How 23XI’s latest win was a win for all of NASCAR

Michael Jordan stood among the crowd in Tyler Reddick’s pit box cheering, fist-pumping and high-fiving those around him. At one point he took hold of Reddick’s son, Beau, and asked the youngster if he was going to celebrate, and in victory lane, Jordan gave a rare television interview to Fox Sports.

Sunday was not the first time Jordan, the co-owner of 23XI Racing, was at a NASCAR race. He has sat atop the pit box many times and has been to more races than many folks realize, but he tries to stay as under the radar as a 6’ 6” legend, recognized the world over, can stay.

But there was no hiding after Reddick’s dramatic victory in the final run to the finish in the GEICO 500 when the leader crashed in front of him. Reddick kept his foot to the floor, missed the spinning Michael McDowell, and surged past Brad Keselowski to be the first one to the finish line.

It was the sixth victory for 23XI Racing, which is in its fourth season. However, it was the first time Jordan was in attendance for a victory. And it didn’t take long for all those aforementioned celebratory moments Jordan participated in to start making the rounds on social media and television.

23XI Racing won the race. NASCAR won the day.

Jordan’s interview with Jamie Little of Fox Sports has been viewed over 33,000 times on NASCAR’s official YouTube page. The same interview had another 28,000 views on the NASCAR on Fox YouTube page. Pardon the Interruption on ESPN, which features two of the most well-known and respected voices in sports media, spent time showing highlights of the Talladega race and discussing seeing Jordan celebrate with his team.

Jordan is very much hands-on as an owner. James Gilbert/Getty Images/NASCAR Media

A quick Google search of “Michael Jordan” under the News tab will show that Sports Illustrated, the Chicago Sun-Times, Fox News, Front Office Sports, Daily Mail Online and Sports Business Journal (just to name a few) all had content about Jordan being at Talladega. A search of “Michael Jordan” on X (formerly Twitter) also produces plenty of mentions and videos of him from Sunday afternoon.

Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson reposted a NASCAR tweet and congratulated his “good friend” and 23XI Racing on the victory. Johnson has 5.2 million followers.

“23XI is very important to this sport, absolutely. If we could get everyone to see that as much as we do,” Denny Hamlin laughed about Jordan’s presence at Talladega bringing attention to the sport. “It is – it’s good for everything you can imagine. You’re talking sponsorship, your manufacturers, your team morale. It’s just so good, and it is in so many different ways.

“Certainly, you’d like to have more of these opportunities happen more and more often because they’re all of equal importance, and they all make you feel just as good. So, you definitely want to savor them.”

Within the industry, a lot of focus in recent weeks has been on the short-track package, disappearing scoring pylons and saving fuel on superspeedways. All three of those topics haven’t necessarily been positive.

But to a larger audience, one of the sporting world’s most recognizable figures – who sometimes is simply referred to as the GOAT – was seen celebrating a win and talking about how much he loves NASCAR. There is no denying the eyeballs such a thing draws and how that is a good thing for the sport.

The greatest part of it all is how genuine it was from Jordan. A lifelong NASCAR fan who has attended races in the past, Jordan’s friendship with Hamlin led to one of the most surprising ownership partnerships in the garage. And don’t be fooled, Jordan is actively involved in the race team and is well aware of everything that goes on. 23XI Racing wasn’t something that looked good for Jordan to have in his portfolio.

“That’s just pretty cool,” Billy Scott, Tyler Reddick’s crew chief, said of having Jordan finally see a win in person. “An honor that we got the first win with him being here, and I’m glad he was able to be here for one and doesn’t think it’s a curse to come or something because there’s certainly been some (races) go the other way.

“Just to see his excitement, it’s interesting. He is a study of the sport. I was talking to him before the race, and he watches every Truck race, every Xfinity race, every Cup race just trying to learn and understand what we’re going through and figure out how he can help from the owner’s side. It’s impressive and just to see the excitement on his face that’s what I enjoyed.”

The fruits of winning a NASCAR race – money, attention, ROI, postseason implications, etc. – go a long way for a race team, and 23XI Racing will be enjoying those for a while to come. But the immediate aftermath, meaning the news cycle of the week, is going to be just as kind to NASCAR.

Story originally appeared on Racer