Basketball legend Michael Jordan and three-time Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin will form a team competing in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series.
In a series of synchronized and orchestrated social media broadcasts, both Jordan and Hamlin confirmed their partnership and said, “Deciding on a driver was easy — it had to be Bubba Wallace.”
Wallace had 105 race starts over four seasons at the NASCAR elite level for Richard Petty Motorsports. Though he hasn’t won the Cup Series so far, he already won the Truck Series six times.
On Sept. 10, the American driver announced that he would not stay with RPM for the next season. He carries forward the renowned curlicued signature of team owner Richard Petty, tattooed on his right leg.
Michael Jordan is also the owner of the Charlotte Hornets team playing in the NBA. His ties to racing included ‘Michael Jordan Motorsports,’ a team that raced in the AMA Superbike Championship and claimed just one win in the ten years between 2004 and 2014.
When asked about the NASCAR team, MJ said: “Growing up in North Carolina, my parents would take my brothers, sisters and me to races, and I’ve been a NASCAR fan my whole life. The opportunity to own my own racing team in partnership with my friend, Denny Hamlin, and to have Bubba Wallace driving for us, is very exciting for me.
Historically, NASCAR has struggled with diversity, and there have been few Black owners. The timing seemed perfect as NASCAR is evolving and embracing social change. In addition to the recent commitment and donations I have made to combat systemic racism, I see this as a chance to educate a new audience and open more opportunities for Black people in racing.”
In a separate interview, Hamlin said:
“Starting a race team has been something that Michael and I have talked about while playing golf together over the years, but the timing or circumstances were never really right. It just makes sense now to lay the foundation for my racing career after I’m done driving and also help an up-and-coming driver like Bubba take his career to a higher level.”
Wallace also said:
“This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I believe is a great fit for me at this point in my career. Both Michael and Denny are great competitors and are focused on building the best team they possibly can to go out and compete for race wins. I’m grateful and humbled that Michael and Denny believe in me, and I’m super pumped to begin this adventure with them.”
The news of the team switch comes at a time of personal growth for Wallace. He advocated a message to combat racial discrimination and persuaded the NASCAR administration to drop the Confederate flag from all its races.
Under the rules, current drivers are not permitted to have a team of their own when racing for a different team. Hamlin is in a position to circumvent the law by having Jordan as the primary owner of the group.
The Jordan-Hamlin relationship has been lax on disclosing information such as organization name, manufacturer affiliation, sponsorship, and race car number. At present, the only information known is that the pair has entered into a team charter agreement with Germain Racing.