On the heels of NASCAR banning Confederate flags and the Bubba Wallace/Black Lives Matter controversy comes word that NBA great Michael Jordan has teamed up with NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin to form a new NASCAR team. Together they announced that Bubba Wallace will drive for the team. This is the first Black majority team owner paired with a Black driver in the history of NASCAR’s Cup Series.
“NASCAR is evolving and embracing social change more and more”
“Historically, NASCAR has struggled with diversity, and there have been few Black owners,” Jordan said in a statement. “The timing seemed perfect, as NASCAR is evolving and embracing social change more and more. I see this as a chance to educate a new audience and open more opportunities for Black people in racing.”
This is only the second time a Black principal team owner has fielded a Cup team since Wendell Scott drove between 1961 and 1973. Scott won the 1964 Jacksonville 200 marking the only Cup win by a Black driver in the history of NASCAR. And Jordan joins former NBA player Brad Daugherty as the only current Black owners in NASCAR Cup racing according to ESPN.
“Deciding on the driver was easy — it had to be Bubba Wallace”
“Eleven years ago, I met Michael Jordan at a then-Charlotte Bobcats game, and we became fast friends,” Hamlin says. “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 has been at the center of the push within NASCAR for racial equality. He was responsible for getting NASCAR to ban Confederate flags earlier this year. Though he has been driving for four seasons in Cup racing he has not won a single race. The Richard Petty team he races for is known not to have competitive cars which have translated into fewer sponsors.
“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 wrote. “He deserves the opportunity to compete for race wins, and our team will make sure he has the resources to do just that.
“Bubba has been a loud voice for change in our sport and our country”
“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.”
“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 says. “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.”
“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 says. “I am grateful and humbled that they believe in me, and I’m super pumped to begin this adventure with them.”