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Nike Has Shoe for Car Drivers

August 5, 1999

BEAVERTON, Ore. (AP) _ Athletic apparel giant Nike is hoping to shift sales into high gear with a new line of shoes aimed at the fast-paced world of auto racing.

The Beaverton-based sneaker-maker announced plans Thursday for flame-retardant shoes with sticky traction treads specially designed for race car drivers and their pit crews.

``We’re creating footwear for a whole different set of athlete,″ Nike Inc. spokesman Scott Reames said. ``Our whole premise is to make the driver and the team perform a little better, a little faster.″

While the shoes target NASCAR and CART racers, they will also be marketed to their millions of fans, Reames added.

Prices for the four different shoes will range from less than $100 for the Air Pit Demon to more than $200 for the Air Zoom Drive Pro. Dubbed Nike Racing, the line will make its debut in February 2000 to coincide with the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup at the Daytona 500.

Still, analysts question whether such a niche market is worth pursuing.

``By itself, it’s just not going to have much of an impact,″ said Mike Shea, an analyst with D.A. Davidson & Co. in Portland. ``I don’t think the product category is big enough to move the needle much.″

Nike is betting a new line of shoes will help fuel the company’s turnaround from a 1999 fiscal year that saw sales drop by nearly $800 million, or 8 percent, from the previous year.

NASCAR sponsors have reported a series of record attendance and TV audience figures this summer.

Already, Nike has line up some big name drivers to wear its shoes, including Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart, Adam Petty and two-time Indy 500 and CART series champion Al Unser Jr.

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