Ex-NASCAR Driver Claimed “Very Smart” Denny Hamlin Signing Bubba Wallace With Michael Jordan Was “To Do Something Special”

Published 11/28/2022, 5:45 AM EST
TALLADEGA, ALABAMA – OCTOBER 04: Bubba Wallace, driver of the #23 McDonald’s Toyota, is congratulated on the grid by Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, (R) after winning the rain-shortened NASCAR Cup Series YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 04, 2021 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Before the 2021 NASCAR Cup season began, Denny Hamlin teamed up with NBA legend Michael Jordan. Together, they established the 23XI Racing team, which would race in the Cup Series.

Of course, every team needs a driver, and the one that they zeroed in on was Richard Petty Motorsports driver, Bubba Wallace. In light of this, former NASCAR driver Michael Waltrip praised Hamlin and Jordan for the move.


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Waltrip said, “Think about this, Denny is a very, very smart guy. He didn’t get into something just because he wanted to do it for the fun of it. He sees an opportunity with Bubba to grow a team, to do something special. To have something to be involved in for the rest of his career.”

“When I did my team, I said ‘Man! This looks like a whole lot of work’, and I was right. I talked to Denny about it, and I said ‘you’ve got to make sure that you’re ready for this’, and I think he is.”


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Bubba Wallace has delivered handsomely for Denny Hamlin

Since then, Wallace has not given Hamlin and Jordan any reason to regret their decision.

Sure, the 2021 season was a little shaky, but the debut season was always going to be that way. They could not expect to fight for the championship right off the bat, but should take baby steps toward progress.


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Eventually, Bubba Wallace guided the #23 car to Victory Lane on home soil at the Talladega Superspeedway.

MARTINSVILLE, VA – OCTOBER 29: Bubba Wallace (#45 23XI Racing Leidos Toyota) watches the action from pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Xfinity 500 on October 29, 2022 at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, VA. (Photo by Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

This year, Wallace picked up where he left off, and his performances were much better. He was a lot more consistent, even stringing together consecutive Top 10 finishes for a while. To make matters even better, he grabbed a second career win at the Kansas Speedway.


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His first win had some critics because the race was red-flagged, but there were no such conditions at Kansas. In other words, he won it fair and square and on pure pace.

WATCH THIS STORY: “It Kills Him..” – Bubba Wallace Gives an Insider Look on Kurt Busch’s Painful Absence From NASCAR



Dhruv George

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Dhruv George is a senior Motorsports author for EssentiallySports, having authored nearly 12000 articles spanning different sports like F1, NASCAR, Tennis, NFL, and eSports. He graduated with a PG Diploma in Journalism from the Xavier Institute of Communications. Dhruv has also conducted interviews with F1 driver Pierre Gasly and Moto2 rider Tony Arbolino.