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Leonard: Looking for NASCAR's next top sponsor
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The announcement came Tuesday. Sprint will be the premier sponsor of NASCAR’s top series through 2016, and then it’s leaving.

Now the obvious question is which company will step in to sponsor the series starting in 2017. Who will follow in the footsteps of Winston, Nextel and Sprint?

I have no idea who the serious candidates will be, but here are a few fun suggestions based on how the companies and the sport could mesh:

1. QuikTrip: The convenience store/gas station chain is already sponsoring the March 1 NASCAR race at Atlanta and pulls in $11.45 billion annually, according to data on Forbes’ list of “America’s Largest Private Companies.” And it’s certainly an appropriate-sounding sponsor for a sport that can reach 200 mph.

2. Facebook: In this day and age of liking — photos, statuses and generally anything that pops up on the social network giant — NASCAR would fit right in. As its fan support has shrunk in recent years, NASCAR has sought to be liked by people who never will care about the sport through numerous changes in its postseason format. It has created excitement, but the chase to win over new folks likely won’t be successful in the long run.

3. Piggly Wiggly: I know the grocery store chain doesn’t have the foothold it once did, but the branding possibilities are endless. Have groceries ever been so associated with cool T-shirts as they have been through Piggly Wiggly? Now imagine the opportunity to have pigs and race cars on the same shirt promoting NASCAR. The sport could even change the name of “Victory Lane” to “High on the Hog.”

4. Verizon: The cell phone behemoth has been a part of numerous sponsorships of music venues. Now, it could dive into an even larger venture and scoop up the additional brand appeal of being associated with a sport that connects with fans across the country. Grabbing that perk after rival Sprint drops out would make it possibly all the more lucrative. Plus, the post-race celebration spot could become “Verizon Victory Lane.”

5. Geico: The car insurance power also provides plenty of splendid opportunities for marketing with its famous gecko, perhaps trying to avoid fast cars or strapping into one himself. And as much as NASCAR drivers are great at plugging sponsors, “15 minutes could save you 15 percent” could take on a whole new level of saturation.

Send your suggestions to Clark Leonard or criticize his at; 770-718-3418 or

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