Sanford of North America will sponsor NASCAR's most popular event and rename Bristol Motor Speedway's August night race the Sharpie 500, speedway officials announced today.

Although NASCAR drivers use Sharpie markers almost every time they sign autographs, sponsorship of the Sharpie 500 is Sanford's first official entry into motorsports.

"NASCAR fans catch their favourite drivers signing autographs with Sharpie markers," said Paul D Donahue, Sanford's president, "To join NASCAR's most popular autograph pen with NASCAR's most popular race was an easy decision for the Sharpie brand to make. NASCAR's new television package places the sport in position to enjoy another phenomenal burst in popularity, and we want the Sharpie brand to benefit from the explosion."

"I see drivers every week reaching for their Sharpie markers to sign autographs for race fans," added Speedway Motorsports chairman and CEO Bruton Smith, "Now, we take pride officially introducing Sharpie to the world of motorsports and to race fans' favourite track, Bristol Motor Speedway."

Sanford produces and sells high value writing instruments, mechanical pencils, permanent markers, highlighters, pens, professional art products, sharpeners, presentation products, and children's writing and art products. Brand names include Sharpie, Papermate, Accent, Expo, Vis-A-Vis, uni-ball, Colorific. Parker and Waterman.

TBS will televise the race Saturday night, 25 August, 2001.

Like all NASCAR Winston Cup drivers, Jimmy Spencer signs a lot of autographs with Sharpie markers, but just how many is anyone's guess, and that question forms the point of a 2001 Sharpie 500 promotion supported by the accounting firm of Dent K Burk Associates.

In the weeks leading up to this year's 40th Anniversary August NASCAR race weekend, fans may log on to and enter their estimates of how many autographs Jimmy Spencer will sign during his
three-day stay in Bristol for the Sharpie 500 weekend.

The fan who comes closest will win a VIP trip for two to the 2002 Sharpie 500. The trip will include airfare, hotel accommodation, luxury suite tickets to the Food City 250 and Sharpie 500, and pit passes for the weekend.

From the time Spencer arrives in Bristol in August until the time he leaves, an accountant from Dent K. Burk Associates will be with Spencer, counting every autograph Spencer signs with his Sharpie. Each fan may enter only one guess, and the winner will be notified after representatives of Dent K Burk determine the results.