- Michael Jordan is a rookie owner in NASCAR, teaming with Denny Hamlin to form 23XI racing.
- Bubba Wallace is their first driver and will make his debut with the team at the Daytona 500.
- Wallace learned early on how much Jordan hates losing.
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Michael Jordan’s hatred of losing is legendary, and that hasn’t changed now that he is the newest team owner NASCAR.
Jordan’s new racing team, 23XI racing, a partnership with longtime driver Denny Hamlin, will make its official NASCAR debut at the Daytona 500.
Bubba Wallace will be behind the wheel of the 23 car, and he learned early on just how much Jordan hates losing.
During a recent interview with Kyle Petty for NBC Sports, Wallace recalled the first time he spoke with Jordan. As Wallace and Hamlin discussed the potential partnership, Hamlin surprised Wallace by handing the phone to Jordan.
Jordan’s message to Wallace was blunt.
“Denny calls me and says, ‘What are you doing?’,” Wallace said. “‘I said, ‘Just sitting here on the couch.’ He said, ‘Here’s somebody who wants to talk to you.’ [in a deeper voice] ‘Hey, man. If we do this deal, there is no more running in the back.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, that’s MJ! Oh, hey, man. How are you doing?!'”
Wallace became one of the faces of NASCAR and maybe their biggest star during the 2020 season as he became more vocal about social justice issues following the killing of George Floyd.His stance on the confederate battle flag led to NASCAR banning the symbol at their races for the first time.
While Wallace is undoubtedly a star, one thing that has eluded him so far is winning. In three seasons as a full-time NASCAR driver, Wallace has nine top-10s and three top-5 finishes, but he has never taken the checkered flag.
That could change at Daytona, one of Wallace’s strongest tracks. He finished second at the 500 during his rookie season in 2018. Then, during this week’s duel race to set the 500’s starting lineup, Austin Dillon just edged out Wallace during a thrilling final lap.
Jordan and Hamlin’s new partnership will certainly have some growing pains, but the pressure is on Wallace. Finishing well behind the pack won’t be accepted, and that starts at Daytona.
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