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BLOOMINGTON - Speed, safety and sponsorship have brought State Farm and NASCAR drivers Jeff Burton and Reed Sorenson together.

The Bloomington-based insurance giant has announced partnerships with Burton and his Richard Childress Racing team and Sorenson and his Chip Ganassi Racing team that will begin with Sunday's Daytona 500 in Daytona Beach, Fla.

"Last year we dipped our toe in the water with NASCAR," said Mark Gibson, State Farm's assistant vice president, advertising. "The next logical extension of our involvement was to get involved with a driver or drivers. Viewership for NASCAR is at an all-time high. The sport has got a lot of momentum around it."

State Farm will advertise on the broadcasts for almost every NASCAR race in the coming season on FOX, NBC, TNT and Speed Channel.

State Farm is sponsoring the drivers and not their cars so the company logo with not appear on either Burton's Chevrolet No. 31 Cingular car or Sorenson's Dodge No. 41 Target ride.

Burton will appear in a State Farm commercial during the Daytona 500 and throughout the Nextel Cup season. A State Farm logo will appear on Burton's racing suit and the uniforms of his pit crew as well as Childress Racing pit equipment. Burton also will make personal appearances on behalf of State Farm.

"Jeff is a State Farm policy holder with his personal car," Gibson said. "Drivers like Jeff, and especially Jeff, have been long-time advocates to make sure people know the key to success in NASCAR is about safety. That is a message consistent with us.

"State Farm has been at the forefront of many safety initiatives. That natural intersection of his focus and advocacy and our focus and advocacy is a natural fit for him."

The 38-year-old Burton finished 18th in the Nextel Cup standings in 2005. He had three top five finishes and six in the top 10.

Two 30-second spots featuring Burton will appear.

"We are very proud of them," said Gibson. "They are about the relationship a State Farm customer has with his agent."

Needless to say, the folks at State Farm were delighted when Burton earned the pole position for Sunday's Great American Race.

"We couldn't be any more pleased with the timing of our announcement," Gibson said.

State Farm commercials involving Sorenson will appear later in the Nextel Cup season.

The 20-year-old Nextel Cup rookie was fourth in the Busch Series standings in 2005 with two wins, 12 top five finishes, 19 top 10 finishes and two poles.

"Reed is a rookie this year and he appeals to the younger demographic," said Gibson. "It's key to be fresh and relevant to young adults. Younger drivers tend to pull in younger fans to NASCAR.

"The great thing about NASCAR is reaching new and different people and exposing them to the State Farm brand."

The State Farm logo also will appear on Sorenson's uniform and those of his pit crew during Nextel Cup and Busch Series races.

Like Burton, Sorenson will make personal appearances on behalf of State Farm.

State Farm has a history of sponsoring sporting events, including the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference men's and women's basketball tournaments.

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