Prior to the Xfinity Series race at Michigan International Speedway last weekend, former Naval officer and current race car driver Jesse Iwuji announced that he and NFL Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith have partnered up to form a new full time racing team in the Xfinity Series next season.

During his announcement, Iwuji noted that he is rather new to auto racing because being a man of colour, he could find no role model when he was young that made him feel that he could make a career from racing. 

In recent years, NASCAR has taken some major steps toward inclusion of non-white drivers, crew members, and owners. 

Iwuji is excited about the new partnership not just because he will have a full time ride next season; but also, because he will be a face of diversity and inclusion; showing others that anything is possible.

Smith spoke on the new partnership saying that they wanted, “to bring more attention and create those opportunities that Jesse talked about. Creating a legacy and a pipeline of people who don’t know the pathway to get there. Our mission is two-to-threefold if you will. We obviously want to win, but we also want to create opportunities for others.”

Iwuji added, this is the life we live.  We live it, people see it and they want to follow in it. That’s something that we’re going to bring to the table. We’re going to be able to provide people with opportunity in places where they’ve never seen it before or would have known that is even possible. There are some people out there that have always wanted to be a part of motorsports, a part of NASCAR. In their minds, they truly feel like they can’t do it because of whatever barrier that is. We want to break those barriers to give these people opportunities.”

During his football career, Emmitt Smith wore the number 22.  Iwuji played football as a child and at the Naval Academy and also wore the number 22 because of Smith.  Iwuji noted that he would like to drive the number 22 car but the number is already in use by Team Penske with Austin Cindric driving the 22 this year.

Information about the car manufacturer, car number, sponsors, and crew members will be forthcoming over the coming months.

After seven years as a full time Naval officer, Iwuji has retired but has reserved his commission and is now a member of the Naval Reserves with the rank of Lt. Commander.

Smith spent 13 of his 15 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys where he set a record an NFL rushing record.

feature photo credit: Jesse Iwuji – Driven To Succeed 200805-N-DS741-1401.jpg