NASCAR Cup Series

Trading Places: High-Profile Sponsor Changes Nothing New in NASCAR

Tuesday’s announcement that Smithfield Foods would move from Richard Petty Motorsports to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018 triggered an angry fusillade of words between team owner Richard Petty and the meat giant.

But in reality, the move is hardly unprecedented in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Teams regularly try to — and sometimes do — lure sponsors away from each other. After all, it takes millions on dollars to put race cars on the track, and teams fight as viciously for money as their drivers do on the track.

Here are some of the more high-profile companies that have switched alliances over the years.


One of the most dramatic sponsor shifts in NASCAR history came when insurance giant Nationwide decided to quit being the title sponsor of NASCAR’s second-tier series so it could become Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s primary sponsor at Hendrick Motorsports, starting in 2015.


One of the longest tenured sponsors in NASCAR, A-B supported Junior Johnson in the 1970s with Cale Yarborough, and in the ‘80s with Darrell Waltrip and Neil Bonnett. Later, A-B backed Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne and now Kevin Harvick.


Before moving to Team Penske in 2011 where they sponsored first Kurt Busch and now Joey Logano, Shell sponsored Kevin Harvick at Richard Childress Racing.


The only full primary sponsor Jimmie Johnson has had since his rookie season of 2002 is Lowe’s, but before the home improvement chain joined up with Hendrick Motorsports, they sponsored several other drivers, including Brett Bodine and Mike Skinner.


For years, Stanley Tools was a sponsor at Roush Fenway Racing, but in 2015, the company moved to Joe Gibbs Racing and today is one of the primary sponsors for Daniel Suarez.


Another sponsor with a long history in NASCAR, NAPA sponsored Michael Waltrip when he won his two Daytona 500s in 2001 and ’03, later moving to Michael Waltrip Racing, where they sponsored first Waltrip and later, Martin Truex Jr. Now, they support Chase Elliott at Hendrick Motorsports.


The cereal giant was the primary sponsor for Terry Labonte’s No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet when he won his second Cup championship in 1996. Kellogg’s moved to Roush Fenway Racing in 2010.


One of the most identifiable driver-team-sponsor combinations is Kyle Busch with Joe Gibbs Racing and M&M’s, who are enjoying their 10th season together. But before moving to JGR, M&M’s was one of the primary sponsors for Robert Yates Racing.

5-Hour Energy

This year, 5-Hour Energy is sponsoring rookie Erik Jones at Furniture Row Racing. But before that, they were Clint Bowyer’s sponsor at Michael Waltrip Racing.

All article photos courtesy of Nigel Kinrade Photography © 2017 

By Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen is a veteran motorsports journalist. He spent 13 years with, where he was Digital Content Manager. Previously, he was executive editor of NASCAR Scene and managing editor of National Speed Sport News. Jensen served as the president of the National Motorsports Press Association and is the group’s former Writer of the Year.