NASCAR on NBC podcast

Podcast: Why FedEx says a NASCAR sponsorship is worth a billion

1 Comment

As a sponsor that has invested eight figures annually for 14 seasons in NASCAR’s premier series. FedEx has spent well more than nine figures promoting its brand.

But for all those millions spent, the amount of exposure has stretched above 10 figures annually.

In the most recent NASCAR on NBC Podcast, which highlights the sponsor’s long-term relationship with Denny Hamlin and Joe Gibbs Racing, a FedEx executive shared a few interesting nuggets about how it tracks the efficacy of its NASCAR involvement.

“We measure it very closely, and we have more than a billion brand impressions generated from the No. 11 sponsorship each year,” said Patrick Fitzgerald, the senior vice president of integrated marketing and communications for FedEx. “It’s one of the reasons it’s important for us to be the sole sponsor of the No. 11 car.”

After selling off a few of its races last year, FedEx will adorn Hamlin’s No. 11 in every race during the 2019 season to gather those impressions, which Fitzgerald said cover myriad categories.

“It’s across everything,” Fitzgerald said. “Eyes on the brand at track, on broadcasts, on digital. Every place we’re able to activate the sponsorship”

Though the delivery and logistics company sponsors many sports globally (including golf, the NFL, international soccer and the NBA), its most visible spokesman is Hamlin, who scored his second Daytona 500 victory in February. The JGR driver has 33 victories with FedEx since 2006.

“He’s become a genuine extension of our brand and a real brand ambassador, and we’re proud of that,” Fitzgerald said. “He certainly understands our culture and business. He takes the time with customers and team members and does understand our business and what we represent and why it’s so powerful to have a long connection with the company and the brand.

“A lot of that can be credited to Coach Gibbs. Denny over time has watched and learned from the interaction with our brand and company. There’s no greater ambassador in sports for the FedEx brand than Coach Gibbs. That’s something that Denny has picked up from him and is a big part of it.”

FedEx also measures revenue generated through the business relationships fostered through NASCAR. More than 1,600 of its customers are entertained annually at NASCAR races by the company, which also considers the value of brand awareness.

“The overall mix, we get a lot of value,” Fitzgerald said. “NASCAR is a great example of the evolving media landscape. For example, with the advent of DVRs and other technologies that change the overall effectiveness of traditional broadcast advertising, the exposure you get from a race, which is DVR proof, you get tremendous brand value just being on that car lap after lap, race after race, and then in particular when Denny does something like amazing like winning the Daytona 500.

“When we host a customer at an event, we look at shipping volumes before and after, you can start to draw some conclusions of the effectiveness as a revenue generator. We looked at that closely.”

The special narrative edition of the podcast followed Hamlin on a trip to the sponsor’s headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee, and included reflections by the driver on the origins of aligning with FedEx and what the future might hold

Hamlin, who will turn 39 in November, signed a multiyear extension with FedEx in 2017 and would like to lay claim to having only one sponsor through the end of his NASCAR career.

“I’d like to do one more contract beyond what I have,” he said. “What I have is long term. We’re not even in the middle of that yet. So I’d like to be here.

“It’s so rare. We thought Jimmie (Johnson) would finish (his career) with Lowe’s. I think there’s something to be said about that. To have someone who is with you from the start to the finish. It’s all about dollars and sense and whether you can make things work, but I’m with the company I believe in and hopefully believes in me through the course of my career. I’d like to go at least 43-ish.”

To listen to the podcast, you can click on the embed above, or listen via Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play or wherever you download podcasts.

Podcast: Why a couple that stayed together no longer races together

Leave a comment

When she began dating Daniel Hemric, the former Kenzie Ruston knew they both couldn’t remain on their path together.

Not as a couple, mind you. Daniel and Kenzie Hemric tied the knot more than two years ago in Jamaica.

While their relationship was strong, it was the trajectory of their racing careers that was unsustainable for both securing full-time rides at the highest levels of NASCAR.

“Both of us weren’t going to make it,” Kenzie said during a NASCAR on NBC interview last year (watcht the video above). “I feel I truly stand behind him. I get to live through him.”

Shortly after getting married, Kenzie Hemric put her racing career aside to support her husband, who had begun racing full time in the Xfinity Series for Richard Childress Racing. During the most recent NASCAR on NBC Podcast episode, Daniel Hemric discussed how the couple handled their divergent career paths

“I told everybody, Kenzie is a full-blown superstar, the way she’s handled the last couple of years from her career on the driving side not working out, and the way she has handled that and stuck behind me, it’s been incredible, really, man,” Daniel said on the podcast. “I think about when we met, there were times I was sleeping on the floor of her Late Model shop while she was racing full time, doing what she loved to do, and I didn’t have a ride.

“To see the tables turned and her accept it the way she has and just be there for me is what life and hopefully the person you find to share life with is what it’s all about. She’s taken it with stride.”

She also has been his biggest cheerleader and critic as Hemric, 28, has risen to RCR’s No. 31 Chevrolet in Cup. Through nine races, it’s been a tough rookie season for Hemric, who hasn’t finished higher than 18th.

After finishing 31st because of contact with the wall at Auto Club Speedway, Hemric exited the car to a greeting from his wife.

“She looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘You screwed up, 100 percent,’” he said. “She was right. I just appreciate how real she is with me. Over time people will see that, she’s extremely passionate about it. It’s cool to find that person you can share that with and know that she has a better appreciation for it than most ever will. Very cool dynamic we can share together, and it’s cool to have her on my side.”

Kenzie Hemric, 27, made 44 starts in the K&N Series from 2013-15 with a career-best second at Iowa Speedway on Aug. 1, 2014. Daniel Hemric said there was never “a definite talk” about how to handle being a racing couple because Kenzie’s opportunities began to dry up as Daniel began racing full time in the truck series.

“The timing just didn’t work out,” Daniel said. “It took until two years ago, right before we got married. By then I’d gotten the Xfinity contract. Not that’s what it’s about, but we knew so much more time would be dedicated to what I had going on, and it was going to take all of both of our time to do it 100%. At the time, her Late Model stuff was great but to put in the effort in that I felt I owed her, it would take away from one or the other, so we made the decision that she would come and support me full time.”

There is a Super Late Model in the Hemrics’ garage that still might be put to use for Kenzie in the Snowball Derby or a local race but probably just for fun and not as a jump-start on her career.

“We decided fortunately for one of us, and for both of us, that we’re getting this opportunity,” Daniel said. “But we don’t look at it as, ‘You made, it and I didn’t.’ We did it together because when I say literally has been there from the beginning. She’s seen that side of Daniel Hemric to where it’s at now. She fully gets it. We just do it together.”

During the podcast, Daniel Hemric also discusses:

–The numerous breaks he caught to reach the Cup Series without many connections;

–His life-changing Legends Million victory and the amusing aftermath of siphoning gasoline from his winning car and sleeping at a Steak N Shake;

–His friendships with Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney and other up and comers in Cup;

–His Kannapolis, North Carolina, upbringing and the parallels to Dale Earnhardt.

You can listen to the episode by clicking on the embed above, or via Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play or wherever you download podcasts.

Friday 5: Will 2021 Cup schedule add more short tracks, road courses?

4 Comments

With the 2020 Cup schedule receiving positive reviews from many fans, the expectations for the 2021 schedule grow bigger.

While there will be talk of ending the season sooner, whether any tracks lose dates and if doubleheaders will be used more often, just as big of a question will be where the short track and road course events come from that fans want to see more of in the future?

Iowa Speedway could be an option. And there’s plenty of talk about Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, Tennessee. But are there others that are feasible and could make the upgrades necessary to host NASCAR’s top series?

What about road courses? Would Indianapolis Motor Speedway be better off holding its Cup race on the road course? Or would it make sense to put a Cup race at Mid-Ohio or Road America or Canadian Tire Motorsports Park?

There’s excitement with the 2020 schedule because NASCAR mixed up the races among the same tracks. That’s all NASCAR could do because the five-year sanctioning agreements with tracks go through the 2020 season. After that year, NASCAR has the ability to make more radical changes to the schedule.

Denny Hamlin says that as NASCAR looks at revamping the schedule, one thing must remain constant.

“I love the idea of more short track racing for sure,” Hamlin told NBC Sports. “I just want to make sure that the tracks are investing the proper money to make sure their facilities are good.”

In other words, make sure there are premier facilities for the premier series in NASCAR.

“It’s hard to sell this is big time if it doesn’t appear that way,” he said.

2. Will Texas be a true indication of the top teams?

Now that teams have had a little time to take what they learned from the West Coast swing and work on their cars, will the gap between Team Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing to the rest of the field shrink?

NBC Sports analyst Jeff Burton suggests on this week’s NASCAR on NBC podcast with Nate Ryan that some teams could close the margin.

“I heard Clint Bowyer make a comment on the West Coast swing and he’s like, ‘Look we know we’ve got to get better, but it’s going to be hard to do it now. There’s things that we can’t evolve in our cars, there’s not enough time,’ ” Burton said. “So I think potentially that Texas is a place where you can see not just Stewart-Haas Racing but other teams improve as well. … They learned at Vegas. They learned at Atlanta. They learned at (Auto Club), and I think you’ll see teams pop up.”

Among the teams to watch this weekend:

Will this be the weekend Stewart-Haas Racing scores its first victory of the season. The organization has had at least one car finish in the top five in each race since the Daytona 500.

Hendrick Motorsports has not had a car finish better than ninth at Atlanta (1.5-mile track), Las Vegas (1.5) and Auto Club Speedway (2-mile track) this season. Can that organization get a car into the top five at Texas?

Richard Childress Racing has shown speed — Austin Dillon won the pole at Auto Club Speedway and started fourth at Las Vegas — but can that translate into stronger runs? Dillon finished 20th Las Vegas and overcame illness to finish 10th at Auto Club.

JTG Daugherty Racing’s Chris Buescher placed ninth at Atlanta, 18th at Las Vegas and 16th at Auto Club Speedway. That’s been a good start for that organization but how much better can it be?

“We spent a lot more time, a lot of resources and at JTG getting everything ready to hit the ground running to make sure we were prepared for this season,” he said. “It worked out really good to start. We’ve got to stay ahead of it. I promise, nobody is sitting idle at this point. We’re still trying to figure out how to make our cars better each and every week.”

3. Same old, same old?

NASCAR announced modifications to group qualifying this week. The biggest change was an incentive to make a lap in each round after all 12 cars in the final round at Auto Club Speedway failed to complete a lap before time expired.

Cars sit on pit road during the final round of Cup qualifying at Auto Club Speedway. Photo: Fox Sports

Now, if a car fails to record a lap in a round of qualifying because the team waited too long, the car will start at the back of the field.

With the draft still a factor, will the rule make much of a difference this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway?

“I don’t think it will be much different from what we’ve seen in the past,” Denny Hamlin told NBC Sports about what he expects qualifying to look like today. “I don’t know that it will be such a detriment to be the first car out because I think Turn 1 and 2, they are so quirky in the sense that it’s really one lane. I don’t know if you will want to be back in the pack or so. 

“I think (Turns) 3 and 4 will be … more wide open and you’ve got all the grip you need so you want to be behind someone. I’m not sure you want to be behind someone in (Turns) 1 and 2. It’s such a flat corner. It really depends on whether that (traction compound) works the way we think.

“My general feeling is that teams will overreact and make sure we leave extra early, and then there will be an opportunity for us, the guys that really push the limit will get the pole, the ones that decide to lay back.”

4. Back behind the wheel

Greg Biffle, who last competed in Cup in 2016, ran 14 laps Thursday at Texas Motor Speedway in Kyle Busch’s truck. Biffle did this as preparation for the June 7 Gander Outdoors Truck Series race he’ll compete in for Kyle Busch Motorsports. He and Busch had talked for a while about doing this. 

As of now, it’s a one-race opportunity.

Greg Biffle talks to the media after running 14 laps in the first of two Truck practice sessions Thursday for Kyle Busch Motorsports. (Photo: Dustin Long)

“I could be talked into some more,” said Biffle, a former Truck and Xfinity series champion. 

While he might consider running more Truck races, he’ll need to fit it into his schedule of racing.

He will compete in the SVRA vintage and historic event this weekend at Road Atlanta and a couple of others this season. He also will take part in four off-road competitions with his UTV sand drag.

He’ll also drive in the 24 Hours of Lemons race April 27-28 at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, South Carolina. Those are races with cars that have been bought and track-prepared for $500 or less (not including safety equipment, brakes and wheels/tires).

“The last 24-hour race I did was the Rolex 24 in Daytona (in 2005 where his team finished 15th overall), so this will be a lot of fun,” Biffle said. “I don’t know why I wanted to do it, but it just sounded like a lot of fun.”

5. Racing for a bonus 

The top four finishers in Saturday’s Xfinity race at Texas Motor Speedway will qualify for the first Dash 4 Cash event the following weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The highest finishing eligible driver in a Dash 4 Cash race wins a $100,000 bonus. The four Dash 4 Cash races will be Bristol, Richmond, Talladega and Dover. Also, any driver that collects points in the Cup series is not eligible to compete in Dash 4 Cash races.

Nate Ryan contributed to this report 

Podcast: Austin Dillon on last year’s Daytona 500 finish, learning driver ethics from Tony Stewart

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s been a year since Austin Dillon made contact with and wrecked Aric Almirola on the last lap of the Daytona 500, clearing the way for his win in the “Great American Race.”

With the 2019 season beginning Sunday with the Daytona 500, the defending race winner sat down with the NASCAR on NBC podcast. Among the topics the Richard Childress Racing driver discussed were the fallout from that last-lap incident and how his driver code was shaped by the previous generation of drivers.

Dillon was impressed by how Almirola handled losing his shot at a win after the contact while racing for the lead.

“You lose the biggest race of the year, and he acted amazing,” Dillon said. “He handled it how you’re supposed to. I feel like I would handle it, understand it, but I don’t know if my emotions would be able to be held like his were together. So that was impressive I thought from him from that standpoint. He handled that really well. But I do feel like he knows that I didn’t just turn him. I made a move left, he did a pretty good job blocking, and I just went right. And when I went right, it hooked him.”

Dillon is in a unique position entering his sixth full-time season on the Cup circuit.

The 28-year-old driver has been around long enough to claim to have raced against Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, pillars of the generation of Cup drivers that preceded him.

Dillon discussed how Stewart, a three-time Cup champion, opened his eyes to the drivers ethics of the old guard and how they viewed hard racing.

Dillon’s Stewart-taught lesson came at Indianapolis one year, a week after Dillon held him up for a few laps in a race at Kentucky Speedway.

“I had a fast car,” Dillon said. “I’m running down Tony, and Indy is one of those places you can make it hell on somebody if you want to and your car is good in that certain area. Tony held me up for probably a full stint. Like a full fuel run. I could not get by him. I about hit the wall. I was so frustrated. After the race, he came by and said ‘Hey, I know you had the faster car and I could have let you go, but you know that was for last week, right?’ I was like, ‘Yeah man, whatever.’

“That’s kind of what the older guy mentality was. ‘We’re not going to race hard when the other guy is faster. You’re not going to do that.’ I kind of had to morph into that.”

Dillon said there’s “two different transitions going on” now with younger drivers entering Cup set on, “We’re going to race the (expletive) out of each other from Lap 1.”

“I was in a good transition period to understand … why certain people race that way,” Dillon said. “In Xfinity I raced hard every lap and then I got to the Cup Series and then I was like, ‘This is different.’ You got to learn how to do it. More guys are coming in now that just race hard, and I think everybody is starting to adapt to everybody just racing a lot harder.”

You can listen to the full episode below.

Other highlights:

— How Dillon became a good friend of Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, who will attend the Daytona 500 as a guest of Dillon’s (10:00)

—  Why Dillon believes the 2019 rules package will play into his hands (15:00)

—  The advice of Shaquille O’Neal on the Harley J. Earl trophy (20:00)

Austin Dillon’s connection with Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey

Jerry Markland/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Austin Dillon had no inside knowledge of the Charlotte Panthers’ plans before the 2017 NFL draft.

But he somehow knew he would be making a future connection with Christian McCaffery.

“I hit him up when he was at Stamford because I was a fan watching him run these crazy 100-yard runs that no one could tackle him,” Dillon said on the most recent NASCAR on NBC Podcast. “Getting close to the NFL draft time, I hit him up on DM (direct message) and said, ‘Hey man, I think you’re going to get drafted by the Panthers. I feel it.’ ”

The Panthers took the running back with the eighth pick, and Dillon immediately rolled out the red carpet.

“I told him ‘Dude, you’re coming here, you don’t know anybody. When you get here, hit me up, we’ll hang out,’” Dillon said on the podcast. “I got his number, and we started texting.”

Christian McCaffrey carries the ball for the Carolina Panthers during their Dec. 30 game against New Orleans. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

As McCaffrey adjusted to the rigors of being an NFL rookie, he and Dillon didn’t spend much time together until after the ’17 season. McCaffrey and several other Panthers players came to the All-Star Race last year. “That was the first time we met,” Dillon said. “He had a blast, hung out with us, saw the All-Star Race, and afterward, he was ready to beat Jamie McMurray up. He said the 1 car was in my way. I said, ‘Man, it’s just racing all good.’ ”

Dillon and McCaffrey since have hung out more often and now share the same hair stylist.

McCaffrey is planning to be at Daytona International Speedway this weekend to attend his second Cup race, watching as Dillon attempts to repeat as the Daytona 500 champion.

“That’s going to be cool,” Dillon said. “Yeah, I’m glad he’s going to come enjoy that in his offseason. He’s so strict about what he does during the season and the offseason, he’s just a legend when it comes to training and taking care of his body, diet. He’s really serious. If you can get him to slip out, it’s once in a lifetime because he’s so focused on his craft.”

McCaffrey’s training regimen has inspired Dillon to change his diet and get fit.

“We went to dinner, and they chose this spot in downtown Charlotte, all organic stuff,” Dillon said. “He talked about things he doesn’t eat. I was doing that a couple of years ago and stopped. I was eating right. No bread, no cheese before. But (McCaffrey) takes it to another level with certain things. I’m going to learn more from him this year. Might stop out in Colorado to talk about his diet and the people he uses.”

During the podcast, Dillon also discusses:

–His relationship with crew chief Danny Stockman, who taught him many lessons about racing in winning Xfinity and truck championships. The pair are being reunited in Cup this season;

–Why he thinks the 2019 rules package will benefit him;

–His enthusiasm about NASCAR’s foray into eSports;

–His unique perspective on how young drivers and veterans view racing ethics differently.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking above or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play and wherever you download podcasts.