FORT WORTH, Texas (April 1, 2019)
Some students in North Texas might have wondered if they were getting punked on April Fool’s Day, but no joke. They actually were in the presence of hometown hero and race truck driver, Jesse Iwuji.
Iwuji has been lauded all over the country for being the first active Naval officer to compete in NASCAR. The son of Nigerian parents, he’s also earned NASCAR’s Diverse Driver award twice. But here in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, he’s just one of the gang.
The Carrollton native scored a career-best 17th place finish in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Vankor 350 at Texas Motor Speedway Friday night, but Monday morning he was up bright and early, attending school and bringing the race truck with him.
The day started with a trip to celebrate 2019 TMS Speeding to Read champion school, B.B. Owen Elementary (Lewisville ISD). The Bobcats cheered Iwuji on, made signs for him, and even got the chance to tough the race truck and look inside. This isn’t the first time a NASCAR driver has gone to B.B. Owen thanks to Speeding to Read (Bubba Wallace in 2017, Aric Almirola in 2018), but this one hit home.
“Because he comes from our area it makes it a little more realistic,” B.B. Owen Librarian Emily Bryce said. “This is something you can attain. You can attain the things you dream of. That’s something he talked about on stage today, just going for your dream and not letting anything hold you down. I think that means more to the kids seeing that he grew up just down the road. They can do it too because he lived here too.”
It was a blast from the past for the former Navy footballer and current NASCAR driver to be back in a Lewisville ISD school.
“Being back home in Lewisville ISD it brings back a lot of memories,” Iwuji said. “I remember when I was a little kid. Just seeing all the little kids and trying to go back in time like, ‘Wow, I was that little too at one point in my life.’ Being back here is cool. It brings back a lot of good memories. I had a lot of great memories in Lewisville ISD.”
Iwuji continued on to his alma mater Hebron High School, then finished his day at the Allen High School freshman campus where he surprised 15-year-old Kevin Campbell, the designer of his No. 34 Fueltrax paint scheme.
For Iwuji it was a dream weekend, but there was one moment that stuck out above the rest.
“At the end of the race driving down pit road and looking up at the pitbox seeing all my family in the pitbox just waving me and cheering me, that was cool,” Iwuji said. “That was the first time they’d ever been to any race period. They’ve never been to any of my races before. They’ve watched them on TV but haven’t had the opportunity to go because no other races have been in Texas. To come back to Texas, race at Texas Motor Speedway, have the family there, and just be rolling down pit road after I finish the night on my best finish, then having them wave me on and be so happy, that was a really cool moment for me.”
Being at the beginning of his career and relying heavily on sponsors to help him get on the track, Iwuji doesn’t know exactly when his next time on the track will be, but he’s targeting potential partners and eyeing either May 10 at Kansas Speedway or May 17 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
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