NBA legend Michael Jordan and NASCAR Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin are teaming up to form a new NASCAR team, with Bubba Wallace serving as the new team’s driver next season.
The announcement was made Monday night, with Jordan emphasizing his passion for the sport and Hamlin expressing his excitement to team up with Jordan for the new project.
“Eleven years ago I met Michael Jordan at a then-Charlotte Bobcats game and we became fast friends,” Hamlin said in a social media post. “Our friendship has grown over the years, and now we are ready to take it to the next level.”
Hamlin, who has won three Daytona 500’s and 43 total races in his NASCAR Cup Series career, says he will continue to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing beyond this season despite his new ownership stake.
In a statement, Jordan said that his parents would frequently bring him to races in North Carolina in his youth, and says he hopes that his jump into the sport will lead to more minority ownership and representation.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Wallace currently drives for Richard Petty Motorsports, but announced that he was leaving the organization earlier this month. He has been in the news often in the 2020 season, racing with a “Black Lives Matter” message on his car in a race earlier this year. He was also the subject of a controversy over the summer when photos were released that appeared to show a noose hanging from a door in his garage at Talladega.
The FBI later concluded that the alleged noose was a pull-down rope that was located on an overhead door, but the organization required sensitivity training for its personnel after the incident.
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The team will begin racing in the 2021 season, according to a press release.