After the 2020 NASCAR season, superstar driver Bubba Wallace joined on with Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin‘s brand new racing team, 23XI. In October, the former NBA legend and the former NASCAR legend signed Wallace as their first driver. Soon after, they revealed the number 23 car– Jordan’s former NBA number– that Wallace would drive. He will debut the souped-up Toyota in the Daytona 500 this coming Sunday.
Working with the brand new racing team will be an interesting adjustment for Bubba Wallace. It will also come as a welcome and refreshing inclusion of another African American into the NASCAR mainstream. Before Wallace broke onto the scene in 2020, NASCAR remained a pretty exclusively white sport. After seeing what Wallace accomplished for racial equality in the sport, Michael Jordan decided to get involved. In a recent interview with Shannon Sharpe, Bubba Wallace shared his expectations for working with the NBA Hall of Famer.
“My mentality changed after I watched The Last Dance,” Bubba Wallace told Shannon Sharpe about the docu-series surrounding Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls. “I said ‘okay, alright, I see what I need to be like as an athlete. If I want to reach these goals, I need to be like this as an athlete. There is a lot of pressure, but after the year we had in 2020, I keep telling them pressure is nothing but a thing now.”
Why Bubba Wallace Was Chosen to Drive the #23 Car
Hamlin and Jordan revealed the name, number, and driver for their new 23XI team on October 23 of last year. They selected Bubba Wallace specifically to represent their team, and this was no random choice. Michael Jordan said he wanted to be the first African American majority owner of a NASCAR team. With that in mind, Bubba Wallace fit perfectly with his mission. The new team released a statement explaining their choice of the driver around the time of their announcement.
“Bubba Wallace burst onto the national spotlight in 2020 as the social justice movement swept across America and Bubba took a stand in his sport,” the statement read. “Bubba has been breaking barriers since he entered the sport of NASCAR, becoming the first African-American driver in several decades to win a national series race and be a full-time driver in the premier NASCAR Cup Series. In 2021 Bubba will take the wheel of the No. 23 car.”
“Michael and I have a shared vision for this team,” Hamlin added separately. “So it’s exciting to see it reflected in the team name and on the race car with the iconic number 23 that Michael made famous.”