Will Nextel ‘Sprint’ to the finish for NASCAR? | NevadaAppeal.com

Will Nextel ‘Sprint’ to the finish for NASCAR?

Roger Diez

Big changes are in the future for racing, both nationally and locally. By now I’m sure you have all heard about the Nextel/Sprint merger and wondered what it would mean for NASCAR.

So far, it appears that 2005 will be business as usual, but beyond that, who knows. Nextel signed a 10 year deal to be the title sponsor for NASCAR’s premier division, and 2004 was the first year for that partnership. With the so-called “merger of equals” in the hopper, it appears that Sprint is slightly more equal than Nextel, and will control 51 percent of the new company.

That means that all marketing programs will come under review once the transaction is complete. Will the new company be held legally responsible for Nextel’s commitment to NASCAR? You can bet that lots of lawyers will bill lots of hours figuring that one out. And with massive costs involved in technology changeover (the two companies’ networks are incompatible), will they want to spend the millions involved in sponsoring Nextel Cup?

When the Nextel title sponsorship was announced in 2003, I wondered at the time if NASCAR was aware of the volatility involved in telecommunications and high-tech in general. However, I didn’t think the deal would be put to the test quite so soon. It just goes to show you, it’s not possible to be too cynical these days.

Although Nextel’s press release was carefully non-committal beyond 2005, NASCAR put a more positive spin on things. Chairman Brian France stated,

“NASCAR is excited about the merger opportunity for its friends at Nextel . . . Once the merger is completed, the company will have greater resources in technology, services, and the ability to reach its customers. All of this will benefit the NASCAR relationship and will provide NASCAR the opportunity to reach new fans nationwide.”

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I hope he’s right, but I’m not ready to bet the farm on it.

Locally, it looks as if 2005 might be the last season for the venerable Champion Speedway after more than 40 years in operation. As reported earlier this year, a California development company has an option to purchase the property.

On Thursday a story appeared on the front page of the Appeal regarding a proposed 500 home subdivision on the property, a joint venture between Sacramento developer Reynen & Bardis and Barker Coleman Communities of Sparks. The neighbors, many of whom have been vocal in their opposition to the track’s continued operation in recent years, are now up in arms about the development.

I guess there’s just no pleasing some folks. Knowing our local government’s lust for tax revenues, I’d be willing to bet that the project sails through the approval process, and Champion will go the way of tracks like Ascot and Riverside in Southern California. So get out to Champion as often as you can this coming season – it might be your last chance.

The Carson Kart Kids were sparsely represented at the QRC Cup season finale at Red Bluff last weekend. Mackena Bell took the only checkered flag of the bunch, winning the 125cc trophy dash after qualifying sixth. Bell ran third in her heat and fourth in the main.

Cameron Bell moved up to 125 after two seasons in Box Stock, and made it as far as the B main where he ran 15th. Millard was eighth in his heat and second in the C main after qualifying 27th.

Zachary Heinz came home sixth in the Box Stock main after qualifying fifth and running second in the B main after a sixth-place heat race finish. Kellcy Bell ran eighth in the main, driving with a 101 degree fever and a case of the flu. Bell took second in her heat after qualifying eighth.

Jennifer Purcell qualified 17th, took fourth in her heat and 15th in the main. Mason Millard, the lone Carson City entry in Beginner Box, posted a third place in his heat race and sixth in the main.

Since it will be the day after Christmas when this column next appears, let me take this opportunity to wish you all a merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I hope Santa brought you all the go-fast toys you requested. If you didn’t get them, you might consider being nice instead of naughty this coming year.

Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist. Contact him at racytalker@aol.com.