NASCAR star Kurt Busch has been a Chicago sports fan since he was a kid.
Now he races for one of his childhood heroes — NBA legend and former Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan.
It turns out that a Jordan rookie card played a role in Busch’s deal to drive for the 23XI team owned by Jordan and fellow Toyota driver Denny Hamlin.
As they were completing their contract for the 2022 season, Busch told Jordan he owned a 1986-87 Jordan rookie card and struck a deal for Jordan to sign the famous card.
“Here’s the deal I made with MJ,” Busch told ESPN’s Marty Smith during a pace-card ride prior to the Daytona 500. “[I said], ‘You sign this but you keep it, and when we win together, I get it back.’ He said, ‘deal.’”
Busch, the 2004 NASCAR Cup champion and a winner of 33 Cup races, drove for Chip Ganassi Racing last season before Jordan’s 23XI team expanded to two cars this season.
Busch, 43, has teamed with young star Bubba Wallace, who won a race in his first season with Jordan last season and finished second in the season-opening Daytona 500. Busch finished 19th in his first race with the team.
Driving for one of his childhood heroes is a dream come true for Busch and serves as the ultimate motivation.
“In the first meeting, he points as his own chest and heart and said, ‘I already know you race with your heart, you race with your soul, you’re the talent we want to help build this team.’ I’m like, ‘OK, Yes sir.’ I got it, I felt it right there when he said that. It’s to make the other people around me better and make the whole program at 23XI better. It’s what he did when he was a player.
“To ask me, as a veteran driver, to come in and help build this new team … about two years ago, I didn’t have a contract to race. … This is all the cream and the cherry on top and it’s the best project I’ve ever worked on in my career.”