Alex Eskandari felt like his racing days were done.
The 21-year-old from Las Vegas who grew up racing at go-kart tracks from the age of nine was certain that racing professionally was most likely not in the cards.
That is until he got the break he needed this summer.
Eskandari got sponsors and competed at the Las Vegas Bullring in July and made history in the process becoming the first known Armenian to compete in a NASCAR-sanctioned event as part of the NASCAR Advanced Auto Parts weekly series.
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And that’s when everything changed. Eskandari received international attention after his achievement was recognized on social media, and now his hunger and desire to race and climb up the NASCAR ranks has returned.
“I wasn’t planning on doing any more races,” Eskandari told The Armenian Weekly. “But now with all the attention I’m getting, a lot of team owners are coming up to me and saying, ‘Hey you did a damn good job for your first time.’”
Eskandari will race three more times this month, beginning with the NASCAR Sigma Performance Services pro-late model race on Saturday at the Las Vegas Bullring. He will also compete on September 11 and September 23.
“I have the opportunity to do these next three races with my race team and the only goal is to win. I don’t know what I have planned for next year. I don’t have a sponsorship for that yet.”
Strong performances at these races will help in trying to secure more sponsorships and money for races next season and beyond. This is common for drivers starting out in the “minor leagues” of NASCAR, who must personally invest to compete in races for little prize money. Oftentimes, drivers have to balance their racing careers with full-time jobs, which is what Eskandari does—working up to 70 hours a week at a local car dealership.
Racing has been in Eskandari’s DNA since he was young. He used to race with names like Noah Gragson and Ryan Vargas, who have gone on to have successful careers in the NASCAR Xfinity Series—NASCAR’s second-highest division.
“I was just trying to do (the July race) to fulfill my dream and passion and ultimately I could be satisfied and say, ‘OK, I’ve raced with these guys for years in the go-karts and I’m always up there with them. I could go out there and race the real thing and compete with them just like in go-karts.’ That’s what I wanted to do.”
But now, Eskandari has the chance to prove to the racing world this month that he belongs with the upper-echelon of drivers, and it helps that he’s been receiving plenty of support from the Armenian community.
“I’ve been getting so many messages by Armenians, messaging me ‘Wow I never knew. I never liked NASCAR until I saw you. Apres tghas.’ It’s awesome. I didn’t know I was the first Armenian NASCAR driver until I looked it up. There’s really no Armenian out there. I looked everywhere. My whole team looked everywhere. It’s awesome.”
How far Eskandari goes in his young career remains to be seen. But he is confident that with hard work and the people around him, his racing goals are more attainable.
“You need to work your tail off. You need to have the best people around you. Gotta have the right sponsors to support you. Sometimes you get the most talented drivers but not in the best cars because you don’t have the sponsorship needed. So it’s a team effort, it’s not just the driver doing it. You have to have a whole team around you. I’m lucky I have my parents supporting me and I have the best sponsors in the world.”
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