J Balvin soaks in first NASCAR experience while promoting Air Jordan shoe collab

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 16: Singer, J Balvín views the #45 Jordan Brand Toyota, driven by Tyler Reddick (not pictured) on the grid prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on September 16, 2023 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
By Jeff Gluck
Sep. 19, 2023

BRISTOL, Tenn. — J Balvin prides himself on bridging cultures, and that was fully apparent Saturday night in the hills of Tennessee.

The reggaeton megastar came to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Bass Pro Shops Night Race to hang out with the 23XI Racing team co-owned by Michael Jordan. While at the NASCAR event, Balvin’s latest shoe collaboration — the J Balvin x Air Jordan 3 “Medellin Sunset” — was featured as the wrap on Tyler Reddick’s No. 45 Toyota car. The new shoe, scheduled to be released publicly on Sept. 23, is the third collaboration for Balvin with Jordan Brand.

Balvin — who has 51.5 million Instagram followers and 10.7 million X (formerly Twitter) followers as of Monday evening — and Reddick (67,400 Instagram followers and 81,100 X followers as of Monday) strolled around the Bristol infield as country music played, with fans stopping Reddick for pictures more often than Balvin. But Balvin seemed excited to be attending his first NASCAR race, and he spent 10 minutes inside Reddick’s team hauler to chat with The Athletic about his shoe, sports and more.

Your shoes are obviously sought after by so many. When you see athletes wanting to wear your shoe and show their support for it, what is that like for you?

They’re superheroes. To see them vibing and feel they wanted it so bad … I’m a sneaker guy, and it’s mind-blowing as a Latino to have a third collaboration with Jordan. And also, bringing the name of my city on the shoe — “Medellin Sunset” — it’s crazy. When I see guys wearing them, it’s just like, wow, because it’s not like I’m sending it to them saying, “You gotta wear this.” It’s because they love them.

J Balvin and Tyler Reddick pose with the No. 45 Jordan Brand Toyota car. (Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images)

When you come out with a new shoe and hope people enjoy it, what’s the feeling like compared to when you have a song about to be released and are waiting for the reaction? Is it a similar feeling?

It’s kind of different because the shoe is like how someone likes a picture (on social media), so you can have feedback immediately from people. With music, you give some teasers to see how the vibe is, but you don’t know until it’s out. I already know (this shoe) is going to sell out in seconds because the feedback is there. It’s not like music, where they listen to the lyrics. Once you see the sneaker for the first time, you already know if you like it or not. But they’re both ways to express myself.

When you hear that athletes are big fans of yours, what’s the next step? Do you DM them? Trade phone numbers? How do you connect with them?

It’s all about the vibe. I have a great relationship with different guys from sports because we have mutual respect and love. When I see someone say that, it’s like, “Whoa, man. Thank you, thank you.” They don’t have to tell you. If they’re walking around with my sneakers, it’s like they’re walking with me. They’re supporting what I do. And even if they didn’t know me before, now they get to know me through this nature. So, it’s really cool.

I see you pop up at all sorts of sporting events. You were even in the Colombia women’s team locker room after they won a game at the World Cup. What do you like about sports?

I started really learning about sports a lot more lately. I was so caught up in music, and I was like, “Wait, I have to find other things to enjoy.” I gotta get to the basketball game, or the race like Formula One and NASCAR, and tennis. It’s great because it keeps you motivated to see how competitive they are and the different type of crowds.


In music, you already know how the crowd is going to be and what energy they’re going to bring. This (NASCAR) crowd, being here for the first time, I don’t know how the crowd reacts. So, I can’t wait to see the different vibes that come with the fans.

Is it weird for you when you go to a place like this where, like, you’re walking around with Tyler and people are going for Tyler’s autograph instead of yours?

I understand completely. It was funny because we were walking, and someone came up like, “Can I get an autograph?” I’m like, “Oh, yeah, of course,” but (the request) was for him. I was like, “Oh, my.” (Laughs) But it’s cool. You understand you’re in a different place, and you humble yourself to be like, “Yo, listen, you have to understand not everybody has got to know you.”


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But we’re also here showing people a different demographic that might not know about reggaeton and might not have listened to Latin music, which is good. We’re here to share with them, and at least they want to see the car.

There’s always a way to connect with people, so I’m happy to be here. It’s a new world to me, but we have too many different worlds inside this world.

Speaking of racing, you went to the Miami Grand Prix. You’re performing at the Las Vegas Grand Prix in November. What do you think that weekend in Vegas is going to be like?

Vegas is gonna be huge. It’s going to be one of the biggest races ever in Formula One, if I’m not mistaken. Legendary place, (the race) is at night, so the vibe is going to be even more Vegas. We’re going to have the whole package there. I’m going to perform and get to watch the race, so I can’t wait.

You’ve been doing some events involving the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. What sense of pride do you feel about the Latin influence on hip-hop as a whole?

You’ve seen in rap, there’s a lot of Puerto Ricans who have been part of that hip-hop history. You think of Big Pun, but I bet there were a lot of Puerto Ricans and Latinos before that in the streets rapping with Black culture, and they got together. But I love hip-hop. It’s been a big inspiration for us in reggaeton.


Reggaeton seems like it’s new, but there’s been a lot of guys like Daddy Yankee who were paving the way for us. So, reggaeton to me is the same expression as hip-hop, but it’s done the Latino way.

(Top photo: Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images)

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Jeff Gluck

Jeff Gluck has been traveling on the NASCAR beat since 2007, with stops along the way at USA Today, SB Nation, NASCAR Scene magazine and a Patreon-funded site, JeffGluck.com. He's been hosting tweetups at NASCAR tracks around the country since 2009 and was named to SI's Twitter 100 (the top 100 Twitter accounts in sports) for five straight years.