NASCAR driver Jesse Iwuji knows all about protecting America, be it on foreign soil as a lieutenant in the Navy or while driving down the freeway on his way home from his own NASCAR event.
The 30-year-old was nearing the end of a six-hour drive following the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway when he saw a minivan on the side of Interstate 5 in Grapevine, California with a small flame and smoke coming from underneath the vehicle.
A family of four, including two children, was still hovering around the car. Knowing how quickly a vehicle can burst into flames, Iwuji pulled over to insist that the family quickly move away from the area.
“I was just doing what I think was the right thing to do,” Iwuji told NASCAR.com. “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.”
According to Iwuji, shortly after he directed the family to safety, the car “erupted.” He posted a video he took from a safe distance on his Twitter account:
Safety safety safety guys and girls. 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 pic.twitter.com/av6C7j76Nd
— Jesse Iwuji (@Jesse_Iwuji) June 25, 2018
As for whether his time in the Navy played a factor in his decision to pull over and help?
“I think (being in the service) has a lot to do with it,” Iwuji said. “It just becomes second nature. I’ve noticed any time there’s ever any situation on the side of the road that could be a dangerous situation, I don’t even have to think twice. I just stop and see what I can do to help. I just try to do my part.”
He encourages others to launch into action when they see someone in need, too.
“Don’t be a passerby,” he said. “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.”
No doubt, Iwuji’s move is worthy of a podium spot.
Want to learn more about this U.S. Navy reserve officer who successfully balances serving his country with being a NASCAR driver? Give this piece by NASCAR on NBC a watch.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) June 27, 2018