Island driver Josh Reaume quickly climbing NASCAR ladder

Josh Reaume could be poised to become heir to a Victoria auto-racing tradition that includes Billy Foster, the first Canadian to race in the Indianapolis 500, and top-10 Daytona 500 racer Roy Smith.

The 23-year-old from the Highlands has landed a six-race contract to drive for Rick Ware Racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, which is just one step below the NASCAR big-time in the Sprint Cup.

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Reaume’s first race is the Grit Chips 300 March 15 at the legendary Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee. That will be followed by the Help a Hero 200 on April 11 in Darlington, S.C., the Pioneer 250 on May 18 at Iowa Speedway, the History Channel 300 on May 24 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the Alliance 250 on June 14 at Michigan International Speedway and Feed the Children 300 on June 27 at Kentucky Speedway.

The Islander will be wheel-to-wheel with some of the best in the business. Many of NASCAR’s biggest drivers also regularly race in the Nationwide Series as well as the Sprint Cup.

The thing about Reaume, however, is that not only can he drive a car but the University of Victoria mechanical engineering graduate can also design a better engine for it. He’s already working in NASCAR as an engineer for Tri-Star Motorsport of Charlotte, N.C.

Reaume is impressively well-rounded in all aspects of motor sport. And life. He lived with his family for 13 years in Nigeria, where his dad John and mom Wendy worked and did humanitarian work, before coming to the Island at age 15. That’s hardly the stock upbringing for a life with stock cars.

“It’s a bit of an unusual background for car racing and I’ve had to come a long way in order to do this,” noted Reaume, who turned pro in 2009 raced in the NASCAR Truck Series last year.

“Now I want to see how far I can take it. The Nationwide is the second-highest [NASCAR] racing series in the world. It’s another step closer to the Sprint Cup. It’s a great opportunity for me. If I can do well, use my head, I’m one step closer to racing at the top level.”

It can’t be lost on Reaume that Rick Ware Racing’s current Sprint Cup regular driver Timmy Hill, in the No. 23 Chevrolet, was 2011 Nationwide rookie of the year.

Western Speedway proved an invaluable resource for a young kid interested in driving and newly arrived after having been raised in West Africa.

“Vancouver Island is known all over for having a huge motor-sport community,” said Reaume.

“Because of the cost of getting off the Island to race, you have to provide the racing here for yourself [at places like Western Speedway].”

For Reaume, it started with go-karts. “It developed into a passion,” he said.

It’s been a dizzying eight years since coming to the Island from Nigeria. The key was in balancing racing with academics.

“The mechanical engineering degree from UVic has given me a better understanding of cars than most drivers,” said Reaume.

“But racing and attending UVic consumed so much time that I had to learn how to manage my time. I did not have much of a social life during that period.”

But Reaume is clearly a guy who knows how to manage time and logistics. And he also knows in which direction he’s headed. It might one day lead right to the Sprint Cup series.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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