Victoria's Josh Reaume revs up NASCAR career

Josh Reaume of Victoria raced in the undercard of the Daytona 500 over the weekend. It’s just a temporary condition. One day, he plans on being in the main event.

“It’s a long road ahead but my goal is the [NASCAR] Sprint Cup,” said Reaume, by phone Monday.

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The Highlands resident earned $50,590 US for his 23rd-place finish in the Alert Today Florida 300 season-opener of the NASCAR Xfinity Series at the Daytona International Speedway. It’s his best career placing in the series, which is to the NASCAR Sprint Cup what the AHL is to the NHL. Reaume is one step from the Show.

“It’s how the progression in our sport works. This is a huge year for me with a lot of doors that can potentially be opened. A lot of people [in the Sprint Cup] will be looking at me,” said Reaume, in his second year on the NASCAR farm tour, following 12 races in 2014, on the circuit formerly known as the Nationwide.

Because points scoring is based on several variables, Reaume is actually 16th on the Xfinity Series standings after the first race.

The 24-year-old is playing it smart as he looks in future years to become the first Island driver to race the Daytona 500 since the late Roy Smith, the Victorian who did it three times, including a top-10 finish in 1982.

“The Daytona weekend atmosphere is electric,” said Reaume.

But the University of Victoria mechanical engineering graduate, who understands cars as well as he drives them, was careful not to get carried away by the uninhibited atmosphere that surrounds Daytona. He was there to do a job, and he did it. The Islander dropped to 39th in the weekend race but bided his time before snaking his way through the crash-strewn event, which claimed Kyle Busch with a broken leg, to climb 16 spots by the finish flag.

“I was riding at the back [to see how things would play out ahead of him] and gaining experience.”

Reaume, who spent 13 years in West Africa where his parents did humanitarian work before coming to the Island when he was 15, has a varied background that is coming full circle. Because of sponsorship from Nigerian entrepreneur Victor Obaika, who has established the first African-owned NASCAR team, Reaume is assured of riding the entire season in the Xfinity series. Obaika has been a friend and supporter since Reaume — who began racing Go-Karts at age six — was nine years old. The Obaika Racing website states: “With his diverse American, Canadian and African background, plus his distinct understanding of motorsports, Josh Reaume is the ideal driver for Obaika Racing. Together they will rewrite NASCAR history.”

If it happens, it will be a unique story that reverberates well beyond NASCAR.

The support is building back home, as well.

“I got more than 150 texts and emails . . . the Island support is really, really cool,” said Reaume, who found a second home at Western Speedway when his parents moved to the Island.

“It’s a fresh year and everyone is coming in with a clean slate. And that’s exciting.”

Next up in the 2015 Xfinity Series is the Hisense 250 on Saturday at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

Twitter.com/tc_vicsports

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