Emmitt Smith Joins Forces With Jesse Iwuji To Form NASCAR Team

Emmitt Smith

Getty Emmitt Smith and his son Elijah serve as grand marshals at Texas Motor Speedway.

The most productive running back in NFL history is about to take on a new sport. Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith, the all-time rushing leader with 18,355 yards, has announced the creation of a NASCAR Xfinity Series team that will begin competing during the 2022 season.

Formed in partnership with NASCAR driver Jesse Iwuji, the new team will take on JR Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske, and the other heavy-hitters of the Xfinity Series. Iwuji, a Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, will serve as the team’s primary driver and owner during the inaugural season while the former Dallas Cowboys running back will use his brand to help add sponsors.

I’ve been following Emmitt since I was a kid, and football was my thing,” Iwuji told NBC Sports. “As a kid living in Dallas, following the Cowboys winning three Super Bowls in the ‘90s, I started playing and told my dad that my position is going to be running back. He told me to watch the Cowboys, watch Emmitt Smith, that’s his position, and that I’m going to be like Emmitt

“Fast forward 26 years, and me and Emmitt are now partnering up to get this NASCAR team going,” Iwuji added. “It’s been such a crazy, interesting circle. When we first met last year, it just clicked, and everything just made sense. Nothing was weird or awkward. It all made sense. We needed to do something big. That’s where we decided starting a team together would be the way to do something big and really make an impact on NASCAR.”

Iwuji & Smith Will Help the Less Fortunate Pursue Careers in NASCAR

Jesse Iwuji

GettyJesse Iwuji prepares for a Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Iwuji, who did not begin racing until he turned 26 years old, first began exploring ownership two years ago. Per NBC Sports, he saw the limits of bringing diversity to the sport as a driver but recognized that he could make a greater impact as an owner.

Iwuji and Smith began discussing ideas after the former Dallas Cowboys running back sponsored his Xfinity Series car for a race at Texas Motor Speedway. They continued to talk until they could make the new team a reality. Now they will strive to help those from lower-income areas explore career opportunities within NASCAR.

Iwuji explained that many people that want to work in motorsports don’t have the funds to go out and buy a go-kart and new tires to get some seat time. They also can’t afford simulators that give them virtual experience at the various tracks on the NASCAR circuit. Jesse Iwuji Motorsports will address these limitations by bringing simulators to low-income areas and by partnering with schools to provide education about the engineering side of motorsports.

“These are all the ideas we’re working on implementing so that we can create programs for people to get into motorsports,” Iwuji told NBC Sports. “We know not everyone wants to be a driver. Some want to be crew chiefs, some just want to be on the marketing side, some people want to be on the HR side. Whatever it is, we want to create that pipeline that allows people to at least get a taste because we have the assets to make it happen.”

Smith Is the Latest Big Name To Join NASCAR’s List of Owners

Long headlined by such names as Rick Hendrick, Joe Gibbs, and Roger Penske, NASCAR’s ownership group has expanded during the 2021 season. Mr. Worldwide himself, Pitbull, partnered with Justin Marks to form Trackhouse Racing. The team started out as a single-car operation with Daniel Suarez as the driver but will move to two cars in 2022 after purchasing Chip Ganassi Racing’s NASCAR operation.

Similarly, six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan made the leap to stock car racing in 2021 when he partnered with veteran driver Denny Hamlin to form 23XI Racing. Like Trackhouse Racing, the organization started out with one car but will likely expand to two in 2022.

Both Pitbull and Jordan helped form teams that compete in the Cup Series — NASCAR’s top level. Smith, on the other hand, will first take on the Xfinity Series — the racing equivalent of college football. He and Iwuji will pursue wins while simultaneously striving to improve the lives of others.

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