LONG POND, Pa. – Barring an unexpected snag, NASCAR’s top series will have another name change, beginning with the 2007 season.

The company created by the merger of Sprint and Nextel is expected to take on the name Sprint. And what is now the Nextel Cup Series will change to the Sprint Cup Series, sources confirmed Sunday.

Company executives are expected to formally approve the new master brand name within two weeks. An announcement of the branding change for the Cup series would follow, sources said.

“No decision has been made. Obviously, we are conducting extensive research because we want to do this right,” NASCAR spokesman Michael Mooney said Sunday.

The new company, which has used the name Sprint-Nextel since the $35billion merger was announced in December, is expected to keep Nextel’s predominantly black-and-yellow color scheme in its marketing, including in the Cup series.

Last month, Nextel’s senior vice president of marketing, Mark Schweitzer, said he believed the new company would have its branding plans completed and presented to NASCAR by mid-July.

Schweitzer also said the new company was leaning toward using 2006 as a transition year and keeping the Nextel Cup name for at least one more season.

Nextel signed a 10-year deal in 2003 to replace R.J. Reynolds and its Winston brand as the title sponsor of NASCAR’s top series.

RJR had been with NASCAR for 31 years, signing in 1972 to take over what was then called the Grand National Series. The company teamed with NASCAR to build the Winston Cup Series into one of the country’s fastest-growing sports properties.

(c) 2005, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.).

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-06-13-05 2326EDT

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