Stock car driver Josh Reaume, who hung his hat in Highlands for a time and still largely considers it to be home, is living a dream this weekend in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Reaume, 24, who ran in 12 races as a rookie on NASCAR’s Nationwide Series in 2014, is hoping to line up Saturday (Feb. 21) in the white-and-red No. 97 Obaika Racing Chevy Camaro for his first start of 2015 in the renamed XFinity Series’ Alert Today Florida 300 at Daytona International Speedway.
“I’m very excited. I don’t think it’s fully sunk in yet,” he said en route to the iconic Daytona with the team’s primary sponsor, Nigerian businessman Victor Obaika. “As a kid, I always dreamed of going to Daytona and getting to race there.”
As part of a new team that hasn’t accumulated either owner’s points or provisional points from last season, Reaume must qualify 33rd or better Friday to be one of the 40 starting cars in Saturday’s race.
Running on a race-to-race basis last season, in a system where laps completed earn valuable owners points, he often found himself parked before 100 laps were done. His best finish was a 24th place effort at Kansas Speedway.
Reaume said he’s thrilled to be running a full competitive season this year, with plenty of resources behind him. The team has purchased six cars, has a crew of eight professionals and is led by crew chief and NASCAR veteran Dan Stillman, who has worked with some of the sport’s big names.
“I’ve known Dan since I was about 10 and I worked alongside him as an engineer five years ago,” Reaume said, noting it’ll seem kind of odd working with him in the very different capacity of driver. “Dan’s won in every level of NASCAR and he’s worked with people like Dale Earnhardt Jr. Dan Menard, Michael Waltrip. We really just lucked out; he’s got a lot of knowledge and experience. He actually worked with Carl Edwards as a rookie in the Nationwide Series years ago.”
While one step down from the top-level Sprint Cup series, XFinity is extremely competitive, with a number of Sprint Cup drivers also contesting a full season on the circuit. Reaume, who appreciated his learning curve and took a more cautious approach to racing last season, in fields that included the likes of Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Elliott Sadler, sees that changing this time around.
“With the situations I had last year and the opportunities I got, it was important for me first and foremost to show car owners and other drivers that I would be respectful and come up to speed and not jump right in and drown (or wreck),” he said.
Obaika, who has known his driver since age 9, from the time when the Reaume family lived and worked as missionairies in Western Africa, has followed his racing career through karting and more recently auto racing. He sounded thrilled to be a part of Reaume’s climb through racing’s ranks.
“He’s got the opportunity now to race custom-made, he’s had the opportunity to choose his chassis and motors, and work with an excellent crew chief,” Obaika said. “From a human point of view and an engineering point of view, this is a good as it gets.”
The race starts at 12:30 p.m. PST Saturday and can be seen in Greater Victoria on the Fox Sports/Speed channel on Shaw.