A local trucking company is hitching a ride to NASCAR’s big leagues.
Estes Express Lines, a freight shipping and transportation company headquartered on West Broad Street, has bought its way back into the spotlight of Richmond International Raceway.
The Richmond-based company is teaming up again with NASCAR driver Jeb Burton, this time as the primary sponsor of his No. 26 Toyota Camry in Saturday’s Toyota Owners 400.
The company sponsored Burton last year in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series. While that sponsorship was with a different racing team, the partnership led to Estes’ current deal with BK Racing, which Burton joined this year for his rookie season in the elite Sprint Cup Series.
The 10-race deal makes Estes the primary sponsor of Burton’s car for two races – both at RIR – and an associate sponsor for the remaining eight events. Primary sponsorships mean Estes’ name and logo are given prominent placement on the car’s hood, tail and sides. Associate-level sponsorship involves smaller logos on the car’s rear quarter panels.
While a handful of companies sponsoring drivers this year have a presence in Richmond – Comcast, Central Atlantic Toyota Dealers, Federated Auto Parts and Virginia529 College Savings Plan among them – Estes is the only one headquartered in Richmond, according to officials with NASCAR and RIR.
Liz Denby, Estes’ marketing and communications director, said the sponsorship is a valuable investment for the company. With the Sprint Cup Series comes greater exposure, which she said is one of several returns on the company’s investment.
Denby would not put a monetary value on the sponsorship package; she said package prices vary depending on driver’s experience, the racing team and the level of racing series.
“There are so many variables that kind of add to it,” she said. “It is an expensive undertaking, no doubt. But for the right company, it is a worthwhile investment.”
She said one of Estes’ vendors that had a presence in NASCAR provided funding last year that facilitated the sponsorship with BK Racing.
“Since that money had been generated through the Burton relationship,” she said, “the company felt that it was best to apply it back to the Burton relationship.”
On top of laying the groundwork for the Sprint Cup sponsorship, Denby said last year’s arrangement also led to other business deals and networking opportunities.
“We all thought that Jeb had done a really good job for us last year. He represented the company well; a lot of our employees had the opportunity to meet him and develop a fan base around him,” Denby said. “In addition to that, as is usual in NASCAR relationships, drivers and teams throughout the season introduce companies that are sponsors to business development opportunities, and Jeb and the Burton family helped with a relationship that we had been working on with a vendor.
“This year, we have a nice opportunity to stay in the sport and be visible – and to do so on that big, national platform,” she said. “So we’re happy to participate.”
Estes is headquartered at 3901 W. Broad St. It was ranked as the top privately held employers in Richmond in 2014, with more than 1,000 local employees, according to a BizSense ranking last year.
While Estes is the only local sponsor in Saturday’s race, it is not the only Richmond-based company to sponsor a car in recent years. Last year, the Friedman Law Firm signed on as a lead sponsor for Joe Nemechek’s car in a race at RIR.