SONOMA, CA - JUNE 23: Jesse Iwuji, driver of the #40 Perfect Hydration Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Carneros 200 at Sonoma Raceway on June 23, 2018 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

The stories of how NASCAR drivers get where they are can be compelling stories. Those of us who have been around the racing scene for a few years have certainly heard about many. Heck, your local track is loaded with drivers who invest their own time, money, and even their health for the love of the sport. One such remarkable story I just recently learned about is the story of NASCAR ARCA Series Driver, Jesse Iwuji.

Jesse Iwuji – Meet This Remarkable ARCA Series Driver

I’ll start at the very beginning. Iwuji is of Igbo descent. Igbo is an ethnic group of people in the African Nation of Nigeria. Iwuji’s parents, Sebastian and Enderline came to the United States in the 1980’s. The Iwuji family traveled 6,613 miles looking for a good life in America. They settled in Carrolton, Texas.

The Iwuji family is loaded with athletes. Jesse’s Mom was an outstanding track athlete in Nigeria and his younger brothers both played football at Texas State. Iwuji himself is also an outstanding athlete. He lettered twice in football and three times in track at Hebron High School. He earned an appointment in the United States Navy Academy in 2005.

Iwuji continued his athletic prowess at the Navy Academy, playing free safety for the Midshipman while also performing in the 60-meter, 100-meter and 200-meter sprints for the Academy’s Track and Field Team. Iwuji graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science degree. He then became a surface warfare officer.

First Steps In Racing

Iwuji then worked in mine countermeasures. His Naval service ended in May of 2017, when he transitioned to the United States Navy Reserves. While he was still at the Naval Academy, Iwuji started drag racing at a nearby drag strip in Maryland. It was there that the son of Nigerian born parents first got the taste of racing in his blood. While most racers begin their racing careers at an early age, Iwujj started his racing career at the age of 27.

“I had more important things to do first,” Iwuji said pointing to his Naval career.
NASCAR has a diversity program in hopes of creating racing opportunities for minorities and women. Although Iwuji was not a participant in NASCAR’s Diversity Program, he does spend time helping out where he can.

“It’s a great program and it gives people opportunities that they might never have had. Good things have come of it. We have Bubba Wallace, Daniel Suarez and Kyle Larson who have made it all the way up to the Cup Series,” Iwuji said.

NASCAR Ambitions

Currently, Iwuji is the third African American competing in NASCAR. He joins Darryl (Bubba) Wallace who drives the #43 Richard Petty Motor Sports Car in the Monster Energy Cup Series and Jay Beasly who races in NASCAR’s Pro Series East.

Iwuji, being a Military Veteran was asked about the pride he must feel being in a sport that plays honor to the Military like no other sport. “It’s great that NASCAR honors those especially the ones who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may enjoy weekends like this.”

Iwuji, besides his Navy Reserve duties and his racing responsibilities, runs a business in California. He promotes drag races in California and Arizona. He uses the funds from the venture to fund his ARCA racing program.

“I put on four drag racing events a year. That’s what helped me get in to racing,” Iwuji said. He continued, “Everybody knows racing is expensive and that kind of helped me get my jump start. I took the entrepreneur root to racing. I don’t have wealthy parents.”

So the young Navy Officer, who was born to Nigerian parents, who started racing late in life was asked what the futures holds.

“I want to keep progressing up to the (NASCAR Camping World) Truck Series, Xfinity Series and getting into the Cup Series. It’s about gaining experience and I appreciate the help of my Sponsor, BPM Mortgage. I couldn’t do this without their help.”

There are a ton of folks in the racing community that are easy to root for. You can add Jess Iwuji to my list.

Thanks for reading. Listen to WTBQ Radio on Monday and Friday mornings at 8:45 as I join the gang on The Frank Truatt Morning Show discussing the world of NASCAR. Tune into 1110AM, 93.5FM or streamed world-wide at WTBQ.com. Follow me on twitter @Jimlaplante.

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