The 2021 NASCAR owners pool added a few major names in the offseason. Michael Jordan joined 23XI with Denny Hamlin and worldwide recording artist Pitbull becoming co-owner of Trackhouse alongside Justin Marks.
The National Football League is getting more representation in the owner’s group, with NFL Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith. NBC Sports confirmed the news Saturday morning that Smith will partner with driver Jesse Iwuji to form Jesse Iwuji Motorsports (JIM). The organization has its sights set on a 2022 Xfinity Series campaign, with Iwuji as the driver.
“I’ve been following Emmitt since I was a kid, and football was my thing,” Iwuji told NBC Sports. “As a kid living in Dallas, following the Cowboys winning three Super Bowls in the ‘90s, I started playing and told my dad that my position is going to be running back. He told me to watch the Cowboys, watch Emmitt Smith, that’s his position, and that I’m going to be like Emmitt.”
Iwuji told NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan that he’d been flirting around with team ownership a few years back after taking a hard look at the diversity angle of the sport. Iwuji is one of only two Black drivers in NASCAR, alongside full-time Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace.
The eSports sector is another spot JIM has its eyes on. Some rising NASCAR talent found their way into the sport from iRacing, and officially sanctioned NASCAR leagues on the platform. Additionally, iwuji said he plans to focus heavily on lower-income communities and “STEM-style” initiatives.
“With the assets that we’ll have by being just basically a NASCAR team, we’ll be able to go into those communities and help them get into the sport through some new ways that are emerging right now,” Iwuji told NBC Sports. “Everyone knows eSports is booming and here to stay. We want to use that as a way to help bring in some folks who are maybe less fortunate and don’t have enough money to train on a go-kart track and buy tires.
The boundaries for the team appear to offer no limits, with Iwuji ready to help give those looking to get into the sport their first shot at greatness.
“These are all the ideas we’re working on implementing so that we can create programs for people to get into motorsports. We know not everyone wants to be a driver. Some want to be crew chiefs, some want to be on the marketing side, some people want to be on the HR side. Whatever it is, we want to create that pipeline that allows people to at least get a taste because we have the assets to make it happen.”
Smith isn’t joining the sport officially either a publicity stunt either. Both Smith and Iwuji have partnered together in the past in on-track endeavors. For example, the pair unveiled a slick scheme for BJ McLeod Motorsports in October at the Texas Motor Speedway when Smith sponsored Iwuji through Notable Live Inc., a company Smith co-founded.
— Jesse Iwuji (@Jesse_Iwuji) October 22, 2020
Growing up in Florida, Smith is very familiar with Daytona Beach and part of NASCAR’s history.
“NASCAR is one of those things that obviously is a pastime for a lot of folks, and a lot of folks that don’t look like Jesse and myself,” Smith told NBC Sports.
More details regarding the team are expected to be revealed during the NBC Sports pre-race show from Michigan on Saturday. According to Ryan, Iwuji and Smith will be two of four partners with a stake in JIM. Iwuji’s representation, The Sports Agency’s Matt Casto, said that there are “deep talks” with multiple manufacturers for the 2022 operation.