Next year’s NASCAR Cup Series will include a new team that fields just one car but features three very, very big names.

Foremost among them will be Michael Jordan, who is making the move from merely being a high-profile NASCAR fan. Joining him as minority owner will be superstar driver Denny Hamlin. And the driver of their team’s car will be Bubba Wallace.

“This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I believe is a great fit for me at this point in my career,” Wallace wrote in a social media post Monday evening.

“I am grateful and humbled that they believe in me and I’m super pumped to begin this adventure with them.”

In a statement posted by Jordan’s publicist, the NBA legend noted that his parents took him and his siblings to NASCAR races during his childhood in North Carolina. He described his partnership with Hamlin, with whom he has had a friendship, and Wallace as “very exciting for me.”

“Historically, NASCAR has struggled with diversity and there have been few Black owners,” said the 57-year-old Jordan, who owns the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets. “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.”

Wallace, the only Black full-time driver in the Cup Series, emerged this year as a leading voice in NASCAR on social issues within the sport and in society as a whole. In June, his vocal opposition to displays of the Confederate battle flag at NASCAR races and other events was closely followed by the company issuing a total ban on the symbol of historical racial oppression. That month also saw the 26-year-old drive a car emblazoned with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter for his team, Richard Petty Motorsports.

In an episode that made national headlines and drew the pointed attention of President Trump, a rope tied into a noose was found in the garage stall of Wallace’s team during a race later in June at Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway. The FBI investigated it as a possible hate crime but concluded that the rope had been there since October 2019 and that it was happenstance that Wallace was eventually assigned that stall.

Earlier this month, Wallace announced he was leaving Richard Petty Motorsports at the end of this season. He thanked the team for giving him a major opportunity and said in a statement, “I’ve grown so much as a driver and a person since joining them.”

In a statement Monday, Hamlin said that “Bubba has shown improvement since joining the Cup series, and we believe he’s ready to take his career to a higher level.”

Hamlin noted that his friendship with Jordan began at an NBA game 11 years ago in Charlotte, just after the latter became majority owner of the then-Bobcats, and that he became the first NASCAR driver signed to the Nike subsidiary Jordan Brand.

“Our friendship has grown over the years and now we are ready to take it to the next level,” Hamlin wrote. He added, “Deciding on the driver was easy — it had to be Bubba Wallace.”

Citing Wallace’s emergence as “a loud voice for change in our sport and our country,” Hamlin said that “MJ and I will support him fully in those efforts and stand beside him.”

Hamlin, 39, added that he remains “focused on winning a championship” for his team, Joe Gibbs Racing, in “this season and in the years ahead.”

NASCAR allows for a driver in a four-car team such as JGR to have an ownership stake in another team (per Fox Sports reported Monday that the team owned by Jordan and Hamlin had purchased a charter from Germain Racing.

The new team’s car is expected to bear the number 23, per reports. Jordan made that an iconic jersey number during an NBA career that resulted in six NBA titles in as many trips to the Finals and earned him widespread acclaim as the greatest basketball player ever.

Hamlin is a 43-time Cup Series winner, including triumphs at the Daytona 500 in 2016, 2019 and 2020. His best finish thus far in the season-long competition was second in 2010, and this year he is in second place in the points race as NASCAR winnows its playoff field en route to its championship finale Nov. 8.

Wallace, who has yet to win a Cup Series race, is having his best season with five top-10 finishes. At 23rd in the points standings, he was eliminated late last month from the playoff race, now down to 12 drivers.

Read more: