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What drivers said after the Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway

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After a long weekend marked by fog, rain and interminable waiting at Pocono Raceway, there was much to say after the Pennsylvania 400 despite the race ending 22 laps short of its scheduled distance.

Here’s some of what drivers said after the 21st Sprint Cup race of the 2016 season:

Chris Buescher – Winner: “That’s pretty awesome.  Wild circumstances here at Pocono.  This is gonna change our whole year right here, so this puts us in a good situation where we had a good day.  It was a lot of fun.  The guys really toughed it out.  We got a flat tire, but we’re headed in the right direction now, so that will help in points.  We got a win here, so we’ll take it any way we can get it.” (On if the team has momentum) “Yes, we’ve been definitely headed in the right direction.  The last six or seven weeks have been really good for us.  Kentucky was gonna be excellent for us, but is just didn’t play out.  It’s pretty awesome to be here right now.  I don’t know what to do right now.  We don’t have any of the team here right now.  The car is out on pit road.  This is a little different way to celebrate.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished second: “Probably five more laps and I think we would have been in great shape, but that’s the way it goes.  We had really good speed on the green flag pit stop cycle, which got us in a position to take over the lead and hopefully control the race, but there’s nothing you can do about the fog rolling in.  That’s just part of it and either way I’m really kind of pumped up for Chris.  That’s big to win a race and get in the Chase.  It’s been an interesting weekend here in Pocono.  It’s been a lot of fun.  I’m really proud of everybody on this Alliance Truck Parts Fusion team.”

Regan Smith – Finished third: “It’s been a strange weekend really weather wise.  There were times yesterday I thought we were going to get to race and the track had like a pond underneath it apparently.  I’m just proud of Tommy (Baldwin) and then the guys on the box for kind of realizing there was opportunity for a strategy play there.  We have had a decent run today. We were a lot better than we were last time here.  We have made a lot of gains with our race car and with our team.  When you are a small team you’ve got to take those opportunities when you can.  Fortunately, we were getting good enough fuel mileage to just keep trying to stretch it and have enough left for when the caution did come out.  I don’t know that we could have predicted it would have been from fog.  I think we were just trying to do what we could do to make sure we maintained as far up as we could and maybe lead a lap or something like that.  That is what you’ve got to do sometimes.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished fourth: “Our Chevy has been really fast. Obviously, we had one caution come out at the wrong time and the fog here at the end; I felt like we were in a pretty good spot running down to (Turn) 2 and here comes the fog. That’s kind of the way that things have gone this year. It seems like when we have a really fast car we just have some weird circumstances. (Are you encouraged by the speed this week?) Well, we got out butt kicked last week; the whole field did, by the No. 18 (Kyle Busch). I think as you look at that, that’s always been kind of a hit and miss race track over the last few years for us. But, the car has been really fast this week and it was really fast at Loudon. We’ve had the speed at most of the places; we just haven’t had things go right. It’s just things like this that you keep adding to a very long list of 2016.”

Tony Stewart – Finished fifth: “I’m pretty happy with it.”

Kyle Larson – Finished sixth (on his battle with Austin Dillon): “I don’t think you ever want to expect contact, but obviously we were racing really hard.  I was doing all I could to stay in front of him and he was doing all he could to get by me.  We battled hard down the front stretch one time and then he got back to my inside into Turn 3.  I left him plenty of room I was just going to try and run side-by-side with him again and try and slow him down on the front stretch.  I guess he got loose underneath me and got into our door.  That was pretty frustrating at the time, but it happens to not even really matter.  That part of the race doesn’t matter at all.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished seventh: “My car was pretty fast. It’s fast by itself for a few laps and then we lose a little bit of speed, but I think we had a top-three or four car. … It’s frustrating, but it’s mountain weather. We’re up here in the mountains and stuff comes and goes. We’re in the middle of summer where there’s pop-up showers all of the time so it’s just we get lucky here sometimes but more times than not we fight the weather up here for sure.”

Carl Edwards – Finished eighth: “I think our Toyota is better than eighth-place, so I really wanted to go racing. We were hoping it cleared up for these fans with everyone waiting around an awful lot. I would have liked one more shot at it.  I tried to keep up with (the weather) for a little while and I just said, ‘Heck with it, I don’t know what everyone is doing, what tires everyone is on.’ Dave (Rogers, crew chief) has a good plan. There for a little while it looked like it was going to work out I let a couple guys get by that I shouldn’t have.”

Kyle Busch – Finished ninth: “Our car was OK. We were really, really fast when we were by ourselves but anytime we got to within five lengths of the guys in front of us, we just couldn’t do anything with it. Just got really aero tight this time. We weren’t that bad when we were here last time. I’m not sure what’s different for us. We just didn’t quite figure it out.” (on the fog) “I thought it was fun. The spotters said, ‘Hey I can’t see,’ and I’m like, ‘Okay, fine whatever let’s keep going.’ I think all of us can pretty much handle ourselves. We’re not idiots but occasionally we do look like we are. I guess you’ve got to play it safe when you’re around all of us out there.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 10th, set NASCAR record by finishing all the laps in the first 21 races of he season: “It’s nice to be in position to have completed all the laps. That is done with a lot of team work.  It’s not just one person.  It starts at the shop with the quality of cars and congratulations to everybody that has helped be part of this sequence.  All-in-all we are finishing on the lead lap, we are finishing top 10 every week.  We just know that we need to find a little bit more to be competitive once the Chase starts.  All-in-all I can’t say thank you enough to everybody on the No. 41 SHR car. (on his race) I felt like we were making all the right calls and all the right sequences on when to pit and we just had one adjustment go astray.  We tried to loosen up the car with a left-rear wedge change and we ended up getting tighter.  Sometimes that has happened to us this year and we just need to not fall into that pit fall and make sure we steer clear of wrong adjustments or adjustments that are questionable until we have a better handle on it.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 11th: “I didn’t think we were too bad.  I thought we actually had a really good race car, but it didn’t really play out in our favor of getting track position.  We got it and took a gamble on rain and it didn’t, and then we lost all of it and had to drive back up through the field.  We should have cycled out about ninth right there, and the fog rolled in.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 13th: “It’s been very awesome.  Slugger (Labbe, crew chief) and the guys did a great job going into today to make the right adjustments.  Turn 3 has been our strong suit. We could really get a run down the front stretch on guys.  It’s was fun racing with (Kyle Larson) today.  It was a heck of a race. … We’ve just got to keep working.  We proved today that we’ve got the speed to win we’ve just got to work on all the other aspects.”

AJ Allmendinger – Finished 14th: “We started off a little tight there.  I thought we made good adjustments throughout the course of the day.  I could kind of use the trackbar to help kind of guide the car the way I needed to.  I feel like we had an eighth- to 12th-place car when were at our best.  I think we still just need a little bit more to get to that next level of cars, but I felt like we just made good changes.  Strategy kind of never worked out.  I felt like we kind of always kind of got in the back of the field when the strategy kind of happened.  We were able to pass cars and got what we got.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 16th despite a hole in the nose of his car: “It happened early. I think they pointed it out to me on Lap 2. I really don’t know where it came from. But, it was just above the bumper bar where the bowtie sits on the nose of the car. There’s a huge rip there. At first, the balance was off a little bit. The car was pretty tight and slow on the straights. And then they were able to get that patched up. They worked on it two or three times, and we lost track position doing so. (Is the team improving?)  “You leave Indy and think absolutely; and you have a long agonizing today from Lap 2, and you forget what happened at Indy. It’s crazy how humbling this sport is. The good news, and I’ve watched (teamamte Kasey Kahne) and I can’t believe how fast that car is down the straights and through the corners. I know track position isn’t working for him right now via strategy, but watching him pick cars off and move forward looks good. So, we may not have sunshine right now on the No. 48, but maybe on another car at Hendrick Motorsports. And we’ll keep stacking these pennies and hopefully be better when it comes down to the Chase.”

Matt Kenseth – Finished 16th: “I’ve seen Bob Osborne (Chris Buescher’s crew chief) win a lot of races with Carl (Edwards), so I think the situation they had nothing to lose and do something like that to hope it works out. He’s a good guy and a great race car driver. I’d hoped we get to go back to green and run, 17th is not where we want to end the day. We had a car that probably could have went from fifth to tenth. We were OK, just got loose in track position with the way the cautions flew and pitted and restarts. … I think we could probably pass several cars. I’m not sure we can get much further than 10th with restarts and getting jumbled up and getting some spots through turn one once we get single-file, I’ve had a hard time passing today. We were a lot better the last race here when we had track position where today it was hard to make up much ground.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 19th: “It was a long weekend.  We got up to sixth at one point and we didn’t need that caution because then we had to start on the top and we weren’t good enough to really be there.  We got there on strategy to ninth and then got a good restart up to sixth.  It would have been tough for them to pass me under green and had a caution there.  I got moved out of the way by some guys and ended up sliding back, and then pitted.  There were a lot of guys that short-pitted that were probably gonna run out of gas, but the strategy didn’t play out for us.”

Greg Biffle – Finished 25th: “At one point in the race we had good strategy, and we had a good car, but it’s unfortunate how it ended.  It’s just unfortunate.  We have about a Top-10 car and mine was pretty good out front.  It was nice to lead some laps and while we still have some work to do, we’re making gains.  We’re doing all we can and trying our best every week.”

Jeff Gordon, – Finished 27th after a problem with fastening his seat belt: “Yeah, it’s the first time I’ve ever had that happen with this type of mechanism where you just plug it in and it latches. I’ve had it happen under the old system with the old buckle. I was actually at Sonoma one time leading the race and we went right off the next corner when it happened. I was able to get that one latched. This one, I thought I had it latched because it happened actually on pit road one time. And I got it latched and lost some time. And then we were in a pretty good position on the restart and went to take off and as soon as I went into second and third, just that little bit of a side movement just pulled it out. It would go in and sort of latch, but when you wiggled it from left to right, it would pop right out. So, I don’t know if there is something lodged in there, or what happened or why it took so long for that to play out, but I knew I couldn’t go down into Turn 1 on these crazy restarts without a right-side seat belt”

Chase Elliott – Finished 33rd, on his recent slump: “Oh, it’s just poor decisions on my behalf I think, is the biggest thing. So, the best way to fix it is obviously to see it at first and notice it and just go to work and like I said, rethink my approach. It’s definitely not working. We’ve had good cars. We had a good car today. I felt like we were a step in the right direction from where we had been the last couple of weeks, which I felt like was a good sign. I just didn’t do my part. I need to rethink things and try to do a better job and put us in a better position. It’s not bad luck. It’s just me putting us in bad spots.”

Joey Logano – Finished 37th: “It was good for a while. The team did a great job. The Shell Pennzoil Ford was fast and really good on restarts. We were able to drive up to the lead a few times. Only if it had rained a little earlier we would have had a lot different outcome. We had a new rear carrier today and he came out of the gate swinging which is awesome. I am super proud of that. There were a lot of positives today. We just ended on a negative note racing hard and trying to get back up there after that caution. We all had to pit because we tried to win the race when it rained and we lost our track position and then the 24 got loose under me. It is just part of racing. It stinks to be on this end of it. It is just part of it.”

NASCAR Silly season features Bubba Wallace, Michael Jordan

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NASCAR Silly Season took a twist Monday. A day that started with the announcement that Ross Chastain would drive for Chip Ganassi Racing next year ended with the news that Denny Hamlin would co-own a team with Michael Jordan and have Bubba Wallace as the driver in 2021.

As JTG Daugherty Racing co-owner Brad Daugherty said: “I think it’s a pretty dynamic trio with Michael, Denny and Bubba. They’re going to be like rock stars.”

The 26-year-old Wallace is in his third full Cup season. All 105 of his starts in NASCAR’s premier series have been with Richard Petty Motorsports.

“Bubba has shown tremendous improvement since joining the Cup Series and we believe he’s ready to take his career to a higher level,” Hamlin said in a statement. “He deserves the opportunity to compete for race wins and our team will make sure he has the resources to do just that. Off the track, Bubba has been a loud voice for change in our sport and our country. MJ and I support him fully in those efforts and stand beside him.”

A team name, car number, manufacturer and sponsors will be announced at a later time.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2021

No. 00: Quin Houff enters the second year of his two-year deal with StarCom Racing.

No. 1: Kurt Busch enters the second year of a multi-year contract that Chip Ganassi Racing announced last season.

No. 2: Brad Keselowski and Team Penske announced a contract extension Aug. 3.

No. 4: Kevin Harvick signed a contract extension in February that will keep him at Stewart-Haas Racing through the 2023 season.

No. 8: Tyler Reddick said Aug. 7 that he will be back with Richard Childress Racing next season.

No. 9: Chase Elliott is under contract with Hendrick Motorsports through the 2022 season.

No. 10: Aric Almirola extends deal with Stewart-Haas Racing for 2021 season.

No. 11: Denny Hamlin is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 12: Ryan Blaney and Team Penske announced a multi-year extension earlier this season.

No. 18: Kyle Busch is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 19: Martin Truex Jr. is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 20: Christopher Bell moves from Leavine Family Racing to take over this ride in 2021.

No. 22: Joey Logano is tied to Team Penske “through the 2022 season and beyond.”

No. 24: William Byron is under contact with Hendrick Motorsports through 2022.

No. 42: Ross Chastain takes over Chip Ganassi Racing’s ride for the 2021 season.

No. 47: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. enters the second year of a multi-year deal with JTG Daugherty Racing.

No. 88: Alex Bowman will race for Hendrick Motorsports under a one-year contract extension announced earlier this year.

No. TBA: Bubba Wallace joins the new team co-owned by Denny Hamlin and NBA great Michael Jordan. The team purchased Germain Racing’s charter. Germain Racing will not continue after this season.

 

Available/possibly available rides

No. 14: Clint Bowyer is in a contract year to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto said Sept. 17 that Wood Brothers Racing has an option to pick up his contract for next year and the deadline is the end of September.

No. 32: Ride is open with Corey LaJoie announcing he will not return to Go Fas Racing in 2021.

No. 43: Bubba Wallace will not return to Richard Petty Motorsports in 2021, the team confirmed on Sept. 10.

No. 48: With Jimmie Johnson retiring from full-time competition, Hendrick Motorsports has this seat to fill.

No. 95: Spire Motorsports purchased the charter and assets of Leavine Family Racing and will be a two-car operation in 2021.

No. 96: Daniel Suarez and Gaunt Brothers Racing announced Sept. 15 that they would part ways after this season.

 

Brad Daugherty: Michael Jordan to NASCAR is ‘huge moment’

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Brad Daugherty calls Michael Jordan’s ownership of a Cup team a “huge moment for NASCAR.”

Jordan and Denny Hamlin will co-own a Cup team next season. Bubba Wallace will be the driver. Jordan will become the first Black majority car owner of a full-time team since Wendell Scott owned and raced cars in the 1960s and ‘70s.

Daugherty, the only Black owner of a full-time Cup team currently, is excited about Jordan’s entrance into NASCAR.

“It’s a big momentum shift for this sport culturally, period,” said Daugherty, co-owner of JTG Daugherty Racing and an analyst for NBC Sports. “Three years ago, this would have never happened. A year ago, this wouldn’t have happened. It’s the timing. If the timing is right and you have someone like Michael Jordan put his brand and what he’s all about into whatever you are doing, it adds a lot of credibility. I look forward to whatever he can bring to the table to help continue to build NASCAR.”

Daugherty told NBC Sports that Jordan can help the sport reach more people.

“The eyeballs are going to be incredible,” Daugherty said of Jordan’s potential impact. “The opportunity for entrance into the sport will be made more available as far as people being aware of the availability to get involved in NASCAR as a fan or as a business. There’s just so many different areas that will light up just because of who he is and what he represents. His entire legacy creates opportunity for everyone.

“Now, we start talking diversity with what he’s able to do from a corporate standpoint and also just from a legacy standpoint with his brand. It’s going to be exciting. I’m excited because I think more people now, more than ever, will take a look at NASCAR with a keen eye and keen interest and be excited about maybe participating as a fan or as a business partner or as someone wanting to learn how to drive a race car or own a race team. The more notoriety the better.”

NASCAR stated Monday: “Michael is an iconic sports figure and celebrated champion whose fiercely competitive nature has placed him among the greatest athletes of all time. His presence at NASCAR’s top level will further strengthen the competition, excitement and momentum growing around our sport. We wish Michael and his team tremendous success.”

Jordan told The Charlotte Observer on Monday that the deal came together in about 10 days because of the chance to hire Wallace.

“When (Hamlin) told me there was a possibility of getting Bubba Wallace, I’m saying, ‘OK, this is perfect!’” Jordan told The Observer. “If I’m getting involved in NASCAR, then get a Black driver (with) a Black owner.”

For all that Jordan can bring to NASCAR, Daugherty knows that the competition can prove challenging.

“I’m sure he’s committed to next season and we’ll see how that goes and if it goes well, you go beyond that,” Daugherty said. “He had a (Superbike) team for a long time and loved that. He understands it’s a different business model. He’s at the point in his life, he’s like Roger Penske and Rick Hendrick and those guys to where it’s really not a detriment to him financially if he’s not making money. We’ll have to see how much he can stomach because it’s an interesting business model for sure.”

Jordan told The Observer he’s in it to win.

“If I’m investing, if I’m a participant, then I want to win! I don’t want to be out there to be just another car,” Jordan said.

Daugherty looks forward to seeing Jordan, Hamlin and Wallace at the track.

“I think it’s a pretty dynamic trio with Michael, Denny and Bubba,” Daugherty said. “They’re going to be like rock stars.”

Daugherty also looks forward to something else next year.

“Look forward to racing against those guys,” he said, “and trying to kick their butts.”

Germain Racing sells charter, will exit sport at end of season

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Germain Racing car owner Bob Germain announced Monday that he has sold the team’s charter and will end the team after this season.

The charter was purchased by a new team that will have Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan as owners and Bubba Wallace as the driver.

Germain said in a statement that the No. 13 team will continue the rest of the season with Ty Dillon as driver.

“Being an owner in NASCAR for the last 16 years has been a thrilling and rewarding adventure,” Germain said in a statement. “From winning two NASCAR Truck Series championships in 2006 and 2010 to competing at the highest level of motorsports in the Cup Series for the last 12 seasons, I have experienced the highs and lows of our sport. I’m extremely proud of what Germain Racing has accomplished at every level and I will be transitioning out of ownership with many memories and friendships. I appreciate the interest and offers made over the last couple of weeks and I am excited to see how the sport continues to grow in the future.

“Thank you to GEICO for their loyalty to Germain Racing for over a decade. It has been a great source of pride for our team to represent their brand on the track. Doug Barnette with Player Management International has facilitated our GEICO relationship since the beginning and I truly appreciate his efforts. Finally, to my employees: building a team camaraderie and creating a family atmosphere has been a highlight of this journey. I will miss each of you.”

Germain pondered a sale when GEICO decided not to renew its contract after this season with the team.  GEICO is one of NASCAR’s Premier Partners, joining Busch Beer, Coca-Cola and Xfinity.

Dillon spoke in late August about the challenges facing single-car teams in Cup.

“The model is very tough right now for single-car teams,” he said. “I’m hoping that NASCAR is going to change it and help on it. But it needs to change for one-car teams to be more successful that haven’t already been at the top level of the sport or have an incredible amount of money to leapfrog into the top spot. If you don’t have three or four teams to spread the wealth with big name sponsors and a lot of money behind the effort, it’s just not a model that’s going to survive long term.”

Hamlin acknowledged the challenge a one-car team can have.

“I do believe that the (ownership) model will hopefully get better,” Hamlin said before last weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. “Do I think it’s fixed? No, I think there is still some work to be done to make the model a viable business. You want a business that everyone wants to be a part of, not the ones that are fleeting. Certainly, I think NASCAR is trying it’s best to make the teams a little more healthy. I think that outlook toward the future is what’s interesting to me.”

Germain Racing is the second team to sell its charter since August. Leavine Family Racing announced it had sold its charter on Aug. 4. Spire Motorsports purchased it and will be a two-car team in 2021.

 

 

Denny Hamlin, Michael Jordan to own Cup team; Bubba Wallace to drive

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Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan will own a Cup team that will have Bubba Wallace as its driver for 2021, Hamlin announced on social media Monday night.

Hamlin said details about the single-car team, including name, car number, manufacturer and sponsors, will be announced at a later date. The team purchased Germain Racing’s charter.

The partnership of Hamlin and Jordan brings one of the most recognizable figures in sports to NASCAR. Jordan won six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009. He became majority owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets in 2010.

MORE: Brad Daugherty: Michael Jordan to NASCAR is a “huge moment”

“Growing up in North Carolina, my parents would take my brothers, sisters and me to the 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 to 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.”

Michael Jordon high-fives the crowd before the 2010 NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

Jordan becomes the second Black car owner of a full-time team. Brad Daugherty, who also is an analyst for NBC Sports, is a co-owner in JTG Daugherty Racing. Once the charter sale is completed, Jordan will become the first Black majority owner of a full-time race team in NASCAR’s premier series since since Wendell Scott owned and raced his own cars in the 1960s and ’70s.

NASCAR issued a statement Monday night on Jordan joining the series.

“We proudly welcome Michael Jordan into the NASCAR family, and look forward to watching Michael, Denny Hamlin and Bubba Wallace compete in 2021. Michael is an iconic sports figure and celebrated champion whose fiercely competitive nature has placed him among the greatest athletes of all time. His presence at NASCAR’s top level will further strengthen the competition, excitement and momentum growing around our sport. We wish Michael and his team tremendous success.”

Jordan’s entry likely doesn’t happen if not for his friendship with Hamlin and Hamlin’s interest in being an owner.

Hamlin said last weekend that he has been interested in ownership “for a while.

I still don’t know how long my driving career will go,” Hamlin said. “There are several different sides of management or what not that I would like to be a part of when it comes to NASCAR and the sport itself. It has to be the right opportunity and if it’s not the right opportunity, the right time then I won’t do it. Everything just has to line up perfectly for me to even remotely consider it.

“I do believe that the (ownership) model will hopefully get better. Do I think it’s fixed? No, I think there is still some work to be done to make the model a viable business. You want a business that everyone wants to be a part of, not the ones that are fleeting. Certainly, I think NASCAR is trying it’s best to make the teams a little more healthy. I think that outlook toward the future is what’s interesting to me.”

This is the second team to be sold this season. Leavine Family Racing sold its charter and assets to Spire Motorsports. That gives Spire Motorsports two charters for the 2021 season.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps was asked before the playoffs about a driver owning another team. He said it would be allowed.

The short answer is yes, but they would need to abide by our guidelines that we would be satisfied that this is not just a shell for a fifth team,” he said.

Jordan has been a long-time motorsports fan and supporter of Hamlin. Nike’s Michael Jordan Brand first had a deal with Hamlin in 2011, putting Jordan’s “Jumpman” logo on Hamlin’s firesuit.

The Jordan Brand grew more than 50% in China for fiscal year 2020, approaching $1 billion in annual revenue, John Donahoe, president and chief executive of Nike, Inc., said in an earnings call with investor analysts June 25.

Jordan attended the 2019 Cup championship race in Miami in hopes of celebrating a Hamlin title. Jordan also attended the 2014 title race and was among the first to greet Hamlin after he exited the car that day after failing to win the championship.

Jordan told NBC Sports’ Dale Earnhardt Jr. about his interest in motorsports last November at Miami.

“I’m a big racing fan,” Jordan said. “Started off when I was a kid. Grew up watching (Dale Earnhardt Sr.), Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, which was the original 11 that I remember. Now I’m good friends with Denny Hamlin. We go way back. He’s a season ticket holder at the (Charlotte) Hornets (owned by Jordan). I spend a lot of time playing golf with him.”

Asked by Dale Earnhardt Jr. about any interest in becoming a NASCAR team owner, Jordan said: “No, I’ve got a lot on my plate. I love being a fan. I still understand the sport, but in terms of ownership, nah, I think I’m just going to sit back and watch it and support from afar.”

The 26-year-old Wallace is in his third full season in Cup. All 105 of his starts in NASCAR’s premier series have been with Richard Petty Motorsports.

“Bubba has shown tremendous improvement since joining the Cup Series and we believe he’s ready to take his career to a higher level,” Hamlin said in a statement. “He deserves the opportunity to compete for race wins and our team will make sure he has the resources to do just that. Off the track, Bubba has been a loud voice for change in our sport and our country. MJ and I support him fully in those efforts and stand beside him.”

Wallace, the only Black driver competing full-time in any of NASCAR’s top three national series. He has been active in helping lead NASCAR through social changes, including the banning of the Confederate flag at series events and tracks.

Wallace previously stated he had offers from Richard Petty Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing.