Denny Hamlin to pause 23XI Racing growth until NASCAR’s business model changes

NASCAR Cup Series star and 23XI Racing co-owner Denny Hamlin told NASCAR CEO Jim France that he is planning to put all future growth and further investments for his race team on hold until the sport’s business model changes, according to a story by Adam Stern of Sports Business Journal.

The alleged exchange took place during a race weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway this past March, with Hamlin delivering what amounted to an ultimatum to the 77-year-old chairman and son of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr.

“I will go on the record saying that I had a meeting with Jim France and my message was clear that we need to stop talking about cutting,” Hamlin said. “Cutting does not equal growth. If we start working collectively then we can grow this sport together. But the business model will have to change for that to happen. We at 23XI have big plans. But those plans are on hold until we see change.”

Hamlin, who became a team owner alongside business partner Michael Jordan in 2021, has been outspoken about the changes he wishes to see to NASCAR’s business model, as well as how the sport is conducted and presented as a whole. 

The specific sticking points for Hamlin are the costs of operating a Cup Series team with the Next Gen race car, as well as the matter of whether or not race teams will be able to get more television money in the sport’s next media rights deal. Presently, only 25 percent of NASCAR’s media revenue goes to race teams, while 65 percent goes to the tracks and 10 percent goes to the sanctioning body. Teams currently rely on sponsorship for about 75 percent of their revenue.

Hamlin insists that his approach, while imperfect, comes from a desire to see the sport of stock car racing growth and move forward into the future.

“It’s very hard to convince dinosaurs they must eat differently,” Hamlin said. “I want change. If we’re going to appeal to a new audience because our (current) audience is aging or has aged, you’ve got to get with the times.”

One of several new generation owners who have started to field Cup Series teams in the past several years, Hamlin has moved the needle by speaking publicly about issues in racing such as track conditions, the NASCAR schedule, revenue splits and more. 

Meanwhile, his team has achieved on-track success with two victories in its first year and a half: the first with Bubba Wallace last fall at Talladega and the second earlier this month at Kansas with Kurt Busch.