Off to the races!
Basketball icon Michael Jordan just made history, becoming the first Black majority owner of a full-time NASCAR Cup Series team, Good Morning America reports.
Jordan partnered with his longtime friend and professional race car driver, Denny Hamlin, to purchase a NASCAR Cup Series Charter for the 2021 season. The star of the single-car team and driver of “His Airness,” will be Nascar phenom, Bubba Wallace.
Jordan’s principal ownership is historic. He is the first Black majority owner of a full-time Cup team since 1973 when Wendell Scott, the first Black driver in Nascar, drove his race car in 495 races in 12 years. However, Wendell’s ownership went unacknowledged by the sport. Jordan, an avid stock racing fan, said he felt acquiring a stake in the sport just made sense right now.
“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 racing team in partnership with my friend, Denny Hamlin, and to have Bubba Wallace driving for us, is very exciting for me,” Jordan said. “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.”
Hamlin will continue racing for Joe Gibbs Racing and hopes to bring home the Cup title this year. The three-time Daytona 500 winner initially met Jordan at a Charlotte Bobcats game, now called the Charlotte Hornets, of which Jordan is an owner. Shortly after, Hamlin became the first NASCAR athlete to represent the Jordan Brand. Hamlin said he is excited to expand his business partnerships with Jordan, adding that “deciding on a driver was easy – it had to be Bubba Wallace.”
“Bubba has shown tremendous improvement since joining the Cup Series, and we believe he’s ready to take his career to a higher level. He deserves the opportunity to compete for race wins, and our team will make sure he has the resources to do just that,” Hamlin shared in a statement posted to social media. “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.”
— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) September 22, 2020
Wallace made headlines this year advocating against racism in the sport, successfully getting NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag at all of its events. The 27-year-old is the NASCAR Cup Series’ only Black driver. He announced earlier this month that he would not return for another season driving for Richard Petty Motorsports. Despite the backlash he received within the NASCAR community, Wallace has gotten tremendous support worldwide and had one of his best seasons of his career. He raked up a whopping 105 career starts at the top level and five top 10 finishes this year, according to NASCAR.
“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 said. “Both Michael and Denny are great competitors and are focused on building the best team they possibly can to go out and compete for race wins. I’m grateful and humbled that Michael and Denny believe in me, and I’m super pumped to begin this adventure with them.”
Jordan is now one of two Black owners at NASCAR’s elite Cup level, including former NBA player Brad Daugherty. NASCAR issued a statement welcoming the basketball legend to the racing family.
“Michael is an iconic sports figure, and celebrated champion whose fiercely competitive nature has placed him among the greatest athletes of all time,” NASCAR posted on Instagram. “His presence at NASCAR’s top level will further strengthen the competition, excitement, and momentum growing around our sport. We wish Michael and his team tremendous success.”
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Jordan said this new venture is not only a great business opportunity but a chance to open up a door for Black people in NASCAR.
“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,” Jordan said.
Congratulations, Michael Jordan! You keep setting the bar higher!
Photo Courtesy of Bleacher Report/Action News Jax