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Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin create NASCAR team with Bubba Wallace as driver

Sept. 21 (UPI) -- Chicago Bulls legend and six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan has partnered with NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin to form a new Cup Series race team that will begin competition next year.

Jordan and Hamlin -- a three-time Daytona 500 winner and top contender for this year's Cup Series title -- announced the formation of the team Monday. The team will be a single-car Toyota entry aligned with Joe Gibbs Racing, and rising NASCAR star Bubba Wallace has signed a multiyear deal to drive for the yet-to-be-named racing team.

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"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 statement. "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."

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Jordan -- who also owns the NBA's Charlotte Hornets -- will serve as principal owner of the new team, while Hamlin will be a minority partner as he continues to drive the No. 11 Toyota Camry 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, who became close friends with the Pro Basketball Hall of Famer more than a decade ago.

"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."

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Jordan has traveled to the NASCAR season finale on two occasions to watch Hamlin race for the championship. The 39-year-old Hamlin, who has been a longtime season-ticket holder for Hornets games, is still seeking his first Cup Series title.

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Wallace previously said he was leaving Richard Petty Motorsports at the conclusion of the 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," Wallace wrote on social media Monday. "I am grateful and humbled that they believe in me and I'm super pumped to begin this adventure with them."

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