Jesse Iwuji Shares His Unique Journey to NASCAR

Jesse Iwuji

Getty Jesse Iwuji joined "The Smoking Tire" podcast to discuss his NASCAR career.

Jesse Iwuji will take on the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series season for the first time as the owner-driver of Jesse Iwuji Motorsports. This season will mark a major step in an unlikely journey featuring a unique path to NASCAR, as well as six months on a warship in the Arabian Gulf while serving in the NAVY.

Iwuji joined “The Smoking Tire” podcast for the December 23 episode and provided some insight into his journey toward become a NASCAR driver and owner. He explained that he had a very late start to this racing career and that he didn’t follow the traditional path featuring karts, Bandaleros, and Legends. Instead, he caught the racing bug at a track day after purchasing a C6 Chevrolet Corvette and taking on a road course in 2013.

“I went to a road course track, watched my friend basically do a track day,” Iwuji told podcast host Matt Farah. “I was like, ‘oh, these track days are cool. Let me just throw my C6 [Z06] there.’ And next thing you know, it just spiraled from there. I was doing a bunch of track days, and that’s what led me towards NASCAR.

“This is the crazy thing,” Iwuji continued. “First time ever on a road course, on a track day, was in the C6 Z06 in September of 2013. I suited up in my first Late Model race — at the lowest level of NASCAR — in April of 2015. I raced on TV for the first time six months after that.

Iwuji Made His Debut in September 2015

The future driver-owner’s NASCAR debut took place in September 2015. He suited up for a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West — now the ARCA Menards Series West — race at Meridian Speedway. Though the experience did not last long due to Iwuji crashing on Turn 1 and bringing out the caution flag.

Iwuji returned to the series on a full-time basis in 2016 and 2017 and showcased considerable improvement. He posted the first top-10 of his career in 2016 — a 10th-place finish at Orange Show Speedway in California. He also ended his first full-time season with an average finish of 15.1.

Iwuji has since moved up to two of the three national series. He made his Truck Series debut in 2018 and has since made a total of 15 starts across four years. Iwuji made his Xfinity Series debut in 2020 and has five total starts with a career-best finish of 23rd at Texas Motor Speedway.

Iwuji Had To Raise Funds for His NASCAR Dream

As Iwuji explained during his podcast appearance, he had to find a unique way to pay for his starts during the 2016 and 2017 seasons. He didn’t have a group of sponsors willing to shell out thousands of dollars, so he started hosting hosting racing events through a group called The Red List Group. He raised funds to compete in the K&N Pro Series West and put The Red List Group on his stock car.

Iwuji has since partnered with enough companies to continue racing in NASCAR. He no longer has to use The Red List Group to support his racing dream and can instead work with several brands.

Iwuji also noted that he and the partners that he added to the fold spent roughly $10,000 per race so that he could compete. This was a small figure compared to other drivers and teams that spent around $40,000 per week, but it played a role in the entrepreneurial work that Iwuji has done in recent years, whether it was starting a trucking company or one that puts on esports events.

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