Is NASCAR in the midst of a pop culture wave?


Michael Jordan, 23XI Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/23XI Racing via Getty Images)

Michael Jordan, 23XI Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/23XI Racing via Getty Images)

NASCAR has seen its fair share of celebrity fanfare over the years, but the 2021 season has shown that to an even greater extent.

NASCAR has never shied away from getting celebrities to attend races and getting them involved in the show aspect of the sport. We’ve seen former presidents, comedians, singers and more serve as the grand marshals for races.

We’ve also seen cross promotions with other sports and entertainment programs such as WWE. In fact, Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch is a former champion in WWE. He pinned then 24/7 champion R-Truth, with two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip serving as his referee.

But the celebrity influx in NASCAR this year seems to be taking the pop culture scene and embracing it far more than in seasons past.

Celebrity owners have joined the sport, with NBA legend Michael Jordan co-owning 23XI Racing along with Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin, and Grammy Award-winning artist Pitbull co-owning Trackhouse Racing Team with Justin Marks.

Their impact (and funding) has already shown in their respective teams and with their respective drivers. With 23XI Racing wanting to expand to a two-car team next year and Trackhouse Racing Team already having achieved that goal, it’s needless to say that their impact and presence will continue to show.

NASCAR has had professional athletes own teams before. To name just two examples, NFL legend Dan Marino co-owned a team with NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, and Randy Moss owned a Truck Series team in the early 2000s. But Marino only lasted for one year with Elliott, and while Moss’s team earned some wins in the Truck Series, it never moved up to the Xfinity Series or the Cup Series.

In addition, NASCAR has outsourced to current NFL stars. New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara now serves in an advisory role with the sport.

Most recently, another award-winning artist in Post Malone released a NASCAR-styled music video for his latest single “Motley Crew”, starring Hamlin and 23XI Racing driver Bubba Wallace.

In a world where NASCAR is compared to other motorsports and other sports in general, stock car racing easily becomes the low-hanging fruit and is constantly jabbed as “not a real sport”. Even fans of the sport will cite their opinions that it is “dying.”

But these sentiments don’t seem to be held by the celebrities and athletes who are joining the NASCAR scene, and if there’s truth to the saying that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”, the sport is certainly getting a lot of it by way of a pop culture wave that is hitting this season alone.

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