Michael Jordan proves Denny Hamlin wrong at Talladega

Michael Jordan certainly has done a great deal in his life. The NBA legend has won six NBA titles and earned the nickname “Air Jordan” for his moves on a basketball court.

Sunday, however, he got to do something he’s never done in his life; celebrate a race win at the track with 23XI Racing, the team he co-owns with Denny Hamlin. His driver Tyler Reddick won on the last lap coming to the checkered flag.

“Denny (Hamlin) keeps saying I was bad luck when I come to the track,” Jordan joked. “And today, we proved him wrong. I mean, look, actually he did a good job of wrecking so we could get upfront. That was actually pretty good. I think Tyler (Reddick) did a good job, unfortunately Bubba (Wallace) couldn’t finish but the whole team did a good job. Look, I’m very happy to be here to see it. Everybody tells me when we win, we have a big celebration, but this is the first time I’ve been here.”

The team has won before, but Sunday was the first time Jordan was at the track when it happened. Sadly, it almost wasn’t to be. On lap 157 a group of six Toyota’s were running single file. That line had Reddick at the front and his 23XI teammate Bubba Wallace fourth. Just behind Reddick a multi-car crash erupted that took out Wallace. Reddick would go on to victory.

A victory Jordan got to celebrate with Reddick and the team. And by the way Reddick’s car featured Jordan’s logo on the hood. Jordan was able to enjoy the celebration and he made it clear the 23XI team was here to stay.

“Well, as you know, this is NBA Playoffs right now so this to me is like an NBA Playoff game,” Jordan said. “I am so ecstatic obviously for the fans who support the sport itself.

“We’ve been working hard trying to get ourselves to compete with the top guys in the sport. We’ve done a heck of a job just to be where we are. For us to win and to win a big race like this, it means so much to me and for the effort the team has done. Look, I’m all in. I’m all in. I love it. It replaces a lot of the competitiveness that I had in basketball. This is even worse because I have no control. If I was playing basketball, I have total control, but I have no control, so I live vicariously through these guys and all of the team and everybody. I’m very happy for everybody at 23XI.”

Race winner Reddick was glad to see Jordan in victory lane as well.

“For him he’s come to a few races, and unfortunately, even as good as the days have looked, they’ve not ended in victory lane,” Reddick said. “So for us to win a race like that, be up front as much as we were at the end and it looked like it was slipping away, and then we get it back, man, it’s an unreal feeling.

“Yeah, it’s great. I’m really excited that I was able to do it, but my excitement level would not change whether it was me or Bubba that got him to victory lane when he was here at the track. He means a lot to everyone here at 23XI. He makes a big effort to talk to me, talk to Bubba, talk to Denny, talk to Steve, talk to other individuals on the team and pump us up when we need it.

“To have him here to experience victory lane for the first time is really special.”

Greg Engle