U.S. Navy Officer trying to climb NASCAR’s ranks while serving country

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At local tracks throughout the country, numerous stories unfold from youngsters trying to work their way to NASCAR’s top levels to mothers, fathers or even grandparents racing because there’s nothing else quite like it.

Among those stories is one that involves 27-year-old Jesse Iwuji (pronounced ee-WOO-jee).

He’s a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy.

The Navy Times details Iwuji’s desire to climb NASCAR’s ranks, starting in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. He’s raced Late Models at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway this season.

Iwuji, who played free safety on the football team, graduated from the Naval Academy in 2010 and was commissioned as a Surface Warfare Officer. The Dallas native is assigned to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., and is a student services officer.

Iwuji has served on two Arabian Gulf deployments, totaling 15 months. His service obligation ends in 2017.

Speed always has fascinated him. In 2010, he bought a Dodge Challenger and set a goal of driving it 200 mph in the Mojave Mile. He eventually accomplished that goal and turned his focus to racing. Iwuji is approved in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series to run on any track 5/8 of a mile or smaller and any road course.

“This is the most out-of-the-box-type thing I’m doing, and I’m going to make it happen,” he told the Navy Times.

Just like any driver, Iwuji is looking for sponsorship. He admits his role as an active-duty soldier is “helping me a lot because people are more supportive of what I’m doing, because I’m blazing a new trail.’’