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NASCAR drivers won't be the only ones leaving the courses with big prizes if Ford Motor Co. has its way.

David Ropes, who heads marketing and advertising at Ford, is studying a way to build a partnership with NASCAR and cable channel ESPN, which broadcasts NASCAR races, that will let Ford communicate with race fans. One idea Ropes likes is a contest that will allow fans to watch and guess the race winners on the Ford corporate Web site. ( A top prize has not been determined, but Ropes suggests it could be a Ford vehicle with NASCAR lettering.

Ford currently supports NASCAR with engines and cars and run ads on telecasts, but has no way of knowing who the fans are. The Internet will take fans to the Ford site

and acquaint them with Ford products. It also will allow the company to gather the names of Web site visitors.

"True marketing is not just putting in ad dollars," Ropes says. "We're looking to build partnerships; that's what the future will bring. ESPN and NASCAR is a

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