When Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Almost Became a NASCAR Cup Series Team Owner

Published 12/20/2020, 5:00 AM EST
Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, enters the ring to talk smack about his upcoming opponent John Cena during the WWE Raw event at Rose Garden arena in Portland, Ore., Monday February 27th, 2012. (Photo by Chris Ryan/Corbis via Getty Images)


When Michael Jordan announced that he will be a co-owner of a NASCAR team, social media exploded. However, he is not the only non-NASCAR-affiliated team owner as a few NBA and NFL former players also own teams in the sport. It is interesting to note that former wrester-turned actor, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson almost joined the club.

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Back in the mid-90s, The Rock’s wrestling career had just taken off. In light of that, NASCAR driver Hermie Sadler hired him for promotional purposes and their friendship grew.

When the 2000s rolled by, wrestling had infiltrated American auto racing, especially NASCAR. For example, Sadler drove a WWF-liveried car at the August Bristol Busch race.

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The WWF series also popped up as a frequent sponsor, and there was even a Rock paint scheme, along with those of Kane, The Undertaker, and Stone Cold Steve Austin.

AVONDALE, ARIZONA – NOVEMBER 10: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Toyota, and Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, lead the field to turn one after taking the green flag to start the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Where does ‘The Rock’ fit into the NASCAR scheme?

Around the same time, Joe Bessey Motorsports was seriously struggling in the Cup series. After failing to qualify for 11 races, the sponsor left and the team folded. Hermie Sadler then stepped in as he agreed to buy the team.

Additionally, he wanted the WWF star to join as co-owner. While most of the details were unclear, it transpired that the wrestling star filed a trademark for the name “Rock Racing”.

The hype built up to a crescendo when word got out that The Rock would soon make “a major NASCAR Winston Cup announcement”. Rumor had it that he would unveil a new team to debut in the 2001 Daytona 500.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 02: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson presents the BMF Belt during the UFC 244 event at Madison Square Garden on November 02, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

However, there were a couple of roadblocks, which seriously halted the potential team’s progress. Apparently, the then 28-year-old did not realize that he had very little power to use ‘The Rock’ moniker.

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The WWF still held sway over the ring name, so when he purchased a NASCAR team, they promptly asked Sadler to divulge all details.

Once they got a general idea, the wrestling organization’s legal department was not particularly thrilled, barring the team from using The Rock’s likeness. After a bunch of angry letters to Sadler, the deal was off and the idea of Dwayne Johnson owning a NASCAR team was dead in the water.

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To make matters worse, Sadler confessed that Rock Racing’s collapse cost him $750,000. At least Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin would be glad that they never faced such drama with 23XI Racing.

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Dhruv George

11636 articles

Dhruv George is a senior Formula One and NASCAR analyst 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.

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