*Michael Jordan has joined forces with three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin to create a new single-car NASCAR Cup Series team that will feature Bubba Wallace as its driver.
The NBA legend will reportedly serve as principal owner of the team with Hamlin a minority partner while he continues to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing, per MSN.com.
The opportunity comes at just the right moment for Wallace, 26, who announced a week ago that he will be leaving Richard Petty Motorsports after the 2020 season.
“This was not an easy decision as I have nothing but the utmost respect for Richard Petty and his family, but I believe it’s time for someone else to take over the reins of the No. 43,” Wallace, who has raced with Richard Petty Motorsports for three seasons, wrote on Twitter.
“Thank you to the King and everyone at Richard Petty Motorsports for giving me the opportunity to start my Cup Series career. I’ve grown so much as a driver and as a person since joining them. We’ve got nine more races together, and I hope we can finish the 2020 season on a high note,” his post continued.
This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I believe is a great fit for me at this point in my career. I’m grateful and humbled that they believe in me and I’m super pumped to begin this adventure with them.
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) September 22, 2020
The announcement comes less than three months after Wallace — the only top-tier Black NASCAR driver — was at the center of a noose controversy.
On June 21, NASCAR notified him that a noose was found hanging in his garage stall at the Talladega Superspeedway.
After an investigation into the incident, the FBI declined to file any federal charges.
According to a statement from U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp, the noose had been in the garage since last fall, per USA Today.
Wallace “was not the target of a hate crime,” NASCAR said in a statement.
“Historically, NASCAR has struggled with diversity and there have been few Black owners,” Jordan said in a statement. “The timing seemed perfect as NASCAR is evolving and embracing social change more and more.”
Jordan said his new team with Wallace is a chance to “educate a new audience and open more opportunities for Black people in racing.”
The team will start racing in the 2021 season. Details about the name, car number, manufacturer and sponsors will be announced at a future date.
“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.