Michael Jordan and Bubba Wallace. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier // AP Photo/Steve Helber
Bubba Wallace has found his ride.
The only Black driver in NASCAR will race next season for a new team founded by Michael Jordan and Wallace’s fellow driver Denny Hamlin. Jordan was already a major sponsor of Hamlin’s car and has decided to deepen his ties with motorsports, purchasing a NASCAR Cup Series Charter and putting Wallace behind the wheel.
Wallace has raced 105 starts at the Cup Series level, all with Richard Petty Motorsports, but was one of the major free agents heading into the new season. While he has yet to win a race at NASCAR’s top level, Wallace has garnered a slew of sponsors in recent months for his racing ability and his outspoken role in moving the sport forward on issues including the banning of the Confederate flag.
In a statement, Jordan expressed his excitement to be joining the world of motorsports with his own team.
“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. “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.”
On Twitter, Hamlin said, “Deciding on a driver was easy — it had to be Bubba Wallace.”
Hamlin will start his tenure as a NASCAR team owner while still driving the No. 11 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. While not common, it’s not unprecedented in the sport for a driver to own a team on the side — Dale Earnhardt drove for Richard Childress Racing while owning his own team.
The new team is a big move for both Jordan and Hamlin, but likely even bigger news for Wallace, who also tweeted out his excitement.
—Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) September 22, 2020
Wallace had a pretty big year in 2020, but 2021 could be even bigger.