Bubba Wallace has emerged as a rising star in NASCAR for what he’s done both on and off the track. The Cup Series’ lone Black driver used his voice in a sport that has long pushed back against change and led to some long overdue new policies in the sport, such as banning confederate flags from events, and getting his fellow drivers to speak up on issues of racism and racial injustice as well.
Wallace has driven for Richard Petty Motorsports and the No. 43 car since arriving in the Cup Series, but announced earlier this year that he will not be renewing his contract with RPM. That led to plenty of speculation about what team he will join next, but the answer to that question is something no one saw coming.
On Monday night, Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin announced that they would be starting a one-car racing team in the NASCAR Cup Series, with Bubba Wallace being their driver.
This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I believe is a great fit for me at this point in my career. I’m grateful and humbled that they believe in me and I’m super pumped to begin this adventure with them.
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) September 22, 2020
It takes a tremendous financial commitment to compete with the biggest teams in NASCAR, but Jordan isn’t new to the motorsports scene — he previously owned a motorcycle racing team. As he noted in a statement, he sees this as an investment not only in NASCAR but in bringing more opportunities to Black people in racing at its highest level.
“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,” said Jordan. “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.”
As for Hamlin, he will continue to run in the No. 11 car for Joe Gibbs Racing, and more details are to come about the car manufacturer — Wallace currently drives a Chevy with RPM, while Hamlin drives a Toyota for JGR and the expectation is it will be a Toyota team — as well as the number and official team name. For those curious, the No. 23 is not currently running in NASCAR and it’d be fairly stunning if that wasn’t what Wallace is running as in 2021. Still, what we know for sure is that NASCAR’s lone Black driver will race for the first Black-owned racing team since Wendell Scott raced for his own team in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and that’s pretty cool.