AT&T, NASCAR Reach Sponsorship Agreement

The Associated Press
Friday, September 7, 2007; 8:12 PM

RICHMOND, Va. -- NASCAR reached an agreement Friday with AT&T that will allow the company to sponsor Jeff Burton's car through the 2008 season.

Moments after the agreement was reached, Burton's crew went to work placing the AT&T logos on his No. 31 Chevrolet at Richmond International Raceway.

"This agreement represents compromise from all sides that ultimately serves the sport well," said NASCAR chairman Brian France. "No one likes litigation ... and it was time to find a mutually agreeable resolution."

The agreement ends months of legal wrangling between AT&T, NASCAR and Sprint Nextel, sponsor of NASCAR's top series.

AT&T sued NASCAR over its refusal to allow it to replace Cingular as the primary sponsor of the Richard Childress Racing car after the telecommunications companies merged. NASCAR prohibited the name change because of its exclusivity agreement with series sponsor Sprint Nextel.

NASCAR had said only Cingular and Alltel, two companies involved in the sport before the Sprint Nextel deal, could compete. AT&T believed its 2006 merger with Cingular allowed the company to participate and didn't want to use the Cingular logos because it's phasing out the name.

A federal judge granted an injunction in May allowing the AT&T logos to be placed on the car, but an appeals court overturned that injunction last month. Burton raced the past two events without logos on his car.

"This solution that we've arrived at gives us a clear path for the next 16 months," said Dave Garver, executive director of business development and wireless sponsorships for AT&T.

"The way things were going was not good for NASCAR, not good for Jeff or the RCR team and not good for us. We really needed to come to some conclusion and ensure our brand."

Sprint Nextel chairman Tim Kelly said the agreement gives RCR ample time to prepare to move on without AT&T starting in 2009.

"We accomplished our ultimate goal of protecting our unique position with NASCAR while giving the No. 31 team ample time to transition to a new sponsor," Kelly said.

Garver said AT&T must leave the Cup Series at the end of 2008, adding the company could stay in the sport in a lower series.

"We love the sport, and we know it's a competitive industry," he said. "It's business, and none of us take it personally at this company. We understand how things work. We chose to make this agreement under our own volition."

© 2007 The Associated Press