CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Less than one year after joining forces, U.S. Navy veteran Jesse Iwuji and Emmitt Smith announced Chevrolet as their team’s manufacturer for the upcoming NASCAR Xfinity Series season. It was also revealed on Monday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame that the car number will be 34 (a tribute to Wendell Scott) and Jason Houghtaling will be the team’s crew chief.
“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,” Iwuji said. “With everything he did to pave the way for African Americans in the future, we just felt like it would be fitting.”
Though the NASCAR Hall of Famer and legendary pioneer of the sport is an enormous source of motivation, Iwuji is ready to blaze his own path to success at the national level.
“We’re building together a team of people who are on the same mission and we’re grinding for it every single day,” Iwuji said. “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.”
The newly formed Jesse Iwuji Motorsports organization will run a full-time schedule in 2022, something that neither co-owner has ever done. But this unique partnership offers Iwuji the best opportunity of his racing career, alongside an athlete who is well known for being dominant at his craft — and someone who sees the same determination in Iwuji.
“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,” Smith said.
“Our mission is to not only go out there and compete but also to inspire others to (reach) their level of greatness.”
Iwuji is still an active member of the U.S. Navy and has been an ambassador for both the military and community outreach.
But he’s also no stranger to pushing for greatness at the Xfinity Series level.
Iwuji made his series debut with Carl Long in 2020 at Road America, moving on to complete three more races that season driving for B.J. McLeod at Kansas Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway. He then raced for Mike Harmon in 2021 at Pocono Raceway.
Jesse Iwuji Motorsports plans to compete in the entire 33-race schedule this season, making it eligible for the playoffs in Year 1 — a big step for a new organization looking to gain traction.
As for any fear of the unknown, the team has a solid game plan for hurdling obstacles.
“Change creates opportunity for us to get better,” Smith said. “And to embrace it is the way that I look at it. Embrace change. I’m proud of this man and in order to go through the fire, you’ve got to be willing to do it and he’s built for it.”
The Xfinity Series season gets underway at 5 p.m. ET on Feb. 19 at Daytona International Speedway for the Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner. 300 (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
We can't wait to get the season started with you guys!
— NASCAR Xfinity (@NASCAR_Xfinity) February 7, 2022