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Sprint Drops the Call at Daytona

Tuesday, 19 Feb 2008 | 9:26 AM ET
Sprint - Together with Nextel
Sprint - Together with Nextel

Daytona Ending Not Good For Sprint

It hasn't been easy for the folks at Sprint these days.

They lost about 1 million customers last year and were readying to announce on Feb. 28 the amount of its write-off related to its merger with Nextel (reports have it at as much as $31 billion).

Then, just as they were ramping up for 2008, the first year in which the Nextel Cup Series would be renamed the Sprint Cup, as they inherited the largest sponsorship in sports (the 10-year, $700 million deal was signed by Nextel in 2003), the wrong driver's number came up as the winner of the Daytona 500 on Sunday.

It was No. 12 and Ryan Newman. The bad news? It was the Alltel car.

For the amount of money Nextel and now Sprint is paying, it's almost impossible to believe that there are telecommunication competitors in NASCAR, but Alltel and Cingular were grandfathered in with the deal and when Cingular was bought by AT&T, they got in by agreeing to be out by the end of this year.

AT&T is the nation's largest wireless carrier (70.1 million subscribers), Verizon is second (65.7 million) and Sprint is third (54 million).

The truth is that Nextel and Sprint didn't really have much to worry about in Cingular, AT&T and Alltel. Robby Gordon, Jeff Burton and Ryan Newman, who drove cars with those sponsors, frankly weren't winning races.

In fact, Newman's win at Daytona is only the fourth time since the beginning of the 2004 season (the year that grandfather clause was instituted) that a driver whose primary sponsor was a competitor of Sprint/Nextel has won a race.

Newman won twice in 2004 (the DHL 400 and the MBNA America 400) with Alltel, the private company that is the fifth largest mobile company. And Burton won once in a Cingular paint scheme at the Dover 400 in Sept. 2006. If Newman finds Victory Lane a lot in 2008, that could further add to Sprint's troubles.

Nike Logo Update

Despite a reader's claim that Nike's logo was copied from Cold War Nike missiles, the two Nike missile experts I've contacted don't seem to corroborate this claim.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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