Michael Jordan made headlines on Monday night when it was announced that he and Denny Hamlin were partnering to start a NASCAR Cup Series team, with Bubba Wallace signing on to be their first (and for now, only) driver.
Wallace, who is the only Black driver on the top NASCAR circuit, announced plans to leave Richard Petty Motorsports earlier this year when his contract runs up after this season, and for Jordan, that presented an opportunity too good to pass up. The result is a partnership between the sport’s only Black majority team owner and the sport’s only Black driver, with Jordan noting in his statement his goal with the team is to provide more opportunities for Black people in racing.
Later Monday night, Jordan spoke with Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer to elaborate further on what led him to deciding to start a NASCAR team. Jordan offered some insight into things that are still yet to be finalized officially, such as a partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing — who Hamlin races for — that all but assures Wallace will be driving a Toyota, and that it’ll be up to Bubba if he races in the currently vacant No. 23 or chooses a different number.
The Toyota-Joe Gibbs Racing note is an important one, because in racing the right equipment makes all the difference — something Jordan noted in the interview as a lesson from his time as an owner of a team in motorcycle racing. That seems to be all taken care of, as JGR fields some of the best cars in the sport and a partnership with them and Toyota would indicate the funding will be there from a manufacturer level as well.
That was what Jordan needed to get back into motorsports, because as he noted, he wants to win.
“If I’m investing, if I’m a participant, then I want to win! I don’t want to be out there to be just another car,” Jordan told Bonnell. “I feel like Bubba feels the same, and Denny (with six victories this season) has definitely done that this year. We’ve got the right people involved. Now, we need to get the right equipment. The right information and data. Give Bubba his best chance to win.”
Jordan would go on to say he believes Bubba is a championship level driver, something Hamlin echoed in his statement on starting the team, and as such the goal is to give him the equipment to compete at that top level and prove that.
“Luck has a lot of do (with winning) in a lot of sports,” Jordan said. “But if you feel you have the same knowledge and the same equipment, you give yourself a chance. Then, it’s all up to the driver.”
If that is the case and the partnership with JGR and Toyota provides the Jordan team with the best engines and chassis and equipment, then it will be an upgrade for Wallace over driving for RPM, where they simply didn’t have the funding or support to make consistent pushes to win in the Cup Series. Money makes a huge difference in NASCAR, as the gap between the haves and have nots is quite large. Jordan seems committed to putting a sizable investment into Wallace and this team, and that means ample opportunity (but plenty of pressure as well) for the sport’s rising star.