Michael Jordan Starts New Sport

NASCAR season opens with groundbreaking team that has Bubba Wallace at the wheel
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 14, 2021 10:10 AM CST
Michael Jordan Debuts at Daytona
Michael Jordan, shown last year, is making his debut as a NASCAR owner.   (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

Michael Jordan enters a new arena Sunday, as co-owner of a NASCAR team in the Daytona 500. He's new to the role—having spent his formative years playing basketball and baseball—but he's surrounded by experience, WCNC reports. Denny Hamlin, the co-owner, has won Daytona three times. And their driver, Bubba Wallace, has been around the track a few times. The team is groundbreaking: NBA Hall of Famer Jordan is the first Black principal owner of a full-time NASCAR Cup team since 1973. Wallace is the only Black full-time driver at the top of NASCAR. He's never won a Cup race but finished second at Daytona in 2018, and he has confidence this time after winning the week's only practice session. "Our car is super fast," Wallace said. "It's one of the fastest cars in the garage."

NASCAR officials say they're launching the new season with a greater social awareness. Symbols of the Confederacy are no longer visible at the track, after an effort by Wallace last year to ban them. The organization has committed to combatting racial injustice, per the AP. In response, companies signed on to sponsor Wallace and back larger efforts. "We share Bubba’s drive for change—a desire for a more inclusive sport, and a more inclusive world," a DoorDash official said. Wallace said his corporate sponsors have "all wanted to know, ‘What are we going to do off the track to keep pushing for change?'" NASCAR's president said a study found fans are supportive, as well. "What we do in the areas of social justice and diversity equity inclusion is going to be authentic to who we are," Steve Phelps said. "May not be the right thing for the NBA, but it’s going to be the right thing for us." (Read more Michael Jordan stories.)

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