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Winston Cup Series

Friday, April 25

NASCAR looking for title sponsor
Associated Press

FONTANA, Calif. -- Negotiations are under way with several companies as possible successors to Winston as title sponsor of NASCAR's top series.

Names regularly mentioned in recent speculation include McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch and VISA.

That speculation has been growing since January, when R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. said it had given NASCAR permission to look for a new sponsor for the Winston Cup Series.

Brian France, senior vice president of NASCAR and the grandson of the founder of the sanctioning body, confirmed Thursday to a group of Associated Press sports editors at a meeting in New York that the sanctioning body was in negotiations with several companies. France declined to identify them.

NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter, at California Speedway for Sunday's Auto Club 500, said Friday that France and COO George Pyne are "leading the effort and being very diligent with the companies to make sure they understand the scope of this sponsorship. And they are being very diligent in getting a company that fits.

"This is a once-in-25-30-year deal.''

As of now, RJR remains involved in the sport. The company signed a five-year contract extension in July that runs through the 2007 season. The deal has been estimated to pay NASCAR anywhere from $30 million to $60 million annually.

The company has been title sponsor for NASCAR's top series since 1971. Many credit Winston with building NASCAR to its current status as a mainstream sport, establishing a points fund and pumping millions of dollars into the sport.

This year's season-ending points fund is $17 million, with the Winston Cup champion getting $4.25 million.

"There is a lot of interest,'' Hunter said. "They're going through everything they can to be sure we get a company that will be with us as long or longer than Winston has. We're looking for a partner."

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