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Michael Jordan is set to make his NASCAR debut with Bubba Wallace at the Daytona 500 on Sunday as more than 30,000 racing fans prepare for the biggest sporting event since the start of the pandemic.
Wallace was more of a Jordan fan of watching Space Jam than he was of the NBA. He was just a kid when Jordan was in his prime with Chicago, so it seemed natural that Wallace would be more captivated by Jordan shooting hoops with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck than he was with the Bulls.
Jordan has been a pitcher, NBA team owner and tequila connoisseur, and on Sunday, with Wallace at the wheel, he makes his official debut as a NASCAR team owner with 23XI Racing at the Daytona 500.
“For last year’s Daytona 500, Wallace was racing with Richard Petty Motorsports in the No. 43 Chevrolet. This year, he will drive the No. 23 Toyota, co-owned by Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin,” a Front tweet reads. Office Sports, which also featured an image of Jordan, Hamlin, and Wallace posing together.
Jordan and Hamlin, three-time Daytona 500 champions, might be more nervous than Wallace on the eve of NASCAR’s biggest race.
“He’s pretty funny,” Wallace told The Associated Press on Saturday. It’s like his little boy is running, I don’t know. I’m like, you guys are nervous, I’m here ready to go. ‘
Wallace, 27, has answered countless questions about what Jordan was like since the team’s formation was announced late last year.
It was a bit difficult to answer: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Jordan and Wallace had never met. Jordan, who won six NBA championships during a Hall of Fame career, came to town this week and was seen playing golf at a country club.
Hamlin nervous ahead of the race. ‘It’s like their little kid out there racing, I don’t know. I’m like, you guys are nervous, I’m just over here ready to go’.
Wallace was in awe when he met the man responsible for bringing the Tune Squad to freedom with a last-second victory over the Monstars in the 1996 film. Wallace, Hamlin and Jordan filmed a promo scheduled to air Sunday on Fox before the race. .
‘When he walked into the room it was like,’ Oh wow, this is real, ‘Wallace said.
Wallace is the only full-time black driver at the highest level in NASCAR and in June he successfully called for the series to ban the display of Confederate flags on racetracks. His activism caught the attention of American companies, which raised enough funds through five companies to sponsor the entire Cup season.
Wallace was believed to be the victim of a racist attack at Talladega Superspeedway when a rope was discovered in his garage stall that looked like a rope.
The other 39 NASCAR drivers supported Wallace before the restart the next day, collectively pushing his No. 43 car to the front of the grid in a show of solidarity. Shortly thereafter, an FBI investigation discovered that the item, which was described in NASCAR’s original filing as a “ rope-like garage door pull string, ” had been there since 2019, when a white driver was there. using that specific position.
Wallace, who did not discover the rope and was not the person who reported it to NASCAR or the FBI, faced criticism for the misunderstanding, but described himself as “relieved” that it was not a racist threat.
Wallace spent the past three seasons driving the iconic No. 43 for Richard Petty Motorsports, a team that struggled to compete at the highest levels due to sponsorship issues. As Wallace’s profile expanded, he was able to raise funds that were linked to him and were able to move with him.
Jordan is the first full-time main black owner of a Cup team since Hall of Famer Wendell Scott in 1973. Scott drove his own race car in 495 races between 1961 and 1973. Scott’s victory in 1964 at Jacksonville 200 it is the only victory by a black driver in Cup history.
who for trying to spot actors, musicians and other famous athletes, who mill around the starting grid and create a party scene like no other in the sport.
The Daytona 500 is often a who’s who to try and spot the famous actors, musicians and other athletes, moving around the starting blocks and creating a party scene like no other in sport.
NASCAR fans and media reportedly stormed Wallace’s car in the last hour before the race in hopes of catching a glimpse or a photo with Jordan. But COVID-19 protocols will prevent Jordan from looking in box No. 23.
“With COVID, it’s been a bummer,” said 23XI crew chief Mike Wheeler.
Wheeler appreciated the perks of working for Jordan, like having the best loot (‘our good shoes, fancy gear’) in the garage.
But MJ will still find a seat at Daytona International Speedway.
“He’s also humble enough to say,” Okay, okay. I’ll just hang out, “Wheeler said. I think he wants to go next week sit in the pit box. But this week he’s here in Daytona watching from the suites.
Wallace won six times in the Truck Series and knows, relaxed or not against Jordan, that it’s time to win. “I just know the opportunity is there and the stakes are there,” Wallace said.
Last season, Wallace added about $ 18 million in endorsements. His partners include Door Dash, Columbia Sportswear, Cash App and a personal deal with Beats by Dre. He is also affiliated with McDonald’s.
Fans in the infield throw a football at the Daytona International Speedway to pass the time before the race
Meanwhile, more than 30,000 racing fans will attend the Daytona 500 on Sunday afternoon. Thousands of spectators filled the stands and emerged from the trailers in the center of the Florida track to watch practice and races leading up to the main event.
The track made all the usual showcase moves to show that safety is a priority, with temperature controls, remote seating, cashless concessions, and compliance with CDC guidelines.
NASCAR went down this path last season when Bristol had about 22,000 fans for its All-Star career last July. Daytona is bigger, even with social distancing in the stands, a mandatory mask order, and no access to garages or pit row.
Speedweeks, the run-up to the big race, is actually sponsored by a Florida-based health care system and COVID-19 testing information is above a link to official travel packages on the website of track.
Sam Maxwell and his band of Cleveland brothers packed up their 1997 Four Winds motorhome with 105,000 miles on it, headed south amid the pandemic, and pinned their hopes on a party.
Traveling on a budget, friends like to attend a world-class sporting event every year, and this week, thanks only to increased interest in playing FanDuel, parked on the infield lawn at Daytona International Speedway. They came to soak up the atmosphere of the Daytona 500, or whatever they found among campers killing time with cornhole and flip cup games.
“We’re still going to have a party one way or another,” Maxwell said. “Whether it’s 100 people or just the four of us, we’re still going to have fun.”
Die-hard Browns fans brought the party to them. They hit a thrift store, spent $ 25 for a tattered couch, perfect for soaking up spilled PBR, and even pulled a keyboard out of a dumpster.
They blew up red balloons and tied them to a sign: ‘Moms Drink 4 Free!’ Her plan to liven up the party was overheard by a neighbor, who pressed her face against a window screen and asked if there was an age limit for moms.
At Daytona, both in speed and celebration, there are no limits. So one of the gang waved him down and took the fireball away from him.
Amid a pandemic that has killed more than 480,000 people in the United States, the revelry was more casual than crazy this week at Daytona as race day approached. The roughly 30,000 fans within the sprawling facility that typically house more than 100,000 are expected to make Sunday’s Daytona 500 the highest-attended individual sporting event in the nation since the coronavirus shut down much of the sporting world ago. 11 months.
Do you wear a mask? Not so much, and there’s more space between stock car racing at superspeed than there is among most campers.
“It doesn’t worry me too much,” Maxwell said.
Yet in a week in which the Victoria state government imposed a five-day lockdown, stripping the Australian Open of fans as play continues, Florida goes for two: The Super Bowl hosted 25,000 fans last week in Tampa, about 150 miles southwest of Daytona, and the viral videos showed crowds of mostly maskless fans and packed sports bars as the hometown Buccaneers won it all.