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How Michael Jordan’s former motorcycle team has an impact on building 23XI Racing

The lives of Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan have intersected before, whether at North Carolina playing for legendary head coach Dean Smith or at the NASCAR track as a winning minority team owner or as a fan.

As established since he joined forces with Denny Hamlin to form 23XI Racing in September, Michael Jordan has long had a love for speed.

It’s always been there, even if the average person usually has thought of his six NBA championships, his global fashion brand, or yes, being a Twitter meme.

Jordan’s power in pop culture could be the most important thing that he brings to 23XI Racing, which is building up for its NASCAR Cup Series debut next February at the Daytona 500.

But he also brings past experience as a motorsports team owner.

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Michael Jordan Motorsports competed from 2004-2013 on the AMA motorcycle circuit. During its run, the team earned class titles in Superstock (Aaron Yates, 2008) and SuperSport East (Corey Alexander, 2013). It was also a race winner in the top-tier Superbike class.

And true to form, their bikes carried distinctive looks that turned heads.

MORE: Leigh Diffey and former Michael Jordan Motorsports rider Ben Bostrom reflect in the video below on Jordan’s first foray in racing

But it took time for MJM to become a success. As a privateer team, it went up against manufacturers’ “works” teams with bigger budgets and better equipment.

According to Hamlin, MJM and its early years were part of his initial conversations with Jordan about forming a Cup Series team.

“He had somewhat of an alliance as well in the first few years of (MJM), and he found out really quick that if you’re not the lead dog, it’s very, very hard to make sure you’ve got the best equipment available,” Hamlin said in replying to a question from during a Monday video teleconference. “So how can we ensure that we’ve got the best equipment available?

“Essentially, I said, ‘Me. I can assure you that I’ll make sure 23XI has everything that Joe Gibbs Racing has.’ And it’s up to us as well to almost create that Furniture Row-type of alliance (that existed with JGR from 2016-18) where they won a lot of races and they won a championship as well. So, how can we take that information, that equipment and make it better?

“That’s going to be on us to do, and I think we’ve hired a lot of really smart people to help do that.”

One of those hires is Kreig Robinson, who worked for MJM as its vice president of corporate relations. Hamlin said Robinson will work with 23XI in a business development role.

Jordan, of course, isn’t the only team owner Hamlin can ask for advice. Having spent the entirety of his Cup career as a driver with Joe Gibbs Racing, he’s seen firsthand how his boss, Joe Gibbs, has run one of NASCAR’s elite organizations.

Hamlin also has been busy corresponding with personnel from JGR and other teams, particularly on what might be missing from his plans for 23XI’s future headquarters.

Regardless of where the input comes from, it’s clear that Hamlin is appreciative.

“Joe Gibbs Racing (personnel) has played a huge role in that, sending me, ‘Here’s what I would change. Here’s the struggles that we have. We wish we had more of this. We wish we had less of that,’” Hamlin said.

“That’s really helped me learn ... I wish I had that figured out, but I’m learning this as I go on the business side. All I’ve been is a driver for a very long time, but I feel like I’ve managed the sponsors that I’ve had really well over time. I feel pretty comfortable with that part.

“But still, there’s a part to running the actual business that I’m still learning as we go.”