The new NASCAR team’s name pays tribute to both Jordan and Hamlin’s iconic numerals, as Bubba Wallace will drive their first vehicle.
𝙃𝙚𝙧𝙚 𝙬𝙚 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙚. #23 pic.twitter.com/vuH3wKRa5M
— 23XI Racing (@23XIRacing) October 22, 2020
Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin unveiled the name of their new NASCAR Cup Series race team on Thursday, as their new venture will bear the name 23XI Racing. The name pays tribute to the number Jordan wore for a majority of his NBA career, while Hamlin’s No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota is represented via Roman numerals. Jordan’s number will also grace the track, as Bubba Wallace will drive the No. 23 Toyota when the team makes its debut next season.
“Michael and I have a shared vision for this team,” Hamlin said in a statement on the team website. “It’s exciting to see it reflected in the team name and on the race car with the iconic number 23 that Michael made famous.”
Jordan first wore No. 23 during his days at Laney High School (NC), encouraged to do by splitting the number his older brother Larry wore (45) in half. He could go on to keep the number for his collegiate and professional career with the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards, with the exception of his return from a year-long retirement in 1995, when he took the aforementioned 45.
No. 23 has had a less cherished past in the history of the NASCAR Cup Series. No car bearing the number has finished in a Cup Series race’s top ten since Kenny Wallace did so with Bill Davis Racing at the Bristol event in August 2003. Al Keller was the last driver to win a race in such a car, his victory coming back in 1954. Notable drivers to previously represent the number include Michael Waltrip and current playoff driver Alex Bowman, who ran the numbers in his first season of full-time Cup Series racing with the low-budget BK Racing.
Hamlin’s No. 11 has a more cherished place in NASCAR history, as, in terms of wins, it’s the most successful number on the Cup Series circuit (224). Names like Hamlin, Ned Jarrett, Junior Johnson, Mario Andretti, Buddy Baker, A.J. Foyt, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Terry Labonte, and Bill Elliott have all contributed to that tally. Hamlin has earned seven wins this season and continues to compete for the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series title. The No. 43 is second in that tally with 199 wins, all earned by Richard Petty. Wallace will run his final races in the car over the next three before joining Hamlin and Jordan’s endeavor. Petty’s race team announced this week that Erik Jones, currently Hamlin’s teammate at JGR, will succeed him the No. 43 next season.
The NASCAR Cup Series continues its trek toward the title at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN). Hamlin will start seventh, while Wallace will start the race in 18th.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags