23XI’s new home, ‘Airspeed,’ is all about the details

In an alternate universe, Denny Hamlin is not a famous NASCAR driver with three Daytona 500 wins, but instead an architect.

Hamlin is a detail guy. Whenever he’s in a restaurant, he’s looking around at all four corners to see how the walls, floors and ceilings come together. His home on Lake Norman would be described as modern and sleek. Or just look at the paint schemes on Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota over the years and notice the simple lines and clean look.

Airspeed, the home of 23XI Racing, falls into the same category. The 114,000-square-foot building opened to the public Thursday, and it is as impressive as expected for an organization co-owned by Hamlin and NBA legend Michael Jordan.


There were a few different versions of what the blueprint became, but it was hand-sketched by Hamlin. All he needed was a simple sketch pad, and he started drawing out squares where he wanted everything.

“I got inspired actually from the Mercedes F1 team with how this is all laid out and the pods,” Hamlin said while giving a tour of the facility. “It’s very similar if you’ve watched the Brawn story on Hulu. … I just took little bits and pieces from other shops, other offices, other things, and put it all together into what I wanted.”

Not only did he take inspiration from other places, but Hamlin had conversations with other race teams, including Joe Gibbs Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Hendrick Motorsports, about floorplan likes and dislikes. There were also shop visits to NTT IndyCar teams by Hamlin and 23XI Racing personnel when NASCAR was in Indianapolis last year.

A big point of emphasis for the layout of Airspeed is the flow from station to station. Because of how Cup Series teams are working with the Next Gen car and its assembly, it’s advantageous to move in order of the process instead of back and forth across a shop. The same applies to how the cars are moved around and the space they need.

Start with the main floor, where you find the 23XI Racing race cars. Hamlin wanted it to feel like a professional sports event arena. It is clean and sterile, like a hospital, with an LED board hanging above it that can display anything from information about the upcoming race weekend to where the drivers are in the point standings.

The recognizable Jordan elephant print is throughout the building – even in the bathrooms. Those were another area where Hamlin spent a lot of time getting the design as he wanted, down to the wood lament.

The meeting rooms are named after racetracks the organization has won a race. Talladega is the war room. NASCAR’s biggest track for the biggest room. Hamlin also ensured private huddle rooms were included for calls and an area with alternative seating and cushions.

A need for the former came from Hamlin’s experience at Joe Gibbs Racing, where he saw employees go outside the building for a private call (if they didn’t have a personal office). The latter is because who wants to sit at a desk for eight hours?

On the second floor, the competition side of the race team works with Chicago red throughout the design. Carolina blue, on the other side of the floor, is where you’ll find the business part of the race team. It is an open floor plan where the crew chiefs, engineers, and other essential personnel work together in desk clumps. There were no walls, which were initially in the plans but never built, because it’s important for everyone to easily communicate.

Naturally, there is an 11 room and a 23 room. Inside the 11 room are trophies, firesuits and helmets from Hamlin’s successes. In the 23 room are 45 different Jordan Brand shoes. They are displayed on a shelf on the wall that is 23-shaped.

Other details of Airspeed include:

• The windows are angled at 23 degrees.

• There were 23 colors used in the interior (although not on purpose). But they were all a prominent color on a Jordan shoe at some time.

• Hamlin suspects a boardroom table in the shape of a V has 11 degrees of separation. It was purposely angled so a camera could see everyone at the table during a conference.

• The building can be lit with different colors around its exterior.

• A state-of-the-art gym includes a training room for hot and cold tubs, a sauna and other essentials. 23XI Racing has a partnership with Atrium Health.

• The building has a lot of natural light, which was a conscious decision.

• A café that includes a bar area with fully functional kitchen appliances and dishes. But employees are also given monthly credit to use at the snack and vending areas.

• The café has table and booth seating and activities such as a pool table and foosball table.

Hamlin’s favorite area is where fans can stand on the second floor. The building design allows for a fan to see into every area. This is also helpful for employees when looking for a particular individual.

The name Airspeed is also not without reason. Curtis Polk, Jordan’s longtime right-hand man and business partner, came up with it to combine Jordan’s No. 23 (air) and Hamlin’s No. 11 (speed).

And it is called Airspeed by the employees and drivers. You might often catch them correcting themselves for saying race shop.

“Because it’s not a race shop,” Hamlin said. “It’s a place that we work and yes, 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.

“I think what we were in in Mooresville in the old Germain (Racing) building, was a race shop and a garage. This is not. This is something that is different, and it needs to be named appropriately.”

The goal is for employees to want to work and stay at Airspeed, including staying in the building for their lunch break. There is fake greenery in the café area that Hamlin climbed up on a ladder to hang after coming across the inspiration.

Airspeed was built in eight months, and the team was able to start working on cars in the building in December. But that was while things were still being finished with the building.

“This is our investment in the sport and our people,” Hamlin said. “Certainly, I think it’s very, very hard given the economics of the sport … it’s been said how tough it is to make it all work. This is the raise for our people. This is a way that I recruit. This is a way that when I’m trying to get an engineer or someone else is trying to get an engineer — this is my recruiting facility. It’s no different from taking kids to college; they want to see the dorms and where to eat lunch. They are checking out all the amenities.

“It’s no different from when we’re battling for people out in the workforce. What I love is we’ve really gone outside the normal NASCAR workforce. If you look at most of our people, they did not come from other teams. A lot came from other countries. So, we’re getting interest from folks that normally would not look to come into racing.”

Story originally appeared on Racer