Bubba Wallace on Creating a NASCAR Legacy with Michael Jordan: 'He Gave Me an Opportunity to Shine'

The NASCAR driver left Richard Petty Motorsports last year to become a member of the 23XI Racing team, which Michael Jordan co-founded

Bubba Wallace is proud of what he's building with Michael Jordan.

The NASCAR driver left Richard Petty Motorsports last year to become a member of the 23XI Racing team, which iconic former NBA star Jordan co-founded. In their first season together, Wallace and Jordan have already begun to secure their spot in history.

While chatting with PEOPLE about Jordan's latest partnership with Wheaties for the brand's 100th anniversary, Wallace said he is "just honored to be able to drive for" the former athlete.

"M.J. stepping up in a way that he did for me has been — you know, I don't know if I'll ever be able to thank him enough," he said. "Just this opportunity this year and moving forward. He gave me an opportunity to shine and put my best foot forward."

With his racing team, Jordan became the first Black majority owner in NASCAR. In October, Wallace — the only Black driver in NASCAR's Cup Series — made history as the first Black race car driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race since Wendell Scott in 1963.

Wallace's win came during the rain-delayed YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama, in a race that saw him beat Ryan Preece and Chris Buescher. In his interview with PEOPLE, Wallace called the victory "surreal."

Bubba Wallace; Michael Jordan
Blair Brown/Getty Images; Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images

"I've watched that race probably 100 times now," he said, adding: "I'll often think about it just what we were able to do as a team that day and the feeling going into it. I kind of had a preconceived notion that we were going to win. It was just something that obviously I tell myself, 'Hey, we're gonna win' every weekend. But this one was a little bit different and a feeling that I haven't had in a long time."

Prior to making his stake in racing official, Jordan "watched [NASCAR] just about every weekend." That made the adjustment from fan to owner a smooth one, Wallace told PEOPLE.

"So we didn't really have to teach him much. We had to help him get a better understanding for things but it's been a lot of fun working with him and his team getting everybody's feet underneath themselves to make sure we're all doing this right way," he said. "There are so many people involved that we could be here all day thanking them. But it's cool having M.J. — one of the biggest names in the world, that I'm associated with. I definitely don't take that for granted."

Now, Wallace is returning the favor by spreading the word about Jordan's latest history-making feat: having his face on the Wheaties box for a record-breaking 19th time. On Tuesday, Wallace drove the No. 23 Wheaties Toyota Camry TRD around Charlotte, North Carolina, to spread the word and hand out memorabilia.

Hero Gold Foil Box: Limited-edition Michael Jordan Gold Foil Wheaties Box
Gold Foil Wheaties

"I'm honored to represent my boss," Wallace told PEOPLE. "Wheaties has done a lot to highlight champions on and off the courts, on and off the fields, [and] on and off the tracks. It's really cool to be celebrating the 100th anniversary with the Michael Jordan gold foil edition."

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Much like Jordan, Wallace has gained national attention not only as a superstar in his sport, but also as an activist. Last year, he successfully helped lobby for NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag at tracks. The athlete has also previously opened up to PEOPLE about the racism he's experienced within his sport.

"Whenever I was younger, I never would understand it, but my parents would always just be like, 'You know what, don't mind that BS that's going on over there. Let's come back next week and beat their tails,' " he said to PEOPLE in a previous interview. "And that's what we did. We'd come back and eventually shut them up. So, it's been like that ever since."

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