NEXTEL REPLACES WINSTON AS NASCAR SPONSOR

Potential Conflicts May Exist With Other Companies

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Nascar on Thursday is expected to announce that Nextel Communications will replace R.J. Reynolds' Winston brand as the racing league's new title sponsor, executives familiar with the decision said.

The wireless communications company is expected to pay $30 million to $60 million a year for the rights, which Winston had held for 31 years before RJR decided to back out of its sponsorship. RJR informed Nascar of its decision earlier this year, citing its troubling financial problems and the instability in the tobacco industry.

2004 start
Instead of being known as the

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Winston Cup, the championship for Nascar's top racing series will be known as the Nextel Cup beginning in 2004. Nextel is based in Reston, Va.

Nascar officials did not return several calls. A Nextel spokeswoman said the company does not comment on sponsorship or marketing matters "until they come to fruition."

Sponsor conflicts
It is not known how potential conflicts with companies that compete with Nextel will be ironed out. Cingular and Alltel both sponsor individual teams that race on the circuit, while AT&T has a sponsorship agreement to be Nascar's official telecommunications company.

Nascar also spoke to Visa USA, Coca-Cola Co. and McDonald's Corp. about becoming the title sponsor.

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