Photo: U.S. Navy

From Annapolis to ARCA, Jesse Iwuji Making the Most of Racing Career

By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor

TALLADEGA, Alabama – To say that Jesse Iwuji has a full plate would be an understatement, but the Naval Academy graduate has been tactical in his approach to his racing career while still serving in the Navy and other endeavors that the 30-year old has his hands in.

Though his run in Friday’s ARCA General Tire 200 at Talladega only resulted in a 15th place finish, Iwuji noted that he has a greater mission beyond just making his racing career a success.

“All those folks out there in the military, they’ve been really supportive of what I’ve been doing,” said Iwuji. “I’ve been just doing my best to be inspirational and motivational for them. Just as a trailblazer, showing them whether it’s motorsports they want to get into or anything in life in the business world, relationship world, whatever you name it, I’m just trying to be that person to show them that just because you’re in the military, it doesn’t mean that’s your life forever.

“If you have a dream, if you have a goal, if you have a passion, you can go after it. Never let anyone’s opinion of you determine what your future is going to be. I’m just trying to be as inspirational as I can to show them that no matter where they’re going, keep doing it and never let anybody stop you and dream big.”

So how did Iwuji get from the Naval Academy to the race track? He explained his journey to the high banks of Talladega in a Friday press conference at the track, saying that from high school, he was recruited to play football for the Naval Academy and the rest is history.

“Out of high school, got recruited to play football at the Naval Academy. Took that offer because it’s my best opportunity to go to a great university, get a great education, play football for an amazing school, beat Army all four years, and Air Force. It gave me the opportunity to serve my country after I graduated. That was something big to me. Something important since I was in ninth grade when September 11 happened.

“Getting the opportunity to do that was huge and it’s taught me a lot of different things that prepared me to go after the things I wanted to go after. Go after my dreams and passions. Randomly one day in 2014, I decided ‘You know what, I want to start pursuing something in motorsports’ and I was driving. You know, 2015, I got the opportunity to start racing late models, 2016 K&N, 2017 K&N, and this year K&N and also now racing in ARCA and getting the opportunity to get to race at tracks like Talladega and Daytona.”

Between racing in the ARCA Series this year, as well as the K&N East and West Series, Iwuji is a busy man, traveling from coast to coast to race, driving in 25 to 30 races between the three series. Along with his racing schedule, Iwuji is still obligated to some service in the Navy as he is in the Navy Reserves, meaning he will have a weekend a month and two weeks a year of duty with them.

In addition, Iwuji also has a day job and a company of his own to run in Southern California.

“It’s a lot of travel, for sure. I live in Ventura, California right now because that’s where the Navy base I’m stationed at is. Going from there to the East Coast, to the Midwest, up and down the West Coast, it can be very time consuming, but it’s definitely something I had to do if I want to advance myself.

“It’s been interesting with my schedule because a lot of our races are on the weekends, so I’ve had to shift around my Navy Reserve weekends to the weekends that I wasn’t racing or some Fridays or something like that.

“The Navy has been super flexible. They love what I’ve been doing and they’ve been supportive of it. Maybe one of these days, we’ll bring the Navy on board as a partner in all this.”

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.