Wendell Scott was the first man of colour to run…and win…in a NASCAR Cup Series race. During the era of Jim Crowe laws, Scott never received his trophy. It took over 50 years for NASCAR to present the trophy to his family.
With the help of Richard Petty, Bubba Wallace, the sport’s first bi-racial driver, followed in Scott’s footsteps. Last season in his first year with 23XI Racing, Wallace won his first race in a rain shortened Talladega.
Naval commander Jesse Iwuji – the first naval officer to run in NASCAR – has been a part-time driver in NASCAR driving predominantly in the Camping World Truck and Xfinity Series…until now.
Teaming up with NFL Hall of Fame player Emmitt Smith, to form Jesse Iwuji Motorsports for a full time run in the Xfinity Series. Iwuji will be driving a Chevrolet with the number 34 car – the same number as Wendell Scott. The number 22 – Smith’s jersey number – is already in use by Team Penske.
Iwuji spoke on the choice of car number saying, “Wendell Scott, back in the day, he had the 34 and it meant a lot because he was the first African American to win a Cup Series race. With everything he did to pave the way for African Americans in the future, we just felt like it would be fitting.”
Iwuji and Smith join Brad Daugherty, Michael Jordan, and Pitbull as owners or part owners who are non-white.
Speaking on the new venture Iwuji said, “We’re building together a team of people who are on the same mission and we’re grinding for it every single day. There will be good days, there will be bad days but if everyone just stays together, continues to unite, we’re all about sharing the dream and sharing the moment.”
Emmitt Smith added, “Once you got a chance to know this young man and spend time and discipline to understand his process and the way he thinks, not to mention the service he has provided to this great nation, all of those things became part of something I could get behind.”
Serving full time in the United States Navy, Iwuji reserved his commission in 2017 in order to focus on racing cars.
Jason Houghtaling will be Iwuji’s crew chief.
feature photo credit: Jesse Iwuji Racing Facebook page