Denny Hamlin has joined Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan to form a Nascar team with Bubba Wallace as the driver, a high-profile pairing of a Black majority team owner and the only Black driver at Nascar’s high level.
The partnership was declared on Monday night in composed social media posts by Jordan and Hamlin, with Wallace including his own comment. The posts indicated an image of Jordan close by a firesuit-clad Hamlin in a RV at a race track.
“Historically, Nascar has struggled with diversity and there have been few Black owners,” Jordan said in his statement. “The timing seemed perfect as Nascar is evolving and embracing social change more and more.”
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 triumph at the Jacksonville 200 is the only success by a Black driver in Cup history.
The NBA incredible, who recently vowed $100m more than 10 years for activities battling systemic racism, said the move into Nascar is another progression toward racial equity.
“I see this as a chance to educate a new audience and open more opportunities for Black people in racing,” Jordan said.
Jordan joins previous NBA player Brad Daugherty, an accomplice at JTG Daugherty Racing, as the main Black proprietors at NASCAR’s world class Cup level.
“Michael and Bubba can be a powerful voice together, not only in our sport, but also well beyond it,” Hamlin said.
Hamlin, a three-time Daytona 500 champ and a strong competitor during the current year’s Cup title, will be important for a single-car Toyota entry lined up with Joe Gibbs Racing. Hamlin has hustled his whole career for Gibbs, a Hall of Fame NFL mentor.
“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.”
Wallace is the main Black driver in the Cup Series and this season utilized his foundation to push for racial uniformity. The 27-year-old effectively encouraged Nascar to boycott the presentation of the Confederate flag at its events.
Wallace is winless in 105 Cup begins once again four seasons, however he has six profession triumphs in the Truck Series. He’s been hampered by mid-level equipment driving the No43 for Hall of Famer Richard Petty and, until this late spring, the group battled 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.”
In a statement, Nascar welcomed Jordan to the series. “His presence at Nascar’s top level will further strengthen the competition, excitement and momentum growing around our sport,” Nascar said.
Jordan fiddled with hustling before with Michael Jordan Motorsports. He owned an AMA Superbike group and had one win in 10 years. Jordan has twice ventured out to the Nascarseason finale to watch Hamlin race for the championship. Hamlin, who is 39, is as yet looking for his first title.
“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,” Jordan said. “The opportunity to own my own race team in partnership with my friend, Denny Hamlin, and to have Bubba Wallace driving for us, is very exciting for me.”
Wallace, who has cobbled together about $18m in sponsorship deals since he made racial equality his platform, had just reported he was leaving behind Petty.
“This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I believe is a great fit for me at this point in my career,” Wallace wrote. “I am grateful and humbled that they believe in me and I’m super pumped to begin this adventure with them.”
Jordan and Hamlin bought a contract for their team from Germain Racing that ensures Wallace a spot in the 40-vehicle field each week.