimarkets. NASCAR is the second most-watched professional sport on television and has more Fortune 500 company sponsor participants than any other sport.


"The NASCAR Nextel Cup is an unprecedented opportunity to brand the most exciting championship series in sports “ which lasts 10 months of the year, travels to all corners of the U.S., and captures the imagination of 75 million fans," said Donahue. "We're already hard at work planning a full slate of technical, marketing and promotional plans to establish a relationship with NASCAR's passionate fan base and dedicated business partners. NASCAR's reach is unmatched and we're thrilled to be associated with it."


In the most recent survey of sports properties, conducted by Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal in 2000, NASCAR ranked No. 1 in the areas that sponsors rate as the most important in determining their marketing decisions: the sport's future prospects; responsiveness to customers; fan relationships; and value provided for the money. NASCAR internal research shows that its fans are three times as likely to try and purchase its sponsors' products compared to companies not involved in NASCAR.


Nextel will replace R.J. Reynolds' Winston brand as title sponsor of NASCAR''s premier series. RJR has sponsored the NASCAR Winston Cup Series since 1971, investing millions of dollars to support NASCAR. However, in the face of increasing limitations on tobacco companies' marketing activities, as well as new financial obligations, RJR chose to transition away from NASCAR.


"R.J. Reynolds has been an invaluable partner for more than 30 years," NASCAR Chairman Bill France said. "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."


NASCAR has a broad reach with 1,800 racing events in 36 states at more than 110 tracks. The sanctioning body for stock car racing is headquartered in Daytona Beach, Fla, with offices in New York City (Corporate Marketing), Los Angeles (Broadcasting Media and Entertainment), Charlotte, N.C. (Licensing and Aftermarket), and Concord, N.C. (Research and Development Center). Based in Reston, Va., Nextel Communications, a Fortune 300 company and ranked the No. 1 Info Tech company by Business Week, is a leading provider of fully-integrated wireless voice and data communications services including Nextel Direct ConnectÒ and Nationwide Direct ConnectÔ “ the long-range digital walkie-talkie feature; high quality digital cellular services; Nextel OnlineÒ wireless data content and business solutions; and two-way messaging service. The company has built the largest guaranteed all-digital wireless network in the country, covering thousands of communities across the U.S.. Nextel and Nextel Partners, Inc., currently serve 198 of the top 200 markets with services available today in areas of the U.S. where approximately 240 million people live and work.

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