Daytona 500 Team Preview: 23XI Racing with Bubba Wallace

Michael Jordan, majority owner of 23XI Racing (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Michael Jordan, majority owner of 23XI Racing (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

23XI Racing is a NASCAR Cup Series team like few others.

The rumors had already made their way to the headlines even before the official announcement of its launch.

In all, most of what the media had already learned was who were the principals, driver, car number, and manufacturer. Nary a surprise.

  • The principals: NBA superstar and Hall of Famer Michael Jordan, and Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin.
  • The driver: William Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr.
  • The car number: 23, Jordan’s uniform number for most of his career.
  • The manufacturer: Toyota, the brand Hamlin drives for Joe Gibbs Racing.

23XI Racing is the first full-time majority-minority owned Cup team. Jordan and Hamlin then tabbed the only black driver in the series to be their first driver.

Wallace became the face of change in NASCAR a year ago when he asked the organization to get rid of the confederate flag at tracks.

They not only did at racing facilities but also banned it on all their properties.

Bubba Wallace will represent 23XI Racing well

Wallace handled himself with dignity and calm despite hate mail and other indignities as stock car racing began to distance itself from its racist past.

But as the transition was taking place, companies noticed and wanted to be part of his sponsorship effort.

Jordan and Hamlin may not have thought about what Wallace suddenly brought to the table in hiring him, but it didn’t hurt.

Read more Daytona 500 coverage: NASCAR Speedweeks and Daytona 500 ticket information

Michael Jordan is his own brand. His commercial bonafides are well-documented, and he has the kind of capital to run a NASCAR organization like 23XI Racing as he does as the owner of the Charlotte Hornets in the NBA.

Hamlin has a minority stake in 23XI Racing, but his influence on getting the team off the ground has been enormous.

Scheduled to become a free agent after the 2021 season, making a move to his own 23XI Racing would not have been a shock. But that just changed when he signed an extension with JGR.

As the team moves toward the Daytona 500, 23XI Racing announced on Wednesday that Ty Dillon would represent the team in the Busch Clash in its No. 23 entry.

Bubba Wallace is not eligible for the event, so Dillon, who does not have a full-time ride in 2021, will sit in.

Wallace met with the media via a Toyota Racing Zoom call to talk about the Daytona 500.

On would it mean to win the Daytona 500 with this new race team:

“I think any race is important, but like you said, with the way things have shaped up this year after the year we've had last year -- Daytona being on Valentine's Day, Black History Month, such an important month for all of us, especially in the time that we're in right now. It's shaping up to be real fairy tale ending.”

On if he feels pressure to win this year or next with 23XI Racing:

“There's been pressure ever since I got into the league to win. So just another year, new car, no different.”

On if he feels any pressure with Michael Jordan as one of his team owners:

“Yeah, no, for sure. I think there's a lot of pressure riding on us, but you know, we've been able to get to know him better knowing how he dealt with pressure, having Denny (Hamlin) there, looking at the success he's had through the years, you know, I think we'll be just fine.”

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Edited by Sankalp Srivastava
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