Michael Jordan relishes Talladega win and is 'all in' on NASCAR

“I’m all in.”

With three words, an excited Michael Jordan reaffirmed his commitment to NASCAR after Tyler Reddick’s win Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.

It was a momentous occasion for the sport. A cultural icon and one of the greatest athletes of the last 100 years left no doubt about his feelings as a NASCAR team owner.

The images of him celebrating showed as much. Jordan high-fived 23XI Racing team members and bounced in the pit stall after Reddick scored the dramatic victory. Jordan radiated during his interview with Fox Sports in Victory Lane.

Sunday was the team’s sixth Cup win but first with Jordan at the track. The owner of two Olympic gold medals and six NBA championships celebrated with a vigor many had not witnessed. Winning crew chief Billy Scott said that seeing “the excitement on (Jordan’s) face, that’s what I enjoyed.”

Since forming 23XI Racing with Denny Hamlin, Jordan has carried through on what he told NBC Sports and Fox Sports in an interview in 2020. Unlike other famous co-owners who came and went, Jordan’s presence has grown on and off the track.

“(NASCAR) replaces a lot of the competitiveness that I had in basketball,” Jordan told Fox Sports’ Jamie Little on Sunday. “This is even worse because I have no control. If I was playing basketball, I have total control, but I have no control, so I live vicariously through these guys and all of the team and everybody.”

The idea of Jordan being more than a race fan was once non-existent. He told Dale Earnhardt Jr. ahead of the 2019 season finale that even with his interest in the sport that he didn’t plan on a greater role.

"I love being a fan," Jordan told NBC Sports while attending the Homestead race to support Hamlin’s championship bid that day. “… In terms of ownership, nah, I think I’m just going to sit back and watch it and support from afar.”

Long-time friends, Hamlin joked with Jordan in 2020 about a report linking the two as owners. Jordan replied: “If you want to make it real news, let me know.”

Suddenly, a team was born.

Jordan came to the sport as a fan through his father. He recalled attending NASCAR races at Charlotte, Rockingham, Darlington and Talladega as a youth.

When he and Hamlin created 23XI Racing, Jordan’s competitiveness was clear.

“My biggest conversation to Denny was, ‘Look, I don’t want to get in there just to go around the races and just go around and around and around and finish up 18th, 19th, 20th, 30th,” Jordan said in response to a question from NBC Sports in 2020. “I want to win. I want to be put in a position for the best chance for us to win. That’s my competitive nature. That’s always been who I am.”

Jordan stayed behind the scenes. He became more involved after he sold his majority interest as owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets last June.

Jordan started attending more races. At times, he would show up in one of the team’s pit stalls shortly before the race and watch from the pit box.

He was at Daytona last August when Bubba Wallace made the Cup playoffs for the first time. Jordan went up to Hamlin while Hamlin was surrounded by media on pit road, tapping him on his cap and sharing a big smile before he headed to Wallace’s car. Jordan embraced Wallace twice and congratulated team members.

Hamlin said last October that Jordan had become more involved with the organization and in team meetings.

“I think he’s brought some very good intel into our meetings on mindset, on how do we get better individually as a team,” Hamlin said at the time. “He’s obviously been a part of team sports forever. He’s, at times, heard things in meetings where he’s like, ‘I don’t like that. We need to be more self-reflective on what we need to do better.’ That goes such a long way with our team.”

Jordan also has had an impact on the sport. 23XI Racing’s vision statement reads that it wants “to be the world’s leading motorsports team by setting the standards for others to follow, winning on and off the track and building a global, diverse community of employees, partners, and fans.”

Another impact with Jordan’s involvement in the sport is the role his longtime business manager, Curtis Polk, who also is an investor in 23XI Racing, has had. Polk is one of four members of the negotiating committee for the teams in their quest to extend the charter agreement with NASCAR and to receive more money. Polk said in October 2022 that “the economic model is really broken for teams.”

While no deal has been done, having the experience of Jordan and Polk with how another sports league handles financial matters with teams has been helpful for Cup team owners.

“The sustainability of the teams in this sport is not very long-term unless we have a fundamental change in the (business) model,” Polk said in October 2022.

Sunday, though, was all about having fun.

After the race, Jordan held Reddick’s 4-year-old son Beau, telling him that his dad “did a great job.” Jordan then asked Beau if he was going to celebrate. Beau responded with an enthusiastic “yeah!” That elicited a deep, exaggerated laugh, much like an uncle would share with a youngster, from Jordan.

He was enjoying every moment of his first win in person.

“Everybody tells me when we win, we have a big celebration, but this is the first time I’ve been here,” Jordan said to Fox Sports. “To my wife and kids and everybody, ‘Yeah, we did it. Sorry I left you home.’”

There’s always next time.

With Jordan, there will be a next time.