NBA great Michael Jordan and driver Bubba Wallace will form the first black owner/driver tandem in NASCAR history after the basketball Hall of Famer announced that he has formed a team ahead of the 2021 season.
Jordan, who also owns NBA team the Charlotte Hornets, revealed the move on Monday along with co-owner and veteran driver Denny Hamlin, with Jordan becoming the first black principal owner of a full-time team since Wendell Scott, who drove his own racecar between 1962 and 1973. Scott’s 1964 win at the Jacksonville 200 remains the sole time that a black driver has won at the elite Cup level.
And Jordan, who recently announced plans to distribute $100 million over ten years to help the fight against systemic racism, says that his move into NASCAR is another giant leap towards racial equality in the United States.
“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 race team in partnership with my friend, Denny Hamlin, and to have Bubba Wallace driving for us, is very exciting for me,” Jordan told NBA.com.
“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”, he added.
Hamlin, 39, remains one of the sport’s most successful drivers. He is a three-time Daytona 500 winner and is a contender for this season’s Cup title, and said that the decision to partner up with Jordan and Wallace was an easy one.
“Eleven years ago I met Michael Jordan at a then-Charlotte Bobcats game and we became fast friends,” Hamlin said.
“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.”
Tonight, I’m excited to announce MJ and I are starting a new, single car @NASCAR Cup Series team for 2021. Deciding on a driver was easy – it had to be @BubbaWallace. pic.twitter.com/nIJv0X6ZOX
This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I believe is a great fit for me at this point in my career. I’m grateful and humbled that they believe in me and I’m super pumped to begin this adventure with them. 🤘🏾BW https://t.co/q5tCyiurpi
Wallace generated headlines earlier this year after becoming central to the NASCAR authorities’ decision to ban the Confederate Flag from races. A “noose” was later discovered in Wallace’s garage, but it was later explained to be a pull-rope used to open and close the garage door.
He remains without a win in 105 Cup appearances over the course of four seasons but Hamlin says that the newly-formed team will supply Wallace with the type of equipment he will need to be successful.
“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.”
As for NASCAR themselves, they endorsed Jordan’s move into their sport, saying: “His presence at NASCAR’s top level will further strengthen the competition, excitement and momentum growing around our sport.”