RESTON, VA — Nextel Communications and NASCAR yesterday announced that a record points fund of more than $24 million will be distributed among the top 25 drivers in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup series at the end of the 2004 season. The payout, a component of the sponsorship agreement Nextel entered into last year with NASCAR, guarantees each of the top 11 drivers at least $1 million for the first time in the sport’s history.
The previous record points fund payout was $21,031,000 in 2003. This year’s record payout significantly ups the ante for drivers. The 10 drivers in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup series are competing for the lion’s share of the purse – $5.2 million – as well as the title of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion. The points fund provides incentive for teams not contending for the NEXTEL Cup series trophy, as the 11th place driver will win a minimum of $1 million.
R.J. Reynolds’ Winston brand began the points fund in 1971 to award end-of-season bonus money to teams. The 1971 purse totaled $100,000, including a $40,000 bonus for the series champion Richard Petty.
This year’s $5.2 million champion’s prize sets a new benchmark. The winner’s share reached $1 million for the first time in 1989 when Rusty Wallace won the series championship. It reached $2 million in 1999, $3 million in 2000 and climbed above $4 million last year.
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