Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin Start New NASCAR Team with Bubba Wallace Driving
One of the greatest athletes of all time is now a partner in a top-level NASCAR team with the series’ only Black driver behind the wheel.
Bubba Wallace has a new NASCAR Cup Series team for 2021: a brand-new single-car team started by current Cup series driver Denny Hamlin and one of the greatest athletes of all time, Michael Jordan.
"Deciding on a driver was easy—it had to be Bubba Wallace," Hamlin wrote in his announcement of the team on Twitter.
Hamlin is an avid basketball fan who says he met Jordan 11 years ago at a Charlotte Bobcats game, after which Hamlin became the Jordan Brand's first NASCAR athlete. Now the two are going in together on a team, choosing Bubba Wallace as the one-car team's new driver.
Hamlin touted Wallace's results in NASCAR's top-level Cup series as a rising talent. "He deserves the opportunity to compete for race wins and our team will make sure he has the resources to do just that," Hamlin said.
Wallace, the only Black driver in NASCAR's Cup series, has been grabbing headlines for another reason this year. He's been NASCAR's most outspoken voice against racial inequality, running a Black Lives Matter scheme on his car earlier this year. Hamlin says that both he and Jordan have Wallace's full support to continue speaking out on important issues.
Jordan said that encouraging Black people to get involved in NASCAR was important to him as a lifelong fan of the sport, as quoted by ESPN:
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.
Hamlin says he will remain in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota for the near future, so that will not change. Wallace is clearly excited about competing against his new team owner, calling it a "unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" on Instagram.
"I'm grateful and humbled that they believe in me and I'm super pumped to begin this adventure with them," he continued.
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