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Meet The Celebrity Owners Shaking Up NASCAR

From Michael Jordan to Pitbull, these famous faces have expanded their entrepreneurial empire into the world of stock car racing.

By Andrew Woodin
Split image of Michael Jordan and Pitbull

What’s not to like about NASCAR? Larger-than-life personalities? Check. Endless entertainment? Check. Rocking race-day parties, high-octane drama, and fun for the whole family? Check, check and check! Coupled with the explosion of ultra high-def televisions, the evolution of innovative videography means fans get to ride shotgun for all the adrenaline-fueled action while advertisers watch happily as their brands’ crisp, high-definition logos firmly cement themselves in the noggins of all who watch. These elements create an attractive, opportunity-driven playground for the rich and famous, so as league brass and marketing executives continue to make a concerted effort to bolster the NASCAR brand both and home and abroad, it’s no wonder that these celebrities are forking over the big bucks to own a team. 

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Here are some of the notable celebrity NASCAR owners.

Pitbull | Co-Owner of Trackhouse Racing

Ever since he laid eyes on Tom Cruise burning rubber in the 1990 classic Days of Thunder, Mr. 305 has had a need for speed, and in 2021, the Grammy Award-winning rapper became a co-owner of Trackhouse Racing with Justin Marks. The team debuted with just Daniel Suarez on its roster, but it now lays claim to the Watermelon Man himself, Mr. Ross Chastain. Pitbull’s squad will celebrate its 100th race at Charlotte this weekend, hoping to drive through Victory Lane for the fourth time – an incredible feat considering how new the team is.

“They welcomed me aboard,”
Pitbull said when he joined Trackhouse Racing, “And now we’re going to show the world NASCAR is not only a sport, but it’s a culture.”

Split image of Michael Jordan and Pitbull

Michael Jordan | Co-Owner of 23XI

Is there anything the mega entrepreneur and greatest professional basketball player of all time can’t do? Joined by friend and veteran NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin, the Chicago Bulls legend opened up 23XI’s garage in 2020. (Hamlin is a minority stakeholder in the venture, while still a member of Joe Gibbs Racing.) The team now fields the No. 23 Toyota piloted by Bubba Wallace and the No. 45 Toyota with Kurt Busch behind the wheel, though Ty Gibbs has been filling in for the injured Busch this season after he sustained a concussion. As his playing career career shows, the six-time NBA champion is in it to win it. And make no mistake, Michael Jeffrey Jordan motor’s for his NASCAR team roars at a constant full throttle, and he expects just as much from his drivers like Wallace as he did from his NBA teammates.

“We don’t sign checks for losers,” Jordan said last year of
Wallace. “I feel like he’s going to learn how to win. He’s got the talent. We would not have invested in him and picked him if he didn’t have the talent to win. 

Brad Daugherty | Co-Owner JTG Racing

Former Cavaliers greats Larry Nance, Brad Daugherty, center, and Mark Price, left, wave to the crowd during a celebration for the Cavaliers 50th anniversary

Growing up in Black Mountain, North Carolina around stock car racing all his life, Brad Daugherty’s love for the sport has never been a secret, so when the opportunity presented itself in 2009 for him to become a co-owner of JTG Racing, he dove in and never looked back. At a lean seven feet, Daugherty dominated the paint for the UNC Tarheels before going first overall in the 1986 NBA draft to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though JTG Racing secured its only win in 2014, Doherty infectiously exudes a winner’s mentality that’s been a galvanizing and invigorating force for his driver Ricky Stenhouse.

Joe Gibbs | Owner Joe Gibbs Racing

Joe Gibbs

The 81-year-old North Carolina native led the NFL's Washington franchise to a whopping eight playoff appearances and three, coveted Super Bowl titles over the span of 12 seasons before he launched an equally successful career as a NASCAR team owner with Joe Gibbs Racing. Since its inception in 1992, JGR has garnered five Cup Series Championships and three Xfinity Series Championships, notching more than 330 wins among all major series. The team’s enjoyed an embarrassment of star power through its three decades of competition, including Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart and Joey Logano. Between Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr., Gibbs’ current roster is nothing short of stacked (though Busch will be departing the squad after the current season). Hamlin credits Gibbs and his superb work ethic for establishing a successful culture at JGR Racing.

“The motivation for the team comes by the example Joe sets,” Hamlin told
Autoweek. “He’s not in his younger years, but he works full-time at the race shop. I couldn’t imagine, double my life from now (Hamlin is 41, Gibbs is 81), working as hard as he does. The guy’s work ethic is unmatched.”

Though Pitbull and Air Jordan might sit atop NASCAR’s throne of celebrity owners, two other athletic titans who’ve stormed their way through pop culture now have ownership stakes in NASCAR teams: Floyd “Money” Mayweather, Jr. and LeBron James. After securing sponsorship from sunglass company Pit Viper, the champion boxer debuted The Money Racing Team with driver Kaz Grala in the No. 50 Chevy at the Daytona 500.

"I love fast cars and I love to compete. I know NASCAR will not be easy, but anything easy isn't worth doing to me," Mayweather said. "With that being said, this move into auto racing seems to be a perfect fit for the Mayweather brand."

"King James" owns a minority stake in Fenway Sports Group, which is the parent company for Jack Roush’s and Brad Keselowski’s RFK Racing. With the LeBron James Family Foundation’s brand plastered around Chris Buescher’s No. 17 Ford Mustang during the Cup Series race at Michigan, James could find himself squaring off against the real G.O.A.T. in NASCAR’s near future.

Can't get enough NASCAR action? Watch “Race For The Championship,” which follows the lives of NASCAR's biggest stars on and off the track, Thursdays at 10/9c on USA Network. And catch up on all race action on Peacock.