Hamlin’s partnership with NBA legend Michael Jordan in NASCAR, called 23XI Racing, took a more concrete form this week with the official announcement the team will have support from Toyota and a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing.
The team, which will field the No. 23 Toyota next year for driver Bubba Wallace, also has a temporary home – taking over Germain Racing’s former shop in the Mooresville, N.C., area.
Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing livery
“Some people say you can end up coming and going and it’s going to cost a lot of money and all that stuff and I understand the risk,” Hamlin said. “What really made me feel good about it was that Michael’s team spent weeks working on it behind the scenes, looking at the business model, seeing where NASCAR is currently and where they think it’s going in the future and they deemed it a viable model for them.
So, that gave me the confidence because you don’t see him diving into many other businesses, right? He’s very, very stringent when it comes to that. The name is so important. Their message to me was, ‘We can’t go into business and get out two years later. That’s just not going to be valid.’
“We put a long-term plan into place. All those pieces put together persuaded me more in the fact that this is something I’m confident in, but not only that, if I own it, it’s in my hands. The success and failure of it will ultimately fall on me and I don’t want my reputation to be a failure as a Cup owner, so I’m going to work very, very hard to make sure this team is successful.”
Starting from scratch
Hamlin said he understands you don’t start a team from scratch without bumps along the road but he also believes he is uniquely positioned to deal with those issues, both as a veteran driver for a successful organization like Joe Gibbs Racing and having watched first-hand how his owner, NFL and NASCAR Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs, has navigated a long NASCAR tenure.
“This is something that I’m going to be very, very passionate about. I’m going to be hands-on. I’ve seen the success my boss has had and how hard he works at it to be successful,” Hamlin said. “It’s going to be more than a hobby for me; it’s going to be my day job one day.
“I want to be the guy that’s at the shop – just like Joe is – at 8 in the morning, calling sponsors, calling manufacturers, walking down and talking to employees and trying to figure out how we can make our race cars go faster.
“This is just exciting for me because I see my future now. This is something that is going to be around for a very long time.”
A winning ambition
The ultra-competitive nature of both Hamlin and Jordan leaves little doubt the duo won’t be satisfied with sub-par results. They are also aware a successful race team thrives on having quality people who work well together.
Their timetable to get on track may be short – just over three months remain before the start of the 2021 season – but they don’t plan on cutting corners.
“I’m trying to do it right from year one. It will take time. Ultimately, to build this into an organization like Joe Gibbs Racing, it takes a lot of time and so you have to be patient as far as that’s concerned,” Hamlin said.
“But we are putting the best race team that is possibly available on the race track in year one. I’m pretty confident we’re going to have the parts and pieces that we need to do it. My vision is well beyond just a one-car team. Hopefully, we can execute and grow year-after-year.
“Realistically, we want to contend for race wins. That will be the first obstacle – show that we can run top-five and then contend from there. I just want to see that we are competitive and if we’re not, you’ve got an insider such as myself at Joe Gibbs Racing that knows what it takes to be competitive.
“So, that’s a little bit of an advantage this race team will have.”