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February 19, 2022

NFL legend Emmitt Smith begins tenure as a NASCAR owner

Getty Images
Getty Images

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — NFL Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith joked that some people may invest in cryptocurrency, but he’s making what he hopes to be a more promising investment – buying into the No. 34 Jesse Iwuji Motorsports team competing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with Iwuji steering the Chevrolet.

Smith and Iwuji said they initially wanted to grab the No. 22 car number for the team – the same number Smith used in his NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys. But ultimately the race team said they found a better option, the No. 34 – the same number that Black driver Wendell Scott, a NASCAR Hall of Famer, used when he competed in the sport’s top series from 1961 through 1973.

Smith joins other new NASCAR owners who have found a home in stock -car racing, from NBA superstar Michael Jordan to boxing champion Floyd Mayweather to music superstar Pitbull.

MORE: Iwuji, Smith outline 2022 plans

“I think there’s tremendous opportunity here,” Smith said. “NASCAR has actually opened the door for minorities to come in and actually own their teams. Ownership is really the key to any type of change you really want to create. If you don’t own it, you can’t really change it. It’s not a bottom-up approach, it’s really a top-down approach. I’ve never seen a poor person tell a rich person how to invest their money.

“With that said, you have to be at the table to influence something in the most positive way.”

Iwuji, 34, from the Dallas suburb of Carrollton, Texas, has five NASCAR Xfinity Series starts with a best finish of 23rd at Texas Motor Speedway in 2020. His best finish in 15 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts is 17th, also at his hometown Texas track in 2019.

He qualified 30th for his NASCAR Xfinity Series Daytona International Speedway debut in Saturday’s Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner. 300 (5 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

RELATED: Iwuji, Emmitt Smith form new team | Read about Iwuji’s rise

“I’m drinking out of a firehose right now trying to learn every aspect of this business from start to finish,” Smith continued. “I don’t want to learn how to put a car together, but I definitely want to understand some of the strategy and some other nuances about the sport I can actually learn. I want to learn about the businesses around the sport, and I want to learn how to help this man become successful in this sport. This is new. Everything is a learning curve.”

“It takes patience. And we have to be patient. You know I didn’t start my very first game at the University of Florida until Week 3, even though I wanted to play in Week 1 and Week 2. We have to be patient with the process and trusting the process will yield results.”