Michael Jordan is forming a 2021 NASCAR Cup Series team with Bubba Wallace as driver in a move that sees the pairing of the popular American motorsport's only Black majority team owner and the only Black driver.
Current driver Denny Hamlin, a close friend of NBA legend and Charlotte Hornets owner, will join as a minority owner of the single-car team. Jordan, Wallace and Hamlin made the announcement on their respective Twitter accounts .
"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. 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."
Wallace, who is NASCAR's sole Black driver, is currently tracking for a career-best season with five top-10 finishes and a fifth-place run in the regular-season finale at Daytona. He previously called for the auto racing organization to ban the Confederate flag from all future events—a ban that was officially enacted days later.
"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 tweeted. "I’m grateful and humbled that they believe in me and I’m super pumped to begin this adventure with them."
Jordan has attended many NASCAR races over the years, most recently the 2019 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where Hamlin was competing for his first championship.
“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 in a news release. “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."
ESPN reports that Jordan will be 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 victory at the Jacksonville 200 is the only win by a Black driver in Cup history.