Bubba Wallace, who ended his relationship with Richard Petty Motorsports earlier this month, will drive for a new team owned by basketball legend Michael Jordan and three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin.
Wallace, 26, had his best finish of the season last month when he came in fifth place in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona. He is currently 23rd in the Cup Series standings.
Jordan, who also owns the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets, will serve as principal owner of the new team. His group bought a NASCAR team charter from Germain Racing. According to a press release from the Hornets, Jordan’s operation will be the first full-time team in NASCAR’s top circuit with a Black majority owner since Hall of Famer Wendell Scott was the owner/driver of a car in the 1960s and early ’70s.
Hamlin still will drive Joe Gibbs Racing’ No. 11 Toyota Camry while also becoming Jordan’s minority partner.
“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 statement. “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.”
Bubba Wallace: ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’
Wallace, the first Black driver to compete full-time on the NASCAR Cup Series since Scott, said in a statement, “This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I believe is a great fit for me at this point in my career. 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.”
Wallace gained national attention earlier this year when he successfully lobbied NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag from its facilities. When a noose subsequently was found in his garage stall at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, all of the NASCAR drivers stood behind him, literally, ahead of the start of the next race on June 22.
Petty, a 83-year-old NASCAR icon, came onto the track and embraced Wallace in a powerful moment of unity. However, on Sept. 10, Wallace tweeted that he would cut ties with Petty’s team after the 2020 season.
Hamlin, currently second in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings, has six wins this year, including the Daytona 500.
“Starting a race team has been something that Michael and I have talked about while playing golf together over the years, but the timing or circumstances were never really right,” Hamlin, 39, said in the statement. “It just makes sense now to lay the foundation for my racing career after I’m done driving and also help an up-and-coming driver like Bubba take his career to a higher level. Plus, Michael and Bubba can be a powerful voice together, not only in our sport, but also well beyond it.”
The new team has yet to announce its name, car number, car manufacturer and sponsors.
–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)