Bubba Wallace on Michael Jordan's Support: 'I Definitely Don't Take That for Granted'

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVDecember 15, 2021

NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace (23) during the NASCAR Cup Series auto race on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, in Avondale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace said he's thankful for the continued support of NBA legend Michael Jordan, the co-owner of the 23XI Racing team.

Wallace, who joined 23XI Racing for its debut season in 2021, told People's Katie Campione on Tuesday that Jordan has made a smooth transition to motorsports ownership after years as a fan:

"So we didn't really have to teach him much. We had to help him get a better understanding for things but it's been a lot of fun working with him and his team getting everybody's feet underneath themselves to make sure we're all doing this right way. There are so many people involved that we could be here all day thanking them. But it's cool having M.J.—one of the biggest names in the world—that I'm associated with. I definitely don't take that for granted."

Wallace was the team's standalone driver during its first season competing in the Cup Series. He finished 21st in the standings, falling short of the 16-car playoffs, but he did earn a victory in October's YellaWood 500 at the famed Talladega Superspeedway.

The 28-year-old Alabama native's win made him the first Black driver to achieve that feat in the Cup Series since Wendell Scott in 1963, and he did it for Jordan, who became the first Black majority owner of a team in NASCAR's top division.

Wallace, who said he's watched that race "probably 100 times," told Campione he's grateful Jordan chose him to become the team's first driver.

"M.J. stepping up in a way that he did for me has been—you know, I don't know if I'll ever be able to thank him enough," he said. "Just this opportunity this year and moving forward. He gave me an opportunity to shine and put my best foot forward."

23XI Racing will add a second driver, Kurt Busch, to its ranks in 2022. That addition— combined with the team's continued technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, which features 23XI co-owner Denny Hamlin—should make them more competitive on a week-to-week basis.

Wallace spent his first four years in the Cup Series with Richard Petty Motorsports.

Meanwhile, Jordan also serves as the principal governor of the NBA's Charlotte Hornets after his decorated playing career that was highlighted by six NBA championships and five MVP Awards.

"I'm so happy for Bubba and our entire 23XI Racing team," Jordan said in a statement after Wallace's YellaWood 500 win. "This is a huge milestone and a historic win for us. From the day we signed him, I knew Bubba had the talent to win, and Denny and I could not be more proud of him. Let's go!"

The 2022 Cup Series season is scheduled to begin Feb. 20 with the Daytona 500.