CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Denny Hamlin has sorted packages at FedEx headquarters on the busiest day of the year, been sent to the Super Bowl, the Orange Bowl and has done cross-promotions with golfer Davis Love III and Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.
But his latest sponsor outing may have been the most unique yet: FedEx sent him to Alaska to learn how to drive a dog sled with the reigning Iditarod champion.
"I get to do a lot of things I wouldn't normally get to do if I was not with FedEx," Hamlin said. "For me, it's good to have a sponsor that shows you in such a great light. I get so much credit for doing all these things, but they are the ones who are helping out the communities everywhere I go."
That relationship is one of the reasons Hamlin is currently negotiating a contract extension with Joe Gibbs Racing, more than a year before his current deal even expires. He looks around the garage and can't find many rides he believes are as competitive as his No. 11 Toyota. He understands he's got a very good thing going and how fortunate he is with FedEx backing him and JGR.
There are only four sponsors in NASCAR — Lowe's, Menards, Miller and NAPA — that pay for the primary sponsorship of a full 38-race schedule. 5-Hour Energy does 37 races, and FedEx is right behind at 36 with a visually uncluttered paint scheme that suits Hamlin's personality.
The company has been with him since his 2005 debut in a tryout role with Gibbs, and Hamlin has no reason to believe FedEx doesn't want to continue its sponsorship role.
"When I first got into this, I didn't realize the importance of sponsors and the value of building a strong relationship with a brand or a company," Hamlin said. "I sure see it now. You look around and see the struggles teams and drivers have in finding sponsors, or building long-term partnerships, and it makes you realize how fortunate you are to have someone who wants you and wants to have a strong relationship with you."
DuPont has been with four-time champion Jeff Gordon since his 1993 debut, and although the company has taken a lesser role the past two seasons, it's the longest driver-sponsor relationship in NASCAR. That ranks Hamlin and FedEx third, behind five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who has been with Lowe's since his 2001 debut with Hendrick Motorsports.