CHARLOTTE, NC (WWBT) - To date, Denny Hamlin’s lone focus when it comes to NASCAR has been behind the wheel with the Joe Gibbs Racing FedEx No. 11 team. Next year, he’ll take a dive into the pool of team ownership.
Hamlin announced Monday night that he’s joining Michael Jordan to start a new, single-car race team beginning in 2021. Bubba Wallace will serve as the team’s driver.
The Chesterfield native and Jordan met 11 years ago at a basketball game in Charlotte and become friends. Hamlin said in a statement that the friendship has grown and the two are ready to take it to the next level in terms of ownership. Hamlin was the first NASCAR athlete to sign an endorsement deal with the Jordan brand.
As for Wallace behind the wheel, Hamlin called the decision “easy.”
“Bubba has shown tremendous improvement since joining the Cup Series and we believe he’s ready to take his career to a higher level,” Hamlin’s statement said. “He deserves the opportunity to compete for race wins and our team will make sure he has the resources to do just that.”
Wallace was in the national spotlight this season for suggesting that NASCAR remove the Confederate Flag from its events. NASCAR banned the flag from all tracks and events two days after Wallace’s interview in which he made that statement. Hamlin and Jordan want Wallace to continue speaking up.
“Off the track, Bubba has been a loud voice for change in our sport and our country. MJ and I support him fully in those efforts and stand beside him.”
Jordan said that his parents would take him and his siblings to NASCAR events growing up and that he’s always been a fan of the sport.
“Historically, NASCAR has struggled with diversity and there have been few Black owners," Jordan said in a statement of his own. "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.”
“This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I believe is a great fit for me at this point in my career,” Wallace added in a social media post. “I’m grateful and humbled that they believe in me and I’m super pumped to begin this adventure with them.”
Jordan will serve as the team’s principal owner, with Hamlin as the minority owner. The Chesterfield native will still drive for Joe Gibbs Racing in the No. 11.
Hamlin said that more details regarding the team will be released at a later date. He’s currently second in the Cup Series standings, looking for his first race victory of the playoffs. The Manchester graduate has yet to win a Cup title, and has six checkered flags to his credit in 2020.
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