Kansas City-based Sprint Nextel has agreed to extend its partnership with NASCAR and the Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR's highest stock car racing series, through 2016. The current 10-year agreement for $750 million was set to expire in 2013, but now has been extended by three years.
The announcement came at the annual Sprint Cup banquet Friday night in Las Vegas that closes out every season. Tony Stewart, the 2011 Sprint Cup champion, who won the title after winning the season-ending Chase for the Cup race two weeks ago at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
In addition to its title sponsorship of America's most popular auto racing sport, Sprint also has its name associated with the Sprint All-Star Race held annually in Charlotte, N.C., and supports NASCAR in other ways, such as providing for 15-20 cell-phone towers at each Sprint Cup Series race, as well as the Sprint Experience, a mobile interactive exhibit featuring driver appearances and driving simulators that entertains approximately half a million race fans each year.
"They (NASCAR) have made a number of bold changes over the past 18 months, from adding Chase wild-card spots, to revising the points system, to allowing NASCAR drivers to be NASCAR drivers," Dan Hesse, chief executive officer of Sprint, said at the end-of-year awards banquet.
"Sprint has been very successful in using our sport as a platform to enhance its brand and drive their business," said NASCAR chairman Brian France. "This new agreement aligns perfectly with our aggressive five-year plan, which is focused on continuing to improve our product, keep our existing fans engaged and reach new fans."
While the annual awards banquet brings down the curtain on another season of NASCAR racing, plans are already under way for when the curtain goes up again on a new season, beginning in February.
Among the changes race fans can look forward to in the 2012 season are the addition of Danica Patrick, who announced this past season that she is leaving her fulltime ride in the Izod IndyCar Series to begin competing fulltime in NASCAR in 2012. Patrick will become a regular in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for owner JR Motorsports and also race in select Sprint Cup events, driving the No. 10 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing. The widely popular female driver will make her 2012 NASCAR debut in the Daytona 500 in February.
Local NASCAR driver Carl Edwards from Columbia, Mo., will continue to race for Roush Fenway Racing next season after signing a new multi-year agreement that will keep him with team owner Jack Roush for the foreseeable future. Edwards has been with Roush since his Sprint Cup debut in 2004. Since that time, the Missouri native has won 19 Cup races in his No, 99 Ford.
Clint Bowyer, who hails from Emporia, Kan., will be driving for a new Sprint Cup team in 2012. Bowyer announced late in the 2011 season that he was leaving Richard Childress Racing, the team he started with in NASCAR six years ago. Bowyer signed a three-year agreement with Michael Waltrip Racing. He has five Sprint Cup wins and eight wins in the Nationwide Series in his six years competing in NASCAR.
NASCAR chief marketing officer Steve Phelps hopes that the extension of the sponsorship agreement with Sprint will encourage other companies to invest in the sport, particular at a time when several race teams are searching for sponsorships and some teams have shuttered their operation because of the lack of funding.
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