AT&T Suing NASCAR For Right To Sponsor Race Car

Friday, March 16th 2007, 4:34 pm
By: News On 6

MILWUAKEE (AP) _ Telecommunications giant AT&T will sue the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) after officials of the American series would not let the company put its logo on Jeff Burton's race car.

Burton's No. 31 car is sponsored by cell phone service provider Cingular, but AT&T recently bought the company and intends to eliminate the brand name.

AT&T spokesman Clay Owen said NASCAR officials repeatedly have not allowed AT&T to switch from a Cingular logo to an AT&T logo because of their contract with Nextel, which sponsors NASCAR's top series _ the Nextel Cup. He said AT&T filed the lawsuit, seeking legal permission to make the logo switch, Friday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Atlanta.

``This is really the last resort for us,'' Owen said. ``We've tried to resolve this amicably for months now.''

NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said he had not yet seen the lawsuit.

``Our position is we don't comment on litigation,'' Hunter said.

The tension between NASCAR and its teams has increased in recent years, as some team executives have complained NASCAR seems to be competing with them instead of helping them sign sponsors.

NASCAR's Nextel deal forbids teams that race in the series from signing new sponsorship agreements with competing telecommunications companies. The deal does contain a provision that allows teams with existing telecom sponsorships, such as Richard Childress Racing team that owns Burton's car, to keep their sponsors.

Owen said Cingular's contract with Childress' team contains provisions, required by NASCAR because of its Nextel deal, that say Cingular can't increase the size or placement of its logo on the car and can't switch its sponsorship to another team. But Owen said that contract does not contain language preventing a logo change if Cingular is bought out by another company.

Cingular, which is being renamed AT&T Mobility LLC, is based in Atlanta.