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Why Michael Jordan’s racing team could help NASCAR accelerate

Michael Jordan announced Tuesday that he would be forming a NASCAR racing team with NASCAR’s Denny Hamlin and have Bubba Wallace as the driver. Michael Jordan explains that the partnership is an effort ‘to educate a new audience and open more opportunities for black people in racing’. Yahoo Finance’s Dan Roberts joins The Final Round to discuss how this move could change NASCAR.

Video Transcript

MYLES UDLAND: Well, earlier today we learned that Michael Jordan was getting into NASCAR. And Dan Roberts, I guess, I would say a surprising addition to the sport, but you know, you think about it, and as Jordan's statement says, grew up in North Carolina. You know, auto racing is a big part of sports in the south, and I guess, kind of seen that way, it makes sense that Jordan would look to maybe get into this sport. And you know, with Bubba Wallace driving his car, I think it makes a lot of sense, given where, certainly, the powers that be at NASCAR would like the sport to go.

DAN ROBERTS: Exactly right. It makes a lot of sense. It's almost a no-brainer. And it makes so much sense, you're sort of surprised it didn't already happen. As you mentioned, you know, Jordan-- look, he's the majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets, Charlotte, basically the capital of NASCAR. He was already a longtime NASCAR fan, and everyone kind of knew that.

He also was a longtime friend of Denny Hamlin, and he is starting this single car racing team with Denny Hamlin, who, by the way, continues to drive for his own team membership. He's over at the Joe Gibbs Racing team. So he'll continue to be a driver, but he'll be a co-owner in this team that, as I mentioned, is a single-car team at first. So there's only going to be one driver, and that driver will be Bubba Wallace. And interestingly, Denny Hamlin said-- in his social media post, he said there was only one obvious choice. And I agree. I mean, there's so much clear synergy here.

By the way, you know, we were just talking about Michael Jordan joining DraftKings, you know, three weeks ago, as the advisor to the board. And we talked about how obvious that business move was for him, because he's a known gambler. Well, he's a known NASCAR fan, so Michael Jordan will become only the second majority owner of a NASCAR Cup Series team, and of course, his driver is currently the only black driver in NASCAR's top level, the Cup Series. So together, the mission, which is to bring more diverse fans to NASCAR-- Michael Jordan specifically said he doesn't see as many black owners or black drivers-- he wants more of both. It seems like they're the duo to do it.

I mean, we'll have to stay tuned and see, but it's worth mentioning, we've talked about what Jordan can bring to the sport, and obviously his clout, obviously his fan base. We can talk about Jordan [INAUDIBLE], we can talk about the mega ratings for The Last Dance documentary back in the spring, but then over and above on Wallace's side, you know, there are sort of the critics who say, well, he's not exactly one of the best drivers. I would just say to that he did just have his best season of his career amid the pandemic. So it's good timing for him, and also, he has been a sponsorship machine since he came out and spurred change in NASCAR and convinced the sport to ban the Confederate flag. He has signed like six or seven new endorsement deals in the last three months. I mean, the pace of his new sponsorships has been ridiculous.

I mean, so all you can really glean from that is that obviously brands want to be aligned with Bubba Wallace. I mean, Columbia Sportswear, CashApp, which is Square, Beats By Dre, which is Apple. All of these companies have quickly signed on to have some kind of business relationship with Bubba Wallace, so what you'd think is that from the outset, whether or not he's winning races, the team is going to attract a lot of media attention and a lot of business. And as you mentioned, NASCAR has no reason not to love it

MYLES UDLAND: Yeah, I mean, just as you were talking there, about Bubba Wallace this season and his sponsors, I mean we haven't talked about-- I haven't thought about NASCAR this much in 10 years, maybe more than that. And I think that the sport has to look at Bubba Wallace as basically the face of its future, because he's the driver the most people have heard about and the driver most people have thought about within the last year. Whether he wins races doesn't actually matter if he gets people to care about the sport and watch races.

DAN ROBERTS: Absolutely, and arguably, he's already brought some new fans to races. I mean, we've seen many of them interviewed at some of those races amid the pandemic when they began allowing a small number of fans. So he's already done that in part, and they're going to do that even more so, but I would also say that remember, all this is about ratings, right? And I reported on the fact that early on, amid NASCAR's return, the ratings were up, contrary to what President Trump tweeted. But that was probably just a lack of live sports bump, and in the races since then, especially this summer, the ratings have not been as good. And the ratings overall for NASCAR have been mostly in decline for the last, like, eight years. So this sport is desperate to attract new fans, younger fans and more diverse fans, and this duo could do it.

MYLES UDLAND: All right. Next time, we'll talk about the Daily Fantasy and the crypto application that is relevant for NASCAR, because I am sure, Dan Roberts, I'm sure that both of those somehow play a role in the sport going forward.