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Jesse Iwuji continues trail blazing for African Americans in NASCAR

One of two African American drivers in NASCAR
Jesse Iwuji continues to set an example for African Americans in NASCAR.
Posted at 1:30 PM, Jun 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-17 16:58:12-04

(WXMI) — Since NASCAR started back in 1948, only eight African American drivers are known to have suited up in what is now known as the Cup Series.

"Coming up the ranks in NASCAR hasn't been easy at all," said truck series driver, Jesse Iwuji.

Iwuji hopes to one day add his name to that list. He is one of just two African American drivers currently in the top three NASCAR series.

He races part time in the truck series right now and is hoping to be a trail blazer for other minorities.

"Hopefully people can see us (Bubba Wallace and I) and see what we're doing and say, 'you know what, I can race in NASCAR no matter if I'm Black, Asian, Mexican, whatever it is," he added.

NASCAR made the decision last week to ban confederate flags at races and that's something Iwuji says needed to happen.

"If you don't want to be at the track because this, that's fine," Iwuji said via Zoom, "we'll go on without you, NASCAR isn't going to die after this."

Iwuji's path to NASCAR is far from typical - he played football at the Naval Academy until 2009 and was then active duty in the Navy for seven years.

Now, he's focused on a career in NASCAR while also serving in the Naval Reserves.

"When I signed into the military, I signed to defend the constitution of the United States of America, not the confederacy," Iwuji said.

And while he says he hasn't been a target of racism in person by NASCAR fans, he has seen messages on social media.

"I've seen some people make some troll accounts and post pictures of me and write the 'N word' all the way across it or just post really racist type of stuff."

That's something he hopes changes as NASCAR and the rest of the nation try to take a step forward.

"I just want people to know that no matter what people think of you, you can still make it," he said about his message, "never let their opinion become your reality."