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Sponsor Wars: UPS Vs. FedEx

NASCAR expanded their sponsorship and marketing platform tenfold at the end of the 1990's due to a multi-billion dollar contract for national race syndication with Fox, NBC, and TNT. This interested nearly every fortune 500 company to be a part of sports marketing on a major level. In year 2000, historic Cup Series owner Robert Yates announced that Dale Jarrett was going to begin driving the #88 UPS Ford Taurus. It was the first time that UPS, or anybody from the logistics industry had entered the sport at this level.

In addition to having a near monopoly in the relationship that freight companies had with NASCAR fans, UPS went above and beyond in pushing their 'Dale Drive The [UPS] Truck' campaign. The commercials were well received, and UPS became one of NASCAR's most recognized brands.

In 2005, Dale Jarrett won his final career race at Talladega SuperSpeedway. He was driving the UPS sponsored Ford. This ended up being one of Dale's most popular victories. That same year, Joe Gibbs Racing unveiled their new #11 FedEx Team to be driven by the late Jason Leffler. After a dreadful start to the season, J.J. Yeley took over the ride temporarily, followed by rookie Denny Hamlin. It was only six weeks after Dale Jarrett's prior mentioned win at Talladega, that Hamlin would end up stealing the spotlight.

Hamlin claimed the pole at the penultimate race of the season that year at Phoenix. Overnight, Denny took over as the leading driver in his sponsor's category. Dale Jarrett was no longer the number one shipping ambassador.

As the season headed to an end, it was announced that 2006 would be Jarrett's final with Robert Yates and that he was moving to Michael Waltrip Racing in 2007. UPS changed the direction that they were headed and finally allowed for Jarrett to 'Drive Their Truck' in commercials moving forward. It was too late. While the great marketing heads at UPS worked diligently to have their brand noticed by race fans, FedEx and Hamlin were now leading the way. Jarrett's lack of performance on track made his car less visible in broadcasts. Meanwhile, Denny Hamlin became the first rookie to win the Budweiser Shootout to start the 2006 campaign. Over the next few years, UPS would settle for a part time sponsorship at Roush Fenway Racing's #6 Ford Team, and a marketing strategy that left NASCAR almost entirely on the back burner. They did become the official shipping service of NASCAR, in the late 2000's, but their product just wasn't emphasized on track or TV like in the past. The FedEx Toyota on the other hand earned 22 Cup wins and a second place finish in the standings by 2010. They also aired creative shipping ads including the 'Dear Denny' letters commercials at that time. In 2013, Denny injured himself in an aggressive late race incident with rival Joey Logano. He crashed front-end first into the inside retaining wall. He crushed his L1 vertebra, and was sidelined for several cup events. This put FedEx and Joe Gibbs Racing in an interesting spot. How were they to handle the vacancy?

Drivers Mark Martin and Brian Vickers were selected to fill in for a total of four events. They finished in the top 10 one time each. Vickers also had 2 finishes outside of the top 30.

Hamlin recovered faster than they expected and has only missed one race since that accident due to an unusual eye injury. His success on track has improved and he has won 3 of the last 5 Daytona 500's, a feat only previously accomplished by Richard Petty in such a short span of time. His FedEx Camry is recognizable to any fan, and he is a threat to win as often as anyone.

In regards to the Shipping War, We give this one to FedEx. Despite their late entrance into the sport, their consistent support and long-tenure with a high caliber driver such as Hamlin will continue this legacy far into the future.