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Sprint To End Cup Series Sponsorship in 2017

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, December 16 2014

There will only be two more Sprint Cup champions. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

The Sprint Cup Series will no longer exist after the 2016 racing season. Instead, a new entitlement sponsor’s name will precede the word “Cup”.

That became known Tuesday when it was announced that Kansas-based telecommunications giant Sprint will part with NASCAR’s top series after its current contract expires in 2016.

NASCAR Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer Brett Jewkes acknowledged the split on Tuesday afternoon.

“NASCAR and Sprint,” Jewkes said in a press release, “have enjoyed a long and productive partnership that has returned significant value to both parties. We understand significant changes within Sprint and the highly competitive business environment it is in has led to a decision not to extend its Cup Series entitlement position following the 2016 season.

“The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is a very unique, premium sports marketing platform with strong momentum, so we are very confident of moving forward in 2017 with an outstanding new partner. In the meantime, we look forward to Sprint’s partnership on the best racing series in the world for the next two seasons.”

Sprint assumed title sponsorship of the series, which features stock car racing’s top teams and drivers, in 2008.

Previous to that, it had been known at the Nextel Cup Series. The name changed after Sprint merged with/took over fellow telecommunications company Nextel.

The series, which was founded in 1949, was originally dubbed the Strictly Stock Series. From 1950 to 1970, it was named the Grand National Series. From 1971 through 2003, it was known as the Winston Cup Series.

The series currently hosts 36 points-paying races each season.

Sprint is headquartered in Overland Park, Kan., just a couple of miles away from Kansas Speedway. Employees at the company have viewed races the 1.5-mile oval as hometown events.

Kansas Speedway president Pat Warren said the company’s partnership with NASCAR will be felt perhaps a bit more at his track and in his market than in others.

“They’ve been a huge, huge partner of ours,” Warren said. “And a great partner. They’ve really helped us and probably helped the city understand the sport in ways that it might not have had they not been here and not played the role that they have.”

Warren said he was not shocked by Tuesday’s announcement. First, because it has been rumored for many months, and, second, because of the changing nature of the telecommunications industry.

“I think this is really a reflection of what’s going on in the wireless industry,” Warren, a former Sprint employee, said. “When Nextel signed the deal, the wireless industry was still growing very, very fast so it made a lot of sense to close out competitors and capture the category of racing. NASCAR racing entirely. They kind of worked the other industry players out.

“Now the industry has matured and the focus is not as much on customer acquisition as it is on retention, network quality and service and other things and I think Sprint is looking at that landscape and saying we need to change our strategy. That’s my sense of it.”

NASCAR did not say if it has other’s already lined up to fill the gap as entitlement sponsor of its big series.

Some in the industry are choosing to look at Sprint’s departure as an opportunity.

“Much like 2004,” Eddie Gossage, president of Texas Motor Speedway said, “this is an enormous opportunity for a prospective sponsor to join one of the country’s most popular sports on its highest level. NASCAR has reached out in advance to industry people like myself to assist them in identifying a replacement title sponsor. We encourage NASCAR to find an active, supportive and long-term sponsor with broad consumer reach and minimal category conflict that proves beneficial to the entire industry in the future.”

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, December 16 2014
One Comment

One Comment »

  • jay moore says:

    Not surprised. These corporations want a bang for their buck and the $30 million they spend every year can get used in a better place. Ratings and attendance down expect more to defect to more viaable vehicle to promote their product.
    THere will be others leaving along with the fans… NASCAR has lost a lot of our expendable income by mismanaging their own show.
    Once TV realizes they can do without NASCAR many people will forget it exists.