Craig Murto: A racer can give back w/photo

NASCAR K&N Pro Series West driver Jesse Iwuji lets 4-year-old cancer patient Darrian Nordstrom sit in the driver's seat before taking him for a ride. Courtesy photo

Local racers sometimes don’t realize the power they have simply because they possess a race car.

Racecars are natural draws. They can attract people to your sponsor’s place of business. They can attract people to charity events. Children’s eyes light up when they see race cars of any type. People gawk at race cars that drive by on open trailers.

It’s always been my opinion that racers should take advantage of their cars. Putting race cars on display is never bad publicity, for the race team or the sport in general. And racers always have the opportunity to give back to their communities simply by donating some time and putting their cars on display.

Jesse Iwuji is a racer and true patriot who always gives back.

The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West driver competes for Patriot Motorsports Group and is a full-time active-duty U.S. Naval officer based in Idaho.

On March 19, Iwuji drove the No. 36 List Group Chevrolet to a 20th-place finish in the season-opener at Irwindale, California, after starting 24th. He didn’t run up front, and didn’t get any airtime when the race was broadcast on TV. It was apparent that Iwuji, the team, or both still have a way to go before they will be competitive at the NASCAR touring level.

But it’s what he did the week prior to the race that deserves attention and shows the character of Iwuji and his race team, and demonstrates how racers can give something back.

Iwuji and his team at Patriot Motorsports Group learned of Darrian Nordstrom, a 4-year-old from Las Vegas, Nevada, suffering from a rare and deadly form of cancer.

“I was given the opportunity to make one of his wishes come true by giving him a ride in a two-seater NASCAR race car after flying him and his family up to Boise, Idaho, from Las Vegas,” Iwuji said. “Under my race suit I wore my Team DD shirt to show love and appreciation for this amazing child, who has touched all of our hearts.”

You can watch a video of Iwuji and Darrianís day at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ib5m2flsxRE and see for yourself the joy that Iwuji and the Patriot Motorsports Group gave to the Nordstrom family.

Iwuji will call the NAPA Big 5 Late Model Series at Idahoís quarter-mile Meridian Speedway his home when he is not out with the K&N Pro Series West. Off track Iwuji will continue to help build and support the Patriot Motorsports Group based out of Eagle, Idaho. Patriot Motorsports Group helps support veterans, both active and non-active duty, via the multiple charities they support such as “208 Cares,” which builds adaptive homes for Idaho veterans and “Phoenix Patriot Foundation,” whose primary mission is to support wounded veterans through a variety of services.

Iwuji and the team are accessible through various social media: Instagram and Twitter, @jesse_iwuji; Facebook, facebook.com/Jesseiwujiracing; website, www.jesseiwujiracing.com; team’s Facebook, facebook.com/patriotmotorsportsgroup; team’s website, www.patriotmotorsportsgroup.com; YouTube, youtube.com/user/hhsfball05.

Every racer at every short track or drag strip in the country has the ability to give something back. Everybody isn’t going to be able to fit their car with a seat to give a child a ride, but a race car can be a powerful tool, on and off the track. Simply displaying your car can attract attention to a charity or cause. It doesn’t take much to get people to agree to allow you to display your car, and your sponsors will appreciate the effort as well.

Iwuji didn’t win the K&N West opener, but he already proved he was a winner. And the joy that he and his team brought to Darrian Nordstrom and his family made an impression on Iwuji that is worth more than anything locked away in his trophy case.

“Everyday there are many members of our youth fighting different circumstances and hardships in life,” Iwuji says. “It’s our job as adults to lead them through, empower their dreams, and help create paths that can lead them to success. Always remember, you are more powerful than you can ever even begin to imagine; use it for good, my friends.”

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.