CHARLOTTE — Charlotte Hornets Chairman and NBA legend Michael Jordan has partnered with three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin to form a NASCAR Cup Series team, officials with the basketball team said Monday night.
Bubba Wallace signed a multi-year deal to drive for the single-car team, which will begin racing in 2021.
Hamlin races for Huntersville-based Joe Gibbs Racing and Jordan, who grew up in North Carolina, said he has been a NASCAR fan his entire 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,” Jordan said in a news release. “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 more and more. »
The NBA great, who earlier this year pledged $100 million over 10 years for initiatives combating systemic racism, said the move into NASCAR is another step toward racial equality.
« 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.”
Tonight, I’m excited to announce MJ and I are starting a new, single car @NASCAR Cup Series team for 2021. Deciding on a driver was easy – it had to be @BubbaWallace. pic.twitter.com/nIJv0X6ZOX
Jordan joins former NBA player Brad Daugherty, a partner at JTG Daugherty Racing, as the only Black owners at NASCAR’s elite Cup level.
Jordan will serve as principal owner of the new team with Hamlin as a minority partner while he continues to drive the No. 11 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing.
“Eleven years ago I met Michael Jordan at a then-Charlotte Bobcats game and we became fast friends,” Hamlin wrote. « Not long after, I joined Jordan Brand as their first NASCAR athlete. Our friendship has grown over the years and now we are ready to take it to the next level. Deciding on the driver was easy — it had to be Bubba Wallace.”
OFFICIAL: Hornets Chairman Michael Jordan and three-time Daytona 500 winner @DennyHamlin have formed a new NASCAR Cup Series race team that will begin competition for the 2021 season. 🔗: https://t.co/OWtqAXQ1XX pic.twitter.com/HPw692OZeA
Jordan becomes the first Black principal owner of a full-time Cup team since Hall of Famer Wendell Scott drove his own race car in 495 races from 1961 to 1973. Scott’s 1964 victory at the Jacksonville 200 is the only win by a Black driver in Cup history.
“This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I believe is a great fit for me at this point in my career,” said Wallace, who is the first African-American driver to race full-time at the NASCAR Cup Series level since Scott. “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.”
While Jordan will serve as the car’s principal owner, Hamlin will be a minority partner while continuing to drive the No. 11 car for Joe Gibbs Racing, ESPN reported.
The name, car number, manufacturer, sponsors and other details for the new team will be announced at a future date.
“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,” Hamlin said. “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. Plus, Michael and Bubba can be a powerful voice together, not only in our sport, but also well beyond it.”
Wallace is the only Black driver in the Cup Series and this season used his platform to push for racial equality. The 27-year-old successfully urged NASCAR to ban the display of the Confederate flag at its events.
Wallace is winless in 105 Cup starts over four seasons, but he has six career victories in the Truck Series. He’s been handcuffed by mid-level equipment driving the No. 43 for Hall of Famer Richard Petty and, until this summer, the team struggled to land sponsorship.
“Bubba has shown tremendous improvement since joining the Cup Series and we believe he’s ready to take his career to a higher level,” Hamlin said. « He deserves the opportunity to compete for race wins and our team will make sure he has the resources to do just that.
“Off the track, Bubba has been a loud voice for change in our sport and our country. MJ and I support him fully in those efforts and stand beside him.”
There’s been speculation for months that Hamlin was organizing some sort of ownership group as he expects NASCAR’s business model to become more favorable for team owners when the “Next Gen” car is released in 2022. NASCAR rules prohibit a current driver from owning a team and driving for another, but Hamlin works around the policy with Jordan as the principal owner.
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