No. 23 in NBA, NASCAR: Michael Jordan designs Hamlin’s iRacing car

Denny Hamlin Racing
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CHARLOTTE – After having the in-person support of Michael Jordan for his last two NASCAR championship round appearances, Denny Hamlin will return the favor virtually to the NBA legend this year.

As a new owner in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, Hamlin has two cars and some prime real estate to display in the national online racing series.

“If you’ve got cars with no sponsors and you can put anything on them you want,” he said during the most recent NASCAR on NBC Podcast episode.

So he approached Jordan, who attended last season’s finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the second time in five years, about helping design the scheme for – naturally – his No. 23 car.

“I always thought it’d be really cool to have a Jumpman car,” Hamlin said, referring to the Nike logo that has been synonymous with the Air Jordan shoe line for three decades. “And so I contacted (Jordan) and said, ‘Hey, is this something you’d be interested in?’ He says, ‘I’ll have a design within three days.’ ”

“This is right during Christmastime. And literally a day later he’s sending me all kinds of these renderings that he had his people go out and do.”

Casey Kirwan, who finished 10th in the 2019 eNASCAR points standings with one victory, will drive the No. 23 Jumpman car for Denny Hamlin Racing when the 2020 season begins Feb. 11 with Daytona International Speedway. Zach Novak won the 2019 eNASCAR championship last October in a finale that was broadcast live on NASCAR America (six iRacing playoff races will be broadcast this year on NBCSN).

This year will feature 40 drivers among 20 teams, many of which are owned by established teams and personalities in the NASCAR industry, as iRacing enters its second season with professional racing teams.

Hamlin, William Byron and Kyle Larson are new iRacing team owners in 2020, along with Stewart-Haas Racing. They join a roster that already included teams owned by Clint Bowyer, Austin Dillon, Joe Gibbs Racing, JR Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing, Wood Brothers Racing and NASCAR on NBC analysts Jeff Burton, Parker Kligerman and Steve Letarte.

Though Byron’s progression from iRacing to the Cup Series has been hailed as one of the greatest success stories in virtual racing, Hamlin also has a strong background in online racing dating to its infancy. While winning in Late Models on short tracks around the Southeast in the early 2000s, Hamlin also was an iRacing stalwart who caught the eye of Dale Earnhardt Jr. (who invited Hamlin to Daytona after competing against him online).

During his 2006 rookie season in Cup, Hamlin said it was a “huge benefit” to use iRacing as an introduction to tracks he hadn’t raced in real life.

“I was very good at iRacing back in the day; I sat on the pole and won some really big, prestigious races,” Hamlin said. “Now back then, there were like 5,000 people that raced online, and now there’s over a hundred thousand that do iRacing.”

NASCAR has put more marketing muscle behind iRacing as a result, hosting drivers for a full day of media promotions in Charlotte last month. During the visit, Hamlin invited more than a dozen iRacing drivers to his house for basketball and bowling before taking them to lunch.

It sparked a debate on NASCAR Twitter about whether iRacing drivers are deserving of attention commensurate with real-life stars.

Hamlin’s answer to critics of virtual racing’s legitimacy? “You’ve got to conform or die,” he said, noting he built friendships with iRacing contenders Ray Alfalla and Logan Clampitt by answering their questions about his races via direct messages on Twitter.

“They are honestly really good at what they do,” Hamlin said. “And hearing their stories (that) they actually never watched NASCAR until iRacing and now (they) watch NASCAR races every weekend. So it’s growing our sport. There is no question about it. Because where our sport has always had a challenge unlike other sports where you can go out in your backyard and simulate a game-winning shot that Michael Jordan made or a flop shot onto the green.

“That’s why it’s so hard for people to relate to our sport because they can’t simulate it. They’re not able to experience it in real life, and iRacing now gives them that platform to do it.”

During the NASCAR on NBC Podcast, Hamlin also discussed:

–How he came close to organizing a drivers union five years ago;

–The input that drivers had in NASCAR’s new short track rules for this season;

Being a #GirlDad;

–How he outdueled Kyle Busch for the Daytona 500 victory last year;

–His outlook for the 2020 season.

To hear the podcast, click on the embed above or listen via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play or wherever you get podcasts.

Starting lineup for Talladega Cup race: Christopher Bell wins pole

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Six playoff drivers will start in the top 10 for Sunday’s 500-mile NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Christopher Bell won the pole for the race Saturday with a speed of 180.591 miles per hour. He was followed by Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola and Chase Briscoe.

MORE: Talladega Cup starting lineup

MORE: Talladega Cup qualifying results

Playoff drivers starting in the top 10 are Bell, Larson, Hamlin, Briscoe, Ross Chastain (sixth) and William Byron (ninth).

Noah Gragson, who qualified seventh, is replacing Alex Bowman, who is sitting out the race with concussion-like symptoms.

Ryan Blaney, starting 19th, is the lowest playoff driver on the starting grid.

 

Christopher Bell wins Cup Series pole at Talladega Superspeedway

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Playoff driver Christopher Bell won the pole position Saturday for Sunday’s 500-mile NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

Bell, 11th in the playoff standings and below the cutline entering Sunday’s race, ran 180.591 mph to edge second-place Kyle Larson at 180.516.

Playoff drivers took six of the top-10 starting spots.

MORE: Talladega Cup qualifying results

The race is the second in the second round of the playoffs. Any playoff driver who wins the race will automatically advance to the next round.

Joey Logano leads the playoff standings.

Noah Gragson, replacing Alex Bowman, who is sitting out the race with concussion-like symptoms, qualified seventh.

The race (2 p.m., ET) will be broadcast by NBC.

 

 

Sunday Talladega Cup race: Start time, TV info, weather

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Sunday will mark a difficult crossroads for NASCAR. As several of its top drivers express serious concerns about safety, the Cup Series is at Talladega Superspeedway, the circuit’s biggest track and site of many massive wrecks over its 53 years of existence.

Adding to the tension is the fact that Sunday’s 188-lap, 500-mile race is the middle event in the second round of the playoffs. With a win automatically advancing any of the 12 playoff drivers to the next round, the final laps are likely to be frantic.

Sunday’s race (2 p.m. ET, NBC) will begin with Joey Logano atop the playoff point standings. Following him in the top eight are Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suarez, Chase Elliott and Chase Briscoe.

Below the cutline are Austin Cindric, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman. Byron fell below the line this week when NASCAR penalized him for bumping Hamlin under caution during last Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway. Hendrick Motorsports has appealed the penalty.

Bowman will miss Sunday’s race because of concussion-like symptoms he has experienced after a crash at Texas. Noah Gragson will replace him.

Bell won the pole Saturday with a speed of 180.591 mph.

Details for Sunday’s race:

START: The command to start engines will be given by Jimmy Rane, president of Great Southern Wood Preserving, at 1:52 p.m. (ET). … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 2:04 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 11 a.m. … Driver introductions are at 1:15 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Barbara Embry, chaplin of Citizens Baptist Medical Center, at 1:43 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by the 313th U.S. Army Band at 1:45 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 188 laps (500 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 60. Stage 2 ends at Lap 120.

STARTING LINEUP: Talladega Cup starting lineup

TV/RADIO: NBC will broadcast the race at 2 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 1 p.m. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 1 p.m. … SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mainly sunny. High of 78. 5% chance of rain.

LAST TIME: Bubba Wallace won last October’s race, which was shortened to 117 laps by rain. Brad Keselowski was second.

CATCH UP ON NBC SPORTS COVERAGE

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Dr. Diandra: Is Talladega really a playoff wildcard?

 

Saturday NASCAR schedule at Talladega Superspeedway

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Both the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series will race Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.

Cup cars will start the day’s action by qualifying for Sunday’s playoff race, followed by the Truck playoff race and then the Xfinity playoff race.

Talladega Superspeedway (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)

Weekend weather

Saturday: Sunny. High of 78.

Saturday, Oct. 1

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 9:30 a.m. — Truck Series
  • 1 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)