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Writing on the Wall at Speedway

Auto racing: Fontana track seeking naming-rights deal that industry analysts say could fetch as much as $30 million over 10 years.


By the time NASCAR returns to California Speedway next spring, the track could be renamed for a corporate sponsor.

Envision, the Los Angeles company that negotiated the $116-million naming-rights deal for Staples Center, has been retained to find a similar corporate partner for California Speedway and has invited "several dozen prospects" to attend this weekend's races, company president Jeff Knapple said Wednesday. A 10-year deal could be worth $20 million to $30 million, industry analysts said.

Although corporate sponsors infiltrated racing long ago, as a glance at any car or racing suit would confirm, track owners have not been as aggressive in selling naming rights as owners of baseball, basketball, football and hockey teams.

In 1999, in the first such agreement in auto racing, Charlotte Motor Speedway was renamed Lowe's Motor Speedway for $35 million over 10 years. Earlier this month, Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey became Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca, for $7.5 million over five years.

California Speedway President Bill Miller said the Fontana track is profitable even without revenue from naming rights.

"We're in the business of generating revenue," Miller said. "It allows you to expand the facility and share a partnership with a sponsor."

Sunday's NAPA Auto Parts 500 is sold out, even with the addition this year of 5,875 grandstand seats. The speedway is considering increasing capacity beyond the current 125,000 and bidding for other events, including a second NASCAR race each year.

For now, however, California Speedway hosts a NASCAR race in the spring and a CART event in the fall. Would a company really pay millions to slap its name atop a facility with six days of racing a year?

Dean Bonham, whose firm negotiated naming-rights deals for PNC Park in Pittsburgh and Xcel Center in St. Paul, Minn., noted that each three-day race weekend attracts more than 200,000 fans and that television ratings for auto racing are booming at a time ratings for other sports are declining.

"That will deliver significant exposure," Bonham said. "It's not going to be on the level of a Staples Center. The value is not the same. But there's absolutely value there."

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