New ti­tle spon­sor will get a bar­gain

Baltimore Sun - - NASCAR - — Ge­orge Diaz

NAS­CAR is ex­pected to have a tough time squeez­ing op­ti­mum value out of its next Cup Se­ries spon­sor now that Sprint is mov­ing on af­ter this sea­son.

CSM Sport & En­ter­tain­ment CEO Zak Brown told USA To­day Sports that the deal will not be as lu­cra­tive as the pre­vi­ous one, given the cur­rent market cli­mate. Nex­tel signed a 10-year deal re­port­edly worth $750 mil­lion to be­come ti­tle spon­sor be­gin­ning in 2004. Sprint then signed a t hree- year ex­ten­sion through the end of this sea­son, but that came at a re­duced rate of about $50 mil­lion in rights and ac­ti­va­tion fees, ac­cord­ing to Sport­sBusi­ness Daily.

So what price will be right in 2017? The an­swer should come within the next month with an ex­pected an­nounce­ment.

“It all has to be at the right level and the right price,” KimMeesters, gen­eral man­ager of t he NAS­CAR Sprint Cup spon­sor­ship, told USA To­day Sports. “It all has to be cus­tom­ized. That’s why it takes so long to put this kind of deal to­gether.” Bowyer’s out­look: Clint Bowyer is locked and ready to go next sea­son, re­plac­ing Tony Ste­wart at Ste­wart-Haas Rac­ing.

It’s a fair trade: One sar­cas­tic NAS­CAR star for another.

“I think it would be a per­fect role for me to work into,” Bowyer said. “Just a great out­fit over there; every­body from the top to the bot­tom. I’ve worked with Kevin [ Har­vick] for many years. I’m look­ing for­ward to Kurt [ Busch]. Kurt is the one that I’ve never re­ally known a lot about. Dan­ica [ Pa­trick], Sprint’s spon­sor­ship of the Cup Se­ries ends af­ter this sea­son. Who will be next? I’m closer to her than prob­a­bly some of the oth­ers, so I’m just look­ing for­ward to it.

“It’s go­ing to be a neat at­mos­phere, and some­thing that 10 years into this thing, one of the best op­por­tu­ni­ties ever is at your doorstep, it’s pretty cool.” Ke­selowski’s task: An ac­ci­dent last week in Kansas turned Brad Ke­selowski into a Chase bub­ble boy. He most likely will have to win this week­end in Tal­ladega to ad­vance. He trails points leader Jim­mie John­son by 44 points, although Ke­selowski only needs to squeeze into the top eight to stay in post­sea­son con­tention. But he is seven points be­low the cut­off line.

One thing to con­sider: Ke­selowski is the win­ner of the last two re­stric­tor-plate races (May at Tal­ladega, and July at Day­tona).

“I don’t think it is a must-win sit­u­a­tion,” Ke­selowski said. “I am not wor­ried about it. I am go­ing to go there and bust my butt to try to win, but I don’t think it is a must-win yet.”

JEFF CURRY/GETTY

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