What is 23XI Racing? Kurt Busch Secures Cup Series Victory for Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin’s Team at AdventHealth 400

The tears welling up Denny Hamlin’s face told the whole story. The three-time Daytona 500 winner rarely finishes a race in tears, especially when he’s not part of the winner’s circle.

But this day and this race – the AdventHealth 400 – were different. Hamlin, although officially representing Joe Gibbs Racing, was delighted. And all because Kurt Busch picked up the win at Kansas Speedway.

So why? Well, Hamlin is one of Busch’s team co-owners. You may have heard the name of the other owner before: NBA legend Michael Jordan. Jordan and Hamlin combined to create the 23XI in 2020. Its first driver was none other than Bubba Wallace, who drove the 23 car. Wallace earned his first career win at the 2021 YellaWood 500 at Talladega, a rain-shortened race. He became the second black driver with Wendell Scott to win a Cup race.

The company added Kurt Busch a year later. And on Sunday, after months of hoping for the best, 23XI finally got the taste of shining: Busch overcame a late rally from Kyle Larson to win and secure 23XI’s first Cup Series victory.

The post-race scenes were breathtaking. Busch circled donuts all over the asphalt at Kansas Speedway, pumping his fist through the mesh window as he did. His teams were delighted, clapping and hugging as Busch crossed the checkered flag.

Hamlin couldn’t contain his emotion either. The Cup Series veteran trotted down the track and kissed Busch in a part high five, part hug trick through Busch’s car window.

It was one of the scenes of the Cup Series season so far. Yet, what is 23XI Racing? And how did it happen? The Sporting News has you covered.

What is 23XI Racing?

Team 23XI is a collaboration between Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin. Hamlin provided the impetus for the racing team, pushing Jordan to make a name for itself in the world of motorsport.

The team currently has two drivers – budding racing talent Bubba Wallace and Cup Series veteran Kurt Busch. Wallace is one of the few black drivers to compete on NASCAR’s biggest stage. Meanwhile, Busch is an intoxicating pro who has won countless trophies, including the 2017 Daytona 500 and the 2004 Cup Series. He is seen by many, including Hamlin, as the perfect mentor for 28-year-old Wallace.

How was 23XI born?

The team is owned by Jordan and Hamlin. Hamlin had developed aspirations of owning a racing team during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, he told Jim Rome in 2021.

“That’s basically when I decided to start a racing team,” Hamlin said. “We sit for eight weeks during lockdown for the country and I think, ‘Is this what retirement looks like? – in the middle of summer and I had nothing to do. And I was like, ‘I can’t play golf every day,’ so I thought I needed to have a job and something that I’m passionate about.”

Hamlin, a three-time Daytona 500 winner, signed with Nike as a Jordan Brand Athlete in 2011. He has enjoyed a relationship with Jordan over the years. So when Hamlin came to Jordan with the opportunity to support a racing team, Jordan was all ears.

It was a highly unlikely scenario; Jordan’s name had been linked to racing for a few days in 2020, a connection Jordan called “fake news”. However, Hamlin contacted Jordan and within days the seeds of a team – 23XI Racing – had sprung.

How did social media react to 23XI’s win?

The racing world was buzzing after Busch’s win on Sunday. Some, like Sport’s Business Journal’s Adam Stern, pointed to Busch’s impeccable drip; the veteran’s car was adorned with an Air Jordan III Black Cement Elephant decal. Busch wore number 45, the same number Jordan wore when he returned to basketball in 1995.

It must have been the shoes. Because Busch impressed on the track, winning more than 100 laps at Kansas Speedway on Sunday. And when Busch stepped into the winner’s circle, he made it clear what inspired him to perform at the next level.

All in all, a good day at the office for Busch, Hamlin and the rest of 23XI Racing.

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