Denny Hamlin and Darrell “Bubba” Wallace are known as two of today’s most dynamic NASCAR Cup Series drivers, but they also make a great team.
Hamlin, the three-time Daytona 500 winner and top-ranked driver for Joe Gibbs Racing is also the operator and a minority owner of 23XI Racing, with Hall of Fame basketball player Michael Jordan. Hamlin says Wallace is exactly the kind of guy you want to have in the no. 23 car.
“Bubba is quiet at times, but he’s got an interesting persona and connects with fans,” Hamlin said of Wallace, who first debuted in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2017. “He’s working really hard, and doing what he can to do well in the sport.”
Wallace joined 23XI Racing in 2020, after racing for Richard Petty Motorsports drivers.
Off the track, Hamlin and Wallace partnered last week on another effort. The two NASCAR drivers sat down a week ago with representatives from a two historically black colleges and universities aka HBCUs. In a roundtable discussion with Jackson State University athletic director Ashley Robinson and Tennessee State men’s basketball coach Penny Collins, the NASCAR drivers and the college sports reps held a talk about the importance of listening, learning and leading positive change through sports and education.
“It’s important to support HBCUs, as they play a pivotal role in granting educational access to those that that are at risk of never completing college,” Wallace said Friday. “Education is important, and if we’re able to help one member of our youth pursue their dreams, goals and ambitions, whether through financial means or motivation, then we’ve made a difference.”
Hamlin weighed in on the discussion and a program put together by his long-time racing sponsor.
“Last year NASCAR and (we) drivers decided we wanted to listen in and talk with people with diverse backgrounds. FedEx Cares has been doing it for years now, and we wanted to highlight a few important universities.”
To bolster the effort, Hamlin’s #11 Fed Ex Toyota Camry will feature a special HBCU-themed paint scheme for the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday.
Additionally, the rear of Hamlin’s Daytona car will bear the logos of four HBCUs that include Tennessee State University, Mississippi Valley State University, LeMoyne-Owen College and Jackson State University.
Wallace, Hamlin and FedEx also hope to capture the attention of more Black motorsports fans, and motivate more people to tune into the sport, especially with the postseason in sight.
“We’re actively bringing in new fans that may have been uninterested in the past,” Wallace said. He adds that “with a diverse fan base” comes future drivers, NASCAR employees and enthusiasts, and that NASCAR teams like 23XI and Joe Gibbs Racing have an active diversity initiative.
Currently, 23XI has one car in the NASCAR Cup Series, with Wallace as driver, and announced yesterday that will add NASCAR veteran Kurt Busch as their second driver, to race the no. 45 car next season.
Joe Gibbs Racing is one of NASCAR’s premier teams, and was founded in 1991 by Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs and his son, the late J.D. Gibbs. Along with Hamlin, JGR also boasts Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr., both Cup Series champions, along with up-and-coming star Christopher Bell and a roster of top drivers in the second-tier NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Currently Hamlin sits second in the NASCAR Cup Series standings with 976 points, behind Hendrick Motorsports star driver Kyle Larson, who is currently in first. Wallace sits mid-table, in 21st place, and can clinch a playoff spot with a win at Daytona.