Michael Jordan Starts NASCAR Team, Signs Bubba Wallace as First Driver

    • Jordan will become the first Black majority owner of a full-time race team in NASCAR’s premier series since NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Wendell Scott owned and raced his own car.
    • Wallace is currently the lone Black driver in NASCAR.

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Michael Jordan is now the majority owner of a single-car NASCAR team, with Bubba Wallace as his driver. 

The NBA great, along with three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin, purchased a NASCAR Cup Series Charter that will debut in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series. 

Wallace, having a breakout season, announced in early September that he would not return to Richard Petty Motorsports, with which he had made all of his 105 career starts at NASCAR’s highest level.

RPM had offered Wallace an ownership stake in an effort to get him to stay with the team in 2021 and beyond. 

Wallace has five top-10 finishes this year, including a fifth-place finish in the regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway, also the site of his career-best finish: second in the 2018 Daytona 500.

Wallace, the only Black driver in NASCAR, emerged as a prominent voice for social justice campaigns in the wake of multiple police killings of unarmed Black people over the summer and spoke out against the presence of the Confederate flag in the sport.

Jordan is now the first Black majority owner of a full-time race team in NASCAR’s top series since Wendell Scott, a NASCAR Hall of Fame member, owned and raced his own car from 1963-73. 

In a statement, Jordan 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 more and more. 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.”

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It is the latest business move this year for Jordan, who is also the majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets. He previously took an equity stake in DraftKings, while also being named a special advisor to the company’s board. Jordan and his brand also pledged $100 million over the next 10 years to organizations dedicated to “ensuring racial equality, social justice and greater access to education.”

Hamlin, who was Jordan Brand’s first NASCAR athlete, said that he and Jordan became friends after meeting 11 years ago at a Charlotte Bobcats game. He will remain the driver of the No. 11 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“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, 39, said in a statement. “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.”

Hamlin was an owner in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series in February, for which Jordan designed a Jumpman-themed No. 23 car. 

NASCAR said in a statement it “proudly welcome[s] Michael Jordan into the NASCAR family, and look[s] forward to watching Michael, Denny Hamlin and Bubba Wallace compete in 2021.”

“His presence at NASCAR’s top level will further strengthen the competition, excitement and momentum growing around our sport,” it said.