one of the worst-kept secrets in nascar was made official late on monday night.
denny hamlin and nba legend michael jordan have launched a nascar cup series team in advance of the 2021 season and have selected bubba wallace as its inaugural driver.
the new team completed the purchase of an ownership charter from germain racing which simultaneously confirmed on monday that it would close at the end of the year.
jordan will become the first black majority owner of a nascar team since hall of fame driver-owner wendell scott raced his own equipment in the 1960s and 1970s. hamlin and wallace are both represented by prosport management representative rod morkowitz. wallace has signed a multi-year deal to drive for the new team. hamlin is a team jordan athlete and the two have been close friends for over a decade. jordan will serve as the majority owner of the yet to be named organization while hamlin owns a minority stake of the team.
"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 press release. "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."
hamlin will continue to drive the no. 11 for joe gibbs racing.
"starting a race team has been something that michael and i have talked about while playing golf together over the years, but the timing or circumstances were never really right," said hamlin. "it just makes sense now to lay the foundation for my racing career after i’m done driving and also help an up-and-coming driver like bubba take his career to a higher level. plus, michael and bubba can be a powerful voice together, not only in our sport, but also well beyond it."
wallace confirmed last month that he was leaving richard petty motorsports; he has driven for that team since the 2017 season.
"this is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that i believe is a great fit for me at this point in my career," said wallace. "both michael and denny are great competitors and are focused on building the best team they possibly can to go out and compete for race wins. i’m grateful and humbled that michael and denny believe in me and i’m super pumped to begin this adventure with them."
the team's name, car number, manufacturer, sponsors, and other details for the new team will be announced at a future date.
nascar regulations previously prevented a driver from one team owning a stake in another. in other words, hamlin could not previously own a stake in this new team while driving for gibbs.
dale earnhardt was grandfathered in at the time he owned dale earnhardt inc. while driving for richard childress racing.
nascar rules also limit organizations to just four cars, although teams skirt these rules by offering satellite arrangements.
the regulations have apparently changed under the charter agreement launched in 2016.
during a state-of-the-sport teleconference on september 2, nascar president steve phelps said the current regulations could allow a driver for one team to own a stake in another as long as it wasn’t an obvious attempt to have a five-car team.
"so my understanding of what that is, is that there are opportunities for a driver in a four-car team to participate in ownership as long as we determine, and it's proven, that it essentially is not a fifth team for that particular team," phelps said. "whether it's cost related or whatever it is, that it would be a front for the fifth team.
"that's why the rule was written the way it was written. so, there is an opportunity for a driver in a four-car team to have an ownership stake.
"the short answer is yes, but they would need to abide by our guidelines -- that we would be satisfied that it's not just a shell for a fifth team."
nascar regulations currently allow a team like gibbs to service satellite teams like leavine family racing or furniture row racing. in each of those agreements, leavine and furniture row purchased chassis and engines from the much larger organization.
nascar offered the following statement after the announcement on monday night.
"we proudly welcome michael jordan into the nascar family, and look forward to watching michael, denny hamlin and bubba wallace compete in 2021.
"michael is an iconic sports figure and celebrated champion whose fiercely competitive nature has placed him among the greatest athletes of all time. his presence at nascar's top level will further strengthen the competition, excitement and momentum growing around our sport. we wish michael and his team tremendous success."