Bubba Wallace to drive for Michael Jordan-Denny Hamlin Cup Series team in 2021

Bubba Wallace has a full-time ride for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season: a single-car team led by NBA legend Michael Jordan and Joe Gibbs Racing veteran Denny Hamlin.

Hamlin and Jordan announced the team’s formation Monday night. Jordan reportedly will be the principal owner, while Hamlin will hold a minority stake. Hamlin will continue to drive the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 car.

“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 said. “He deserves the opportunity to compete for race wins and our team will make sure he has the resources to do just that.”

Hamlin also acknowledged Wallace’s social justice advocacy this year as the Cup Series’ lone Black driver.

“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,” Hamlin said. Hamlin supported Wallace after a June incident at Talladega, when a rope that looked like a noose was seen outside the Wallace team garage.

Jordan likewise tied Wallace’s signing to the fight for racial justice and diversity in racing.

“Historically, NASCAR has struggled with diversity and there have been few black owners,” Jordan, who described himself as a lifelong NASCAR fan, wrote in a statement. “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.”

Wallace, 26, came up through NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program. He is finishing his third full season in the Cup Series, all with Richard Petty Motorsports. Wallace announced Sept, 10 he would not return to the team in 2021. He has three career top-five finishes and nine top-10s in 105 races. His highest finish was second in the 2018 Daytona 500. Hamlin finished third in that race.

“This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I believe is a great fit for me at this point in my career. I’m grateful and humbled that they believe in me and I’m super pumped to begin this adventure with them,” Wallace said in a statement.

The Jordan-Hamlin team will be a charter team, one of 36 in the Cup Series. Fox Sports reported that Hamlin purchased the charter of one-car Germain Racing, which employs Ty Dillon as its driver in the No. 13 car.

Hamlin’s announcement did not mention a car number or primary sponsor. STP has been Wallace’s most visible sponsor with Petty Motorsports.

Hamlin and Jordan’s ties go back over a decade, when they met at an NBA game. Jordan owned the NBA’s then-Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets) and Hamlin eventually became an endorser for Jordan Brand. Hamlin raced in a Jordan Brand-sponsored truck in 2013.

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