NASCAR Driver To Promote DTV Transition

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Washington—Middle-of-the-pack NASCAR driver David Gilliland has agreed to use his No. 38 car as a high-speed billboard promoting the February 2009 national transition to digital television, the Federal Communications Commission announced Thursday.

The FCC—which just received $20 million from Congress to fund DTV education efforts—said it agreed to pay $350,000 to ensure that Gilliland's driving suit and Ford racer hood promoted the Feb. 17, 2009 federally mandated migration from analog to digital broadcast TV.

The FCC received a $100,000 government discount on the deal, an agency spokesman said.

"I believe this sponsorship is an extremely effective way for the FCC to raise DTV awareness among people of all ages and income levels across the United States who loyally follow one of the most popular sports in America," FCC chairman Kevin Martin said in a statement.

Gilliland, participating in the Sprint Cup Series, will race the FCC DTV sponsorship car in three upcoming events: Oct. 19 in Martinsville, Va.; Nov. 9 at Phoenix National Raceway; and Nov. 16 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"I'm flattered that the FCC chose our No. 38 Ford to help them convey the message about the upcoming digital television transition taking place next year," Gilliland said in the same statement. "I am honored to help promote the Digital TV Transition messaging."

According to the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) Web site, Gilliland is 27th in the standings, earning $3.1 million in 31 starts. In 2008, he has recorded one top-5 and two top-10 finishes, with no speedway victories.

On its Web site, NASCAR claims its auto racing "is the No. 1 spectator sport—holding 17 of the top 20 highest-attended sporting events in the U.S., and is the No. 2-rated regular season sport on television."

It's not clear how much TV time Gilliland's car will get if he's not in the front of the pack. The FCC didn't discuss alternatives if Gilliland wrecks his car or is injured and can't drive.