NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin and NBA legend Michael Jordan teamed up to create 23XI Racing for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series and beyond. Some may argue that Jordan is not that involved but he is truly dedicated to making the team better overall.
There is no denying that fact and Jordan himself wanted to understand what it was like to be a NASCAR driver.
Denny Hamlin tells an epic Michael Jordan story involving a NASCAR simulator
Jordan is a co-owner of 23XI Racing with Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick as his drivers. It was an amazing thing to see the NBA legend dip his feet into the NASCAR ownership group but some questioned whether he would take it seriously.
To this point, the answer has been a confident yes. In fact, Jordan has been to several NASCAR races over the years, including before he was an owner. After watching the sport for so long, Jordan expressed his interest in wanting to feel what the drivers’ experience behind the wheel.
On Hamlin’s podcast, Actions Detrimental, he was asked if Jordan had ever been in a Cup Series car. Hamiln’s response was nothing short of incredible and shows how difficult it is to be a NASCAR driver.
“(Michael Jordan) did it once but it was the simulator at TRD…he wanted to feel what we feel. Toyota set it up and our team set it up for him to get in the Toyota simulator. This was a couple of years ago, I don’t think it was last year.”Denny Hamlin talks about Michael Jordan’s desire to try a NASCAR simulator
23XI Racing is a Toyota-based team so is not a surprise that he was helped out by the manufacturer and the race team. The ability to go behind the wheel of a stock car or NASCAR simulator is truly a once-in-a-lifetime type of experience for those who never get the chance.
Hamlin continued with the story about Jordan and the TRD simulator below. It undoubtedly gets better and better the more Hamlin speaks.
“I said ‘What kind of track do you want to be on?’ (Jordan said) “I don’t want Daytona it’s just holding it wide open, that’s too easy. What’s the next step?’ I’m like, ‘Alright, let’s go to Charlotte.’ He didn’t last long. He did OK, he had a problem holding the car down on the bottom of the track. It was probably 15 minutes and he says ‘I’m done.’ He was sweating profusely, it was very hot…you would not believe how they had to modify it. The backseat is out of the simulator to fit his legs to the petals. He put the helmet on and he’s like, ‘My eyes, I got so dizzy’… so, he had to quit.Denny Hamlin reveals Michael Jordan’s experience in a NASCAR simulator
This was an incredible story by Hamlin that demonstrates how difficult it is to drive a NASCAR stock car. Not even Jordan could last longer than 20 minutes with the simulator trying to feel as real as possible.
Jordan’s experience and words bring up another conversation that has been plaguing NASCAR from people outside of the sport for several years.
Denny Hamlin’s story about Michael Jordan proves being an athlete in NASCAR is not easy
There has been a narrative surrounding NASCAR for many, many years that says drivers are not athletes. It comes from people who have never gotten behind a stock car or dislike the sport in general.
Jordan’s experience in the TRD simulator is a massive blow to those people’s opinions. The six-time NBA Finals champion is considered the greatest athlete in the history of sports. Granted, Jordan is now 60 years old but he will be the first one to tell you that it is hard.
The ability to stay mentally focused behind the wheel with blazing temperatures while going 180 MPH is very gifted. This will go on for hours on end and up to 600 miles in NASCAR’s longest race of the season.
The question of whether NASCAR drivers are athletes has never been a serious one for those who have been around the sport for so long. They understand what it is like for these drivers on a weekly basis.
If Jordan himself understands that NASCAR drivers are true athletes, there is no further debating what should be the case among those who dislike the sport overall.