DAYTONA BEACH — Denny Hamlin, 2010 NASCAR runner-up and avowed basketball fan, has brought a fine new sponsor to NASCAR: Nike's Jordan Brand. Like Dwyane Wade and Derek Jeter, Hamlin is now rocking the skying-Michael-Jordan jumpman logo, as you can see there at right, on his firesuit, gloves and shoes.
Hamlin, a huge hoops fan — you'll recall that's how he tore up his knee this time last year — struck up a friendship with Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Bobcats. And from there, boom — logo city.
"It's a big deal for myself and really NASCAR," Hamlin said Thursday at Media Day. "The Jordan Brand has never been in NASCAR before. It is a dream come true for me. To me the Jordan Brand represents excellence in sports." Jordan has owned a motorcycle team since 2004, and, as they say, game recognize game:
"Denny's confidence and passion for racing along with his determination for excellence on the track make him a valuable addition to the Jordan Brand," Jordan "said" in a press release. "We look forward to working with Denny as he continues to take his success to the next level."
While Hamlin hasn't yet gotten to duel Jordan one-on-one — and considering Hamlin's propensity for injury as well as Jordan's still-sharp skills — he nonetheless notes that this will vault him, and by association NASCAR, to a new level of perception. If Hamlin starts showing up in Nike commercials, where's the downside? As long as it's not a Super Bowl gag ad, that is.
This isn't the first time a major sneaker manufacturer has entered NASCAR; adidas sponsored Dale Earnhardt Jr. starting back in 2007. But this isn't really a sneaker-branding deal; it's a lifestyle-association one. If Hamlin is able to bring a little of that Jordan cachet to NASCAR, hey, so much the better.