Michael Jordan to co-own NASCAR team, Bubba Wallace Jr. will be the driver


Photo: New York Times

Matthew Breault, Assistant Sports Editor

Darrell ‘Bubba’ Wallace Jr. has found a new team for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season. NBA legend Michael Jordan has agreed to purchase a NASCAR Cup Series Charter and Wallace Jr. will be the driver for Jordan and partner Denny Hamlin when the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season begins.

After announcing on Sept. 10 that he would not be returning to Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM), Wallace Jr. has found his new home less than one month later.  

The news that Jordan was teaming up with NASCAR star Denny Hamlin to co-own a team came as a shock to many. This team will be Jordan’s second sports team that he owns since he currently is the owner of the Charlotte Hornets in the National Basketball Association.

Sophomore Tyler Stottsberry said he wasn’t sure why Jordan was getting into NASCAR, but he then realized it could be a great investment for ‘his airness.’

“At first, I was confused because in my mind he was a basketball player and that was it, but after some thinking, I realized it was a really cool business decision that has huge potential for growth,” Slottsberry said. “When you reach legendary status in one sport, why not take a stab at it in another sport?”

With his move into NASCAR, Jordan becomes the first black majority owner for a NASCAR Cup Series team since the legendary driver Wendell Scott. Coincidentally, Wallace Jr.’s first NASCAR Truck Series win happened to come in a Wendell Scott Tribute Truck at Martinsville back in 2014. While Jordan was announced as the majority owner, Hamlin was also announced as the minority owner for this single-car team.

WPNR 90.7 FM Sports Director and huge NASCAR fan Robert Stevens said it was more shocking to see Wallace leave RPM, rather than seeing Hamlin and Jordan co-own a team in NASCAR, because of the two being really close friends.

“I truly wasn’t expecting Bubba to leave RPM (Richard Petty Motor Sports) at all, but it finally happened,” Stevens said. “Now both Denny Hamlin and Bubba Wallace are partial owners of teams while driving for other teams.”

It was reported back in August that Wallace Jr. had a small ownership stake in RPM. It is rumored that RPM offered Wallace Jr. an even larger ownership stake while attempting to keep him with the team. This deal ultimately fell through due to Wallace Jr. announcing his departure.

John Stallone, who is a personal friend of the Wallace family, said he is excited about the excellent opportunity that Wallace Jr. has been presented with and he believes Wallace Jr. can become more successful with this team, compared to his success with RPM.

“It is a wonderful opportunity for Wallace to once and for all leave the sub power team that RPM has been for years, and show the world just what kind of God-given talent he truly has,” Stallone said. “There will be plenty of resources for all three of them to build a strong team.”

Although Wallace Jr. is a talented driver, it might take some time to adjust to the new team and new atmosphere, since he has been with RPM for the entirety of his career.

“When you make such a huge change like moving to a brand new team, things are tough for a while,” Stottsberry said. “I think for Wallace it’s going to take some getting used to and I don’t expect him to have a career year like he is having this year, but maybe in two or three years he will.”

With the help of Hamlin and his current team Joe Gibbs Racing, it is possible for Wallace Jr. to be competitive next season. 

“Wallace will be a legitimate threat to win races with the help of arguably one of the greatest teams in NASCAR, Joe Gibbs Racing,” Stevens said. “I do think it’s going to take a little bit of time and it won’t be an instant success, but he’s competed more this year than he’s ever had so we’ll see.”

With a win in 2021, it would be Wallace Jr.’s first career Cup Series win and it would mean a lot to him and his family.

“If you remember his very first Daytona 500 where he finished second, the reaction between Bubba and his mother after the race was just a small sample of what a win would mean to his mother and the rest of his family,” Stallone said. “It would definitely be a weight off of everyone’s shoulders, especially his.”

When the news first broke about Wallace Jr. joining up with Hamlin and Jordan, the NASCAR community was both excited and shocked. Over the course of the past few weeks, the news has faded in regards to sports news, but it still is very prominent when it comes to NASCAR news. 

“NASCAR isn’t the sport it used to be and it doesn’t have the popularity that it used to, and I think that could be part of the reason,” Stottsberry said. “I think the other part is that there is a lot going on in the world right now and people’s main priority isn’t NASCAR.”

Stottsberry cited the fact that the United States is in the middle of a global pandemic, in the middle of an election season and due to the pandemic and many other sports are going on right now at the same time.

“NASCAR is undergoing a severe transition and it won’t have the popularity like the other sports like football, basketball, baseball and hockey” Stevens said. “Although this is huge for NASCAR, it was swept under the rug.”

Months ago, Wallace Jr. advocated for change in NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag. The negative comments Wallace has received have added fuel to the fire.

“Bubba did absolutely nothing wrong when he stuck up for his race and tried to bring a different atmosphere and culture into a sport that was born and raised in the south, which is also predominantly white,” Stallone said. “Saying such things only makes his will and desire much stronger to prove all the haters wrong.”