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Drive for Diversity Driver Macy Causey Gaining Notoriety

HAMPTON, VA – On a hot summer night in Virginia, Macy Causey prepared to compete in one of the biggest Late Model Stock Car races in the country, the Hampton Heat 200 at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia, before a sea of fans ready to cheer her on.

The 16-year-old from Yorktown, Virginia is a third-generation racer who recently made NASCAR racing history when she became the first woman to win a Late Model Stock Car race at the historic South Boston Speedway. Before the victory, Causey had already generated buzz, being featured on NBC News and other prominent media outlets nationally and locally in the Hampton Roads area.

Her win at South Boston only made her even more prolific.

“It’s been a whirlwind.  Getting that first win, it all comes after that,” Causey told POPULAR SPEED. “Hopefully it’s just the first win of very many.  I worked with what I’ve got and what I had that night and worked with my crew chief, and we got it figured out.  It was the right time, (the) right place, so it happened.”

Earlier this year, she was selected as part of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity (D4D) Class of 2017 and competes with Rev Racing in select Late Model Stock Car races.  The D4D was a program created by NASCAR, currently partnered with Rev Racing, to get more minority and female drivers into NASCAR.  In its 12 year history, the initiative has propelled the careers of many NASCAR competitors, such as Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez, Aric Almirola and Darrell Wallace, Jr.

Rev Racing fields a car in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East as well as in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock Car racing.  Causey races on the Late Model team, predominantly at her home track, Langley Speedway. While the K&N Series program has had success throughout the years, Rev Racing’s Late Model program has not yielded the same success against regional powerhouse racers such as Philip Morris and Lee Pulliam.

That made Causey’s victory at South Boston all the more impressive in being the first Late Model Stock Car win for Rev Racing in five years. Next year, having already proven herself capable of winning races, she hopes her South Boston triumph can help propel her through the ranks with Rev Racing into the K&N Series.

“My next step is definitely K&N, you know,” Causey explained.  “I got Rev Racing their first Late Model win in five years, and I’m the youngest one they’ve accepted onto the program, so hopefully I’ve proven a lot. But I’m just going to keep doing my thing and hopefully next year, when they choose that spot for K&N, they look at my name quite a few times.”

Causey is a third-generation racer.  She is the granddaughter of Diane Teal, the first woman to win a NASCAR track championship, and the daughter of Dee Causey.  For her part, Macy Causey hopes to have a career in racing.

“My grandmother, Diane Teel, she was the first woman to win a NASCAR sanctioned race here at Langley Speedway,” the younger Causey said.  “I started racing when I was eight years old, Bandoleros here at Langley, won championships.  I race, my mom raced, I’m a third-generation female race car driver, so I kind of grew up in racing, all around racing.  I’ve been around racing especially with my family, so it’s definitely a habit for me.  I’m super excited for the rest of my career and what I’m going to be doing.”

At Langley Speedway, Causey certainly is a favorite among the fans.  During July’s Hampton Heat 200, the first of four Late Model Stock Car majors to be run this year, thousands of fans congregated at the track, and many were sporting her colors – t-shirts, mostly pink, with her name and number on the front and a picture of her car on the back.

“It’s super exciting to have all these fans that support me and travel around across the East Coast and supporting me,” Causey commented.  “It’s great, and I love it.”

In recent years, women have become more accepted in the sport.  In the four Mid-Atlantic states that predominantly run Late Model Stock Cars (South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Eastern Tennessee), the ladies have turned up the wick and become very successful.  Causey joins a growing list of female drivers who have scored significant accomplishments in recent years, which was seemingly kick-started when Haley Moody won a championship at Southern National Motorsports Park in Lucama, North Carolina in 2014.

Despite the growing acceptance, Causey does face backlash and criticism even still – but, with her famously positive attitude, she does not let it get to her.

“I’ve had a few people tell me nasty comments, but you can’t let that get to you,” Causey remarked.  “Right before you’re about get into a car going 120mph, and you let someone tell you that you’re not an aggressive driver, you can’t let it get to you, so I try my best not to let that happen and let it come with my success.  Clearly, it’s done me pretty good.”

The growing participation of women in the sport is something Causey welcomes.  Her win at South Boston made her the second female in as many years to win a Whelen All-American Series Division I Late Model Stock Car race, joining Kate Dallenbach who picked up a historic victory at Hickory Motor Speedway last spring.

“It’s great,” Causey explained.  “The more females we get out there and winning races, the more it shows how much more room there is in the Cup Series for females in the sport and what it’s definitely going to take.”

Like many other female racers, Causey credits Danica Patrick for laying a foundation for women to compete in NASCAR’s top ranks.  However, Causey wants to leave her own mark in NASCAR racing.

“Danica’s definitely laid down a great path in our sport, but I think it’s time for new females and new talent to pick up where Danica has left off,” Causey said.  “I don’t want to be the next Danica, or Dale, Jr.  I want to be Macy Causey.”

So far, Causey is doing just that with a growing fanbase as she racks up accolades.  Along with her win at South Boston Speedway, Causey was the youngest woman to make the field the Late Model Stock Car racing’s richest and most prestigious race at Martinsville Speedway last October. It was a feat no woman had accomplished in the event’s modern era until she, Moody and Annabeth Barnes-Crum all raced their way in last year.

Now, Causey is looking to the future, with the sky as her limit.

E-MAIL ANDY AT  andymarquis@gmail.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Getting to Know Lt. Jesse Iwuji of the K&N Pro Series West

It’s not uncommon for a racecar driver to come from a family that has been a part of motorsports for at least a generation or two. Many of NASCAR’s stars such as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Austin and Ty Dillon, Ryan Blaney, and Chase Elliott all had family members who were racers before they became ones themselves.

But that isn’t the case for Lt. Jesse Iwuji, an active United States Navy officer, who drives the No. 36 for the Patriot Motorsports Group (PMG) in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.

Texas Roots

Iwuji, 29, is a Carrollton, Texas native whose parents were both born in Nigeria. Iwuji, growing up in the Dallas area, was a football player in high school and it was then that he realized the competitiveness in his personality.

“In ninth grade, I was getting on the A-team for football, and I remember in seventh and eighth grade, I was on the B-team for both years,” Iwuji told POPULAR Speed. “I thought, ‘This has to be my year, I have to step it up, I have to get better and compete so I can beat out everybody.’ Really, I learned about hard-working ethics in high school which has helped me progress to where I am today.”

Serving Our Country

After graduating from Hebron High School in Carrollton, he attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland on a full athletic scholarship to play football and compete on the track and field team. After four years at the academy, he served a total of 15 months of deployment time on two tours to the Arabian Gulf, where he was a Surface Warfare Officer.

He had been involved with racing his Dodge Challenger on drag racing strips in Maryland since 2010. In 2013, he bought a Chevrolet Corvette and often drove it on road courses in California. He ran a test session in a stock car at Irwindale Speedway in Southern California, and it was there that his racing career was born.

Auto racing: From “A Hobby to a Career”

Iwuji raced in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series after the successful test at Irwindale Speedway. He ran the All-American schedule in 2015 and was ready for the next step: racing the entire 2016 K&N Pro Series West schedule.

Competing in the K&N Series was a steep learning curve for Iwuji. The races were longer, and the drivers are faster, but his military experience helped him find success in his rookie season with PMG.

“When it comes to time management, being professional, and presenting myself to people whether on-track or off-track or wherever, being in the military and the things I learned in the Naval Academy has helped a lot and hopefully it continues to help me as I progress,” he said.

“The biggest thing I learned was finishing races. The big goal I think for the year was to finish every single race, which I was able to do. Doing that gave me the opportunity to be in the top 10 in points. I was able to get points every single race … I wasn’t wrecking. I wasn’t taking myself out early in races.

“It helped to get the most amount of seat time possible to continue to progress my driving skills for next year in 2017 … not only to go out and finish races but finish with better positions than I did this year.”

He ended the year 10th in the points standings with one top-10 finish and 94 percent of the laps completed on the schedule.

Social Media Sharing

At Phoenix International Raceway in November, Iwuji hosted NASCAR’s Snapchat account for the penultimate weekend on the Sprint Cup Series schedule. He utilizes social media frequently, which has helped him gain a following among racing fans.

“I think social media is huge, and NASCAR having me on their Snapchat for that weekend was pretty awesome, and I thank them a lot for it,” Iwuji said. “It definitely helps bring more awareness about all the stuff I’m doing and let people know that I’m out there racing. Whenever I’m able to get on a platform like the one they have with Snapchat is huge — it really helps bring a lot of exposure, which hopefully leads to more in my career.”

Supporting Our Troops

Iwuji has done a plentitude of charitable work for military veterans, both on and off the track.

In 2015, he worked with the Phoenix Patriot Foundation, an organization based in Southern California, and occasionally took a veteran to a racing event.

“Their whole mission is to support veterans,” he said of the foundation. “What I was doing with them was bring a veteran to the track to honor them and put their name on the car and stuff like that.”

He also worked with 208 Cares, a nonprofit organization from Idaho which helps disabled veterans reestablish their lives.

“Their whole mission is to give away a house to one of the veterans,” Iwuji said. “I try to promote it and push it, and it was really awesome helping people and kids who have dreams and are motivated to get certain places, and I try to do what I can to help.”

Bringing Diversity

Being of Nigerian descent, Iwuji’s journey into NASCAR is not one that many people would — or could — have predicted for a black student athlete from Texas. No one in his family had ever raced, and NASCAR has historically been a predominantly white sport.

However, the industry has embraced racial and gender variety with its Drive for Diversity program, which is marketed towards minority and female racers. He believes NASCAR will be more diverse in the future and does what he can to support it.

“The big thing in diversity is it just bring more relevance to the community and to reach out to as many minorities as possible,” Iwuji said. “The racing world isn’t closed just because in the past there hasn’t been a ton of minorities. [It’s] definitely open, NASCAR has opened doors and NASCAR wants to bring new types of people into the sport.

“It’s possible. I haven’t been racing my whole life. I wasn’t born into a racing family. No one in my family has done racing before.”

True to his Word

On Iwuji’s official website, his mission statement reads:

“At Jesse Iwuji Racing, our goal is to progress in NASCAR through the ranks while promoting sportsmanship through diversity, mentorship for youth and representing our nation’s Military Active Duty/Veteran community with the best professionalism.”

Having read this story, I think you’ll see that Lt. Iwuji has done all this no matter where he is in his professional life.

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.