With the February 14 date set for the NASCAR season-opening Daytona 500, it also marks the start of a new chapter in the sport. A new team, under the ownership of NBA legend Michael Jordan and NASCAR Cup Series star Denny Hamlin, runs its first official race, with driver Bubba Wallace behind the wheel.
Back in September, when Jordan and Hamlin announced the team’s formation, there was a great buzz around the NASCAR entry of one of the greatest sportspersons ever.
Jordan soon made his intentions very clear with the new team, stating that he wants to create a winning mentality within Wallace and the entire team.
As the team’s debut is just a few days away, here is all we know about Jordan’s NASCAR team.
The new team is named 23XI Racing. As many Jordan and NBA fans would have figured out, the 23 in the title stands for the basketball legend’s no. 23 shirt that he wore throughout his career, and is now synonymous with him.
XI, on the other hand, is another way of writing the number ’11,’ that NASCAR fans know is associated with co-owner Hamlin. As Hamlin still runs the no. 11 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, he did not want to use the number in its traditional style in the new team’s title.
Jordan and Hamlin purchased the charter of former Cup Series team, Germain Racing, allowing them to become a full-time outfit.
For now, the two owners of the team are Jordan and Hamlin, and the NBA great is the majority partner. While it is not impossible that someone joins the ownership scene in the time to come, it is highly unlikely.
As per reports, Jordan’s new NASCAR team is worth over $150 million.
Bubba Wallace is one of the rising stars of the sport. Wallace is yet to win a NASCAR Cup Series race, but he is expected to win sooner than later with the equipment he receives at 23XI Racing.
Until the 2020 season, Wallace drove the No. 43 car for NASCAR legend Richard Petty’s team – Richard Petty Motorsports and was termed as an ‘overachiever’ at the team.
Mike Wheeler will be Wallace’s and the No. 23 team’s Crew Chief in 2021.
23XI Racing has roped in Toyota to prepare Wallace’s cars. Their association with Toyota Racing development sees the manufacturer build engines for the team. They will also provide technical assistance.
Additionally, Jordan and Hamlin have also tied up with leading NASCAR outfit Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), the team Hamlin drives for. JGR will provide chassis support and other services to 23XI Racing.
The No. 23 Toyota Camry will be a red and white car, and Wallace will sport a red firesuit in 2021.
The team has five major sponsors, or ‘founding partners’ that will lend their support to the team for the 2021 season. The sponsors are – McDonald’s, DoorDash, Columbia Sportswear, Dr. Pepper, and Root Insurance.
Recently, Wallace revealed what Jordan said to him the very first time they spoke after the team’s announcement. Jordan clearly expressed that he expects Wallace to contend for wins and does not want the team to run at the back.
“Someone goes like, ‘Hey, there’s no running in the back if we’re doing this thing’. I’m like, whoa it’s MJ! I thought that was pretty cool,” Wallace said.
Not just for Wallace, but Jordan’s involvement is a big deal for NASCAR itself. There is no doubt that the move will help attract many new fans to the sport, and if the team is successful on the race track, the deal becomes a lot sweeter for everyone involved.
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