If you haven’t heard of U.S. Navy Lt. Jesse Iwuji yet, you’ll want to add this racer from Texas to your list of drivers watch on and off the track. Consider this exceptional example of his heroism to be your introduction to this ARCA Series driver. On Sunday, Iwuji was driving California’s Interstate 5 on his way home from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway. Spotting a family on the roadside and a small flame under their van, he told NASCAR.com he “was just doing what [he] thought was the right thing to do” when he pulled over to check it out.
Only minutes after moving the family away from the minivan, it burst into flames leaving only the charred husk of a melted family vehicle behind. Thankfully, no one was injured, though Iwuji mentioned that the father was going through the van for personal belongings. From the video Iwuji posted, it clearly could have been much, much worse.
I saw a small little fire underneath this family of 4’s van and I knew right then it was about to be bad news. I’m glad I stopped and got them away because they were still worried about getting stuff out the car. Things went from small to bad quick. Everyone be safe out there in this summer heat and keep your vehicles maintained…
Iwuji gave NASCAR.com the full story on the incident, including how he knew when to move the two parents and two children away from the vehicle. Of course, his NASCAR driver instincts kicked in.
“As I was walking toward them I noticed that fire underneath was getting just a little bit bigger. Just being around race cars and things that can catch on fire, I knew that something like this just doesn’t slowly become a big fire…
We got away and just right after that, the engine burst into flames. From there, it then went into the front seat, then into the back seat, then it got to the fuel cell area and the whole thing erupted.”
The family, thanks to Iwuji’s direction, is safe and sound, only missing the physical items in the van and nothing else. So who is Jesse Iwuji? He’s a 30-year-old Navy Lt. that competes in a team he owns, Patriot Motorsports Group. The Texan played high school football and later attended the Naval Academy in 2005 on scholarship for college football. A surface warfare officer after graduating, he was later deployed to Bahrain, and again aboard the USS Comstock, but is now in the United States Navy Reserve.
From boots today to racing shoes tomorrow, now heading to Arizona to race in our NASCAR K&N race tomorrow! There was Friday night practice and testing today at the track but I had to miss it for my Navy Drill day today but we’ll find a way to get the racecar ready to go for tomorrow’s race! #DutyFirst #NavyToNASCAR #perfecthydration
That’s just his bio. In reality, Iwuji is a man who says things like this when asked by NASCAR.com about being the only one who stopped to help the minivan fire,
“Don’t be a passerby. Go help if you see something wrong. Don’t just drive by with your cell phone and record it; stop and help. That was the main reason, to really show people that you can do your small part. It has nothing to do with trying to be a hero or anything like that. You just do the right thing.”
It certainly won’t be the last time you hear driver Jesse Iwuji’s name. This veteran and driver born to Nigerian parents is the third African American driver competing in NASCAR. He focuses mainly in ARCA racing series, and runs the occasional NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. To stay updated on his racing career, check him out on Instagram or Facebook.