Bubba Wallace says the influence that team owner Michael Jordan has been tremendous for his career.
Wallace joined 23XI Racing team last year that Jordan co-founded with fellow driver Denny Hamlin after coming over from Richard Petty Motorsports.
“M.J. stepping up in a way that he did for me has been — you know, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to thank him enough,” Wallace told People Magazine. “Just this opportunity this year and moving forward. He gave me an opportunity to shine and put my best foot forward.”
In October, Wallace became the first Black driver to win a NASCAR race in nearly six decades when he took the checkered flag in a rain-shortened race at Talladega.
But he also faced backlash after wanting to ban the Confederate flag at race tracks. A noose was also found at his garage at Talladega, in June. An FBI investigation later concluded that no hate crime was committed and the noose had been placed and hanging on the garage door for at least two years.
He told People last year that his parents would tell him don’t pay it any attention and continue to race.
“Let’s come back next week and beat their tails,'” Wallace said his parents would say.
Wallace also praised Jordan’s knowledge of racing, saying they didn’t have to teach the six-time NBA champion much.
“We had to help him get a better understanding for things but it’s been a lot of fun working with him and his team getting everybody’s feet underneath themselves to make sure we’re all doing this right way,” Wallace said. “There are so many people involved that we could be here all day thanking them. But it’s cool having M.J. — one of the biggest names in the world, that I’m associated with. I definitely don’t take that for granted.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace thankful for Michael Jordan’s support