23XI Racing have gained a quintet of partners with connections to their driver Bubba Wallace. On Monday, the newly-formed NASCAR Cup Series team announced Columbia Sportswear, DoorDash, Dr Pepper, McDonald’s, and Root Insurance have become founding partners of the team, and they will serve as sponsors of Wallace’s #23 Toyota Camry in 2021.
Four of the five companies join Wallace at 23XI, three of which having previously sponsored his #43 Richard Petty Motorsports car before he left at the end of 2020. During the season, Wallace easily became the sport’s most-discussed driver for his public support of racial equality and inclusiveness in NASCAR. Headlines included supporting Black Lives Matter and other related causes, calling for an ultimately-successful ban of the Confederate battle flag from tracks, the GEICO 500 noose investigation and ensuing gestures of solidarity from his peers, drawing the ire of President Donald Trump, among others.
Wallace’s rising image marked a watershed moment for NASCAR as various brands such as Columbia, DoorDash, and Root dipped their feet into the sport for the first time. 23XI co-owner and NBA legend Michael Jordan, a longtime racing fan, is also a new face in the NASCAR ownership world as he joins veteran driver and fellow first-time owner Denny Hamlin. Hamlin’s employer Joe Gibbs Racing will provide technical support to 23XI.
“I’m pumped to get the season started,” Wallace stated. “I wish Daytona was tomorrow. We’re heading in the right direction and we’ll be ready when we get to Daytona. As I’ve said before, this is an opportunity of a lifetime for me and there’s no more excuses. We want to go out and win and I know we’ll have everything we need each week to make that happen. To have great partners in DoorDash, McDonald’s, Columbia Sportswear, Dr Pepper and Root Insurance come on board and show their support of me and this team is really cool.
“I’m excited for what we can do on the track, but at the end of the day, these partnerships and relationships are so much more than that. It’s about how we use our platforms to be better humans and help create a positive change. It’s about what we do Monday through Friday outside of the firesuit and that’s a really special thing for me. Knowing I have their support and this team behind me makes me really excited for this season to see what we can accomplish together.”
Columbia, a sportswear company that produces camping gear, was the primary sponsor of the #43 for two races at Dover and the Charlotte Roval. Wallace finished twenty-first in both races, the latter after being caught in a late spin.
“We are incredibly excited by the opportunity to partner with 23XI Racing and to bring the outdoors to NASCAR,” said Columbia president Joe Boyle. “Over the last year Bubba has continually inspired us not only by his passion for the outdoors, but also his commitment to building bridges on and off the track. His tireless efforts towards inclusivity perfectly align with Columbia’s corporate mission of unlocking the outdoors for everyone. We look forward to joining the 23XI Racing crew for what is sure to be an exciting NASCAR season.”
The food delivery service DoorDash appeared on Wallace’s car for seven races in 2020, including the last three races of the season. The final event at Phoenix, where his new boss Hamlin was competing in the Championship Round, saw his best finish in a DoorDash car in fifteenth. The penultimate race at Martinsville, where Wallace had run a Black Lives Matter paint scheme in June, saw DoorDash partner with When We All Vote to encourage voting in November’s presidential election.
DoorDash Vice President of Marketing Kofi Amoo-Gottfried stated, “As a company that values diversity, openness, and empowering local communities, we are proud to partner with 23XI Racing to build upon our shared foundation of creating a more inclusive environment for NASCAR fans. This partnership enables us to further engage with the racing community through one of the most innovative teams in the sport, while expanding our previous partnership with Bubba Wallace Jr. and accelerating our commitment to creating real change for the underrepresented communities and restaurants we serve.”
McDonald’s began sponsoring Wallace in 2019, appearing on the #43 at that year and 2020’s Atlanta races; the latter race saw Wallace wear an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt as nationwide protests against police brutality began to strengthen, kickstarting his increasing reputation. The fast food chain also maintains close relations with Chip Ganassi Racing, who had offered Wallace a contract for 2021, and intends to continue working with CGR and new #42 driver Ross Chastain. Despite its long history in the sport, McDonald’s has not appeared on a race-winning Cup car since Jimmy Spencer in 1994.
“Two years ago, McDonald’s partnered with one of motorsport’s rising stars, Bubba Wallace, and we couldn’t be more proud to witness him succeed on and off the track, while breaking barriers and becoming one of the sport’s truest change agents,” company president Joe Erlinger commented. “As a founding partner of 23XI Racing, we’re excited to continue our partnership with Bubba as he and the team advance the sport and make it more relevant to a larger audience.”
Car insurance company Root Insurance did not sponsor Wallace’s car, but the driver appeared in a commercial covering his push for racial equality. The advertisement covers the backlash he faced for the flag ban and noose story, including a direct mention of Trump’s attacks, before concluding that “progress owes no apology.”
“Bubba has demonstrated his ability to lead and stand up for what is right. We are thrilled that Root Insurance will be there to continue to support him and 23XI Racing throughout the 2021 season as they continue to lead on and off the track,” Root CEO Alex Timm said.
Dr Pepper returns to NASCAR after last serving as a sponsor in 2017 with BK Racing, a now-defunct team that ironically had ties to McDonald’s rival Burger King. Fittingly, Dr Pepper’s BK Racing sponsorship was also on a #23 Camry to highlight the soft drink’s 23 flavours. Of course, 23XI’s #23 is a nod to Jordan’s number during his playing career.
“We’re thrilled to be a founding sponsor of 23XI Racing and part of a team making a difference on and off the track,” Andrew Springate, Chief Marketing Officer of the soda’s owner Keurig Dr Pepper, stated. “Keurig Dr Pepper knows that bringing the best together creates a winning formula. We’ve done that in all aspects of our business, and we’re doing it here with 23XI Racing.”
“To be able to announce the addition of five founding partners who are willing to join us in our first year and who share in our beliefs and values is such a great feeling,” Hamlin said in a team release. “We’ve certainly had to make things happen fast to build this new team, and I’m excited to welcome each one of these partners and to get to know them better. I’m fortunate that during my time at Joe Gibbs Racing I’ve been able to have a great mentor and see how Coach, as an owner, is able to service each partner. That’s new for me – learning the owner side while still on the driver side, but I’m in for the long haul and will continue this far beyond my driving years.
“I’m passionate about this sport and I’m excited to bring new partners to the table and bring back others who have been in our sport in the past.”