Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin open ‘Airspeed,’ new home of 23XI Racing, in Huntersville

Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin open new 23XI home

Denny Hamlin pictured an NBA or NHL arena when designing the main floor of “Airspeed.”

LED ribbon boards display messages promoting NASCAR statistics and that week’s upcoming race as 23XI Racing cars get built. Representing speed, vibrant red, white and black stripes line the ceiling inside the new 114,000-square-foot building.

Located on nine acres near Interstate 77 off Statesville Road in Huntersville, Airspeed is the new headquarters for 23XIRacing, the racing team co-owned by Michael Jordan and Hamlin.

Hamlin began detailing his ideas for this innovative facility on a sketch pad about three years ago. He was initially inspired after watching the Mercedes Formula 1 team in the “Brawn:The Impossible Formula 1 Story” Hulu documentary — as, for example, they worked on their race cars in open space.

“This is not a race shop,” Hamlin explained on a recent tour.“It’s a place where we work. Yes, we put cars on the track, but it’s so much more than that. Would you say, sitting right here, that we’re in a race shop? No, it certainly doesn’t feel that way. What we were in, in Mooresville, the old Germain (Racing)building, that place was a race shop. In a garage. This is not.This is something that is different.”

An attention to detail

Every inch of this building mattered to Hamlin.

He remembered eating at a breakfast cafe in Scottsdale,Arizona, that had plants hanging from the ceiling. On top of having television screens, pool tables, shuffleboard and couch-style seating, Hamlin felt the green on top added a nice touch.

Hamlin decided to spend six hours setting up Airspeed’s break room himself. He went to a store and bought plates, cups and silverware to fill the cabinets and drawers of the lounge’s kitchen, in addition to buying some plants.

He climbed onto a ladder and hung the greenery onto the ceiling. Those plants sit above a break room equipped with booths, couches, a ping-pong table, an air hockey table and much more.

“This is the race for me,” Hamlin said. “This is a way that I recruit. When I’m trying to get an engineer, or someone else is trying to get an engineer, if I can walk them through here and say: ‘This is my recruiting facility.’ This is no different than when you take your kids to college.
“They want to see: ‘Where are the dorms?’ ‘Where do I eat lunch?’ They’re checking out all the amenities. It’s no different when we’re battling with people out of the workforce.”

‘Not just to be different’

Airspeed was built in roughly eight months, with as many as 200 workers on-site daily.

There are numerous nods to both Jordan and Hamlin throughout the building, including the competition side of the race team working inside walls decked out in Chicago Bulls red, while the business side of the office looks up toCarolina blue. There are 23 different colors used throughout the interior, all of which were at one point a prominent Jordan shoe color.

There are “23” and “11” rooms, and the tribute to Hamlin has purple and orange furniture representing the colors of FedEx, Hamlin’s primary sponsor. The other room has 45 Jordan brand sneakers shaped into a No. 23, all of which are shoes Hamlin had lying around in his basement. When Jordan visited Airspeed recently, he joked with Hamlin that they needed to replace them with 45 pairs of size 13 game-worn sneakers.

“We want to be different,” Hamlin said, “not to just be different. There are some things that we think the legacy teams have done absolutely great. We try to copy that.
“But there are some things, we ask a lot of our employees: The work hours are really, really tough. If I can just do anything to make their life a little better, then I’m going to do that. If that’s throwing events here, thank-you luncheons, or it’s going over to Frankie’s (amusement park) and having a kids day for all of our employees.
“It’s doing those things that make a difference, where people love where they work.”