Basketball’s greatest of all time will be taking up a new sport once again. In the mid-90s, Michael Jordan took a break from basketball to play baseball and following his third retirement in 2003, Michael Jordan took up motorcycle racing with the launch of Michael Jordan Motorsports the following year.
Jordan had his hands in NASCAR dating back to 2013 when sponsoring Denny Hamlin’s truck and later signing him to Jordan Brand, but MJ is taking his involvement another step further as a team owner.
Michael Jordan and three-time Daytona 500 winner and Jordan Brand’s first NASCAR team member Denny Hamlin announced yesterday evening that they were teaming up to form a new NASCAR Cup Series team with Bubba Wallace in the driver’s seat of their car.
Jordan’s love of racing was once referred to as a “New Love” in 2006 in a Jordan 1 double pack, but his ties to racing date back to childhood.
“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.
“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.”
The announcement is one of historic significance as Jordan becomes the first Black majority owner of a full-time NASCAR premier series team in more than 60 years.
“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.”
NASCAR has historically struggled with diversity on the track and in ownership. The last Black man to own a team was Wendell Scott who owned and raced his own car in the 1960s and early 70s and was the first Black racer to win a major race in 1964.
“The timing seemed perfect as NASCAR is evolving and embracing social change more and more,” Jordan continued.
Bubba Wallace, the only full-time Black driver in NASCAR’s Cup Series, announced a couple of weeks ago that he was leaving his current team at the end of the 2020 race season.
“This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I believe is a great fit for me at this point in my carer,” said Wallace. “Both Michael and Denny are great competitors and are focused on building the best team they can possibly can to go out and compete for race wins.”
In June, Bubba Wallace called for a ban of Confederate flags at NASCAR races which the league did just days later. He also had a Black Lives Matter paint job done to his car the same month.
Denny Hamlin’s car sponsor FedEx honored the National Civil Rights Museum on the hood of his car in June. Denny visited the museum in FedEx’s hometown of Memphis prior to the June race in Talladega.
In a statement released by Hamlin on Monday evening, Denny said that “it just makes sense now to lay the foundation” of his racing career after he retires from racing.
“Michael and Bubba can be a powerful voice together, not only in our sport but also well beyond it.” Hamlin continued.