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What Daytona 500 champ Denny Hamlin has in common with Zion, LeBron

Grete Suarez
Producer

What does Zion Williamson, Denny Hamlin, and LeBron James have in common?

They are all linked by Michael Jordan’s Jumpman.

The Nike (NKE)-owned brand just signed up the NBA rookie sensation Zion Williamson, offering him the richest shoe deal for a rookie in basketball history. He’s also joining Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin in Jumpman’s expanding family.

For sports figures, big brand endorsements are everything — and can often dwarf an athlete’s salary. Sponsorships are something Hamlin told Yahoo Finance was a lifeline for many NASCAR race teams, and their drivers.

“In a sport where you see the costs rising so much to keep cars on the racetrack, and now teams are having to differentiate - ok this is the sponsor of this race,” Hamlin said on Yahoo Finance’s YFi PM this week.

The racer has one particularly big name behind him: FedEx (FDX), who’s long been a full-time sponsor. His other corporate partners include Coca-Cola (KO), Toyota (TM), and of course, Jumpman.

“It’s so rare our sport, and I thank my lucky stars every day that I’ve with such great companies that find the value in NASCAR,” he said.

DAYTONA, FL - JULY 05: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Cares Toyota, during practice for the Coke Zero Sugar 400 on July 5, 2018 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fl. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)


The NASCAR star has something in common with one NBA player who’s a brand in his own right.

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, who is also partnered with Nike, was seen sporting a pair of Nike Air Zoom Generation shoes. They’re made from the fireproof suede cut from the same material as Hamlin’s racing boots.

“They basically took the material they make my shoes out of and they wrapped his shoes in it,” according to Hamlin. The material in James’ shoes is dyed purple — the signature color of FedEx.

“They’ve been in the sport for 15 years, but 14 years full seasons for me. FedEx has been the only one on my car the entire time, which is a rarity,” Hamlin said.

Meanwhile, Hamlin is devoting a race to promote school pedestrian safety.

The driver is partnering with FedEx to drive a specially designed Toyota for an upcoming race on August 4th. This is alongside the FedEx Cares 50 by 50 initiative, where the delivery company hopes to impact 50 million people by their 50th anniversary in 2023.

“FedEx Cares 50 by 50 will allow us to continue to work with some of the world’s top nonprofits to move the needle on social challenges like sustainable transportation, road safety and youth unemployment,” FedEx wrote in a statement.

The FedEx Cares car will take the green flag for the 220-mile road course race at 3 p.m. ET, live on NBCSN.

Grete Suarez is producer at Yahoo Finance for YFi PM and The Ticker. Follow her on Twitter: @GreteSuarez

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