Bubba Wallace turned heads recently, when he surprisingly announced that he was leaving Richard Petty Motorsports at the end of his contract.
Well, now we know why.
The driver who created a stir this season by racing with a Black Lives Matter scheme on his car, convincing NASCAR to remove the Confederate flag from all of its venues, and literally making a federal case out of a alleged noose being found in his garage, will head-up a new NASCAR racing team started by NBA legend Michael Jordan and NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin.
“Eleven years ago I met Michael Jordan at a then-Charlotte Bobcats game and we became fast friends,” Hamlin wrote on social media. “Not long after, I joined Jordan Brand as their first NASCAR athlete. Our friendship has grown over the years and now we are ready to take it to the next level.
“Deciding on the driver was easy — it had to be Bubba Wallace.”
Wallace is the sport’s only full-time black driver.
“Growing up in North Carolina, my parents would take my brothers, sisters and me to races, and I’ve been a NASCAR fan my whole life,” Jordan said in a statement. “The opportunity to own my own racing team in partnership with my friend, Denny Hamlin, and to have Bubba Wallace driving for us, is very exciting for me. Historically, NASCAR has struggled with diversity and there have been few Black owners. 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.”
According to the Associated Press:
There’s been speculation for months that Hamlin was organizing some sort of ownership group as he expects NASCAR’s business model to become more favorable for team owners when the “Next Gen” car is released in 2022. NASCAR rules prohibit a current driver from owning a team and driving for another, but Hamlin works around the policy with Jordan as the primary owner.
Jordan became a partial owner of the Bobcats in 2006 and bought the team outright in 2010, restoring the franchise to its original Hornets name. Hamlin has been a longtime season-ticket holder with courtside seats along the visitors’ bench.
“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 wrote on social media.
“I am grateful and humbled that they believe in me and I’m super pumped to begin this adventure with them.”
Wallace has amassed $18 million in sponsorship deals since becoming involved in the social justice movement.