To the surprise of virtually nobody, Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan‘s 23XI Racing team will receive backing from Toyota Racing Development and Joe Gibbs Racing. On Friday’s edition of CBS This Morning, Hamlin and driver Bubba Wallace unveiled 23XI’s #23 Toyota Camry that the latter will drive in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season.
“We are excited to be a part of this new team with Michael, Denny and Bubba,” Ed Laukes, group vice president of division marketing at Toyota Motor North America, said. “As a Chicago native, I saw firsthand Michael’s determination as he led his team to multiple NBA championships. I know he brings that same drive and work ethic to this new opportunity. Denny has been a valuable part of the Toyota family for over a decade and we are happy to support him as he takes the next step into NASCAR team ownership. We are also thrilled to bring Bubba back to the Toyota family. Bubba achieved many firsts with Toyota, and we are counting on him earning many more victories with 23XI Racing behind the wheel of a Camry.”
The team, which formed in September and revealed its identity a week ago, is a new project by Hamlin and Jordan. Hamlin is currently fighting for a spot in the Cup Series Championship Round, while Jordan has long expressed interest in racing before finally dipping his feet into team ownership. Considering Hamlin drives the #11 for Gibbs (hence the XI in the team name), it is unsurprising that 23XI would consider an alliance with the team and its respective manufacturer.
“Toyota has been a big part of my NASCAR career,” said Hamlin. “We’ve achieved multiple milestones together including back-to-back Daytona 500 victories. I know how they support their teams, and when I decided move to team ownership, I knew that I wanted Toyota to be alongside our team. Toyota supports my vision with this team and will be integrated with our team members to support us as we grow and strive to achieve race wins and championships.”
“We’re excited to have the opportunity to provide resources to this new Toyota team to help them get started,” Gibbs commented. “We can remember being in a similar position nearly three decades ago and we were fortunate to have a similar agreement that helped us in the beginning. We’re happy for Denny to realize his dream of ownership and certainly it’s a big deal for NASCAR to have someone with the respect and stature of Michael Jordan enter our sport.”
As part of the partnership, 23XI will be able to buy chassis and share information with JGR and the rest of the Toyota camp like Gaunt Brothers Racing. 23XI replaces Leavine Family Racing in the Toyota stable as LFR is shutting down after 2020; although LFR’s cars will return to JGR, the team’s shop and charter are taken over by Spire Motorsports, so 23XI will base operations at Germain Racing‘s building, whose charter 23XI had acquired. Since JGR is already at the Cup Series’ four-car cap, 23XI has received clearance from NASCAR to race with the alliance upon proving it is still an independent team.
“My main goal for 23XI Racing is to be competitive for a championship as soon as possible,” said Jordan. “Our partnership with Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing gives us the equipment, resources and expertise to do it.”
Wallace returns to Toyota after racing with Ford and Chevrolet for the last six years. He began his NASCAR career with Toyota in the Drive for Diversity program, which included running in the Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports—owned by Hamlin’s team-mate—and sporadic starts in what is now the Xfinity Series for JGR.