Dallas Cowboys Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith Becoming Team Owner in NASCAR

by Suzanne Halliburton
Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Dallas Cowboys icon Emmitt Smith is joining the NASCAR family as a team owner for next season.

NBC Sports reported that Smith, the Hall of Fame running back and the league’s all-time leading rusher, will own a new team in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series. And because it’s Emmitt Smith, it’ll have a Dallas connection with ties to football, as well.

Smith is a partner in the new Jesse Iwuji Motorsports team. Iwuji is the son of two Nigerian immigrants who lived in Carrolton, Texas. That’s a suburb in north Dallas. And Iwuji also grew up a football player, starting the sport at age 8. He even wore No. 22 to honor Emmitt Smith.

Iwuji played free safety for the U.S. Naval Academy. And that’s where he got his first real taste of NASCAR. The Midshipmen played in the Meinke Car Care Bowl and the team got to ride around Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C.

The two Dallas residents met last year, when Emmitt Smith and his company, Notable Live, sponsored Iwuji’s Xfinity car at a race at Texas Motor Speedway. Smith, with his son Elijah, had the honor of telling drivers to start their engines.

Iwuji posted a video clip with Emmitt Smith as they unveiled the car last October.

Iwuji Grew Up Idolizing Emmitt Smith. He Even Wore No. 22

Iwuji told NBC Sports:

“I’ve been following Emmitt since I was a kid, and football was my thing,” said Iwuji, “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.

“Fast forward 26 years, and me and Emmitt are now partnering up to get this NASCAR team going. It’s been such a crazy, interesting circle. When we first met last year, it just clicked, and everything just made sense. Nothing was weird or awkward. It all made sense. We needed to do something big. That’s where we decided starting a team together would be the way to do something big and really make an impact on NASCAR.”

The Xfinity Series is one level down from NASCAR. Often, it’s where you find the new, talented drivers.

But while Smith and Iwuji know each other from Texas, the former running back learned to love NASCAR when he was growing up in Florida. Emmitt Smith is from Pensacola and starred for the Florida Gators. So he knows how important NASCAR is.

And Smith also said he wants to be a mentor to Iwuji.

“That’s one reason I want to support him,” Smith said. “I want to see him live the best version of his life and maximize his potential in terms of where God has placed him. His calling is different than mine because it’s in NASCAR. But our calling as a society is linked up and aligned, and to watch him grow and be a part of that growth and help build his team to something incredible, I’m ecstatic for what the opportunities are out there for him.”