NASCAR: A young British star emerging in 2021?

Tristan Van Wieringen, Rette Jones Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Tristan Van Wieringen, Rette Jones Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images for NASCAR) /

Keenan Tully, the British stock car driver who is planning to move to the United States to climb the NASCAR ladder starting later this year, recently discussed his plans with Beyond the Flag.

Keenan Tully, who hails from Norwich, England, United Kingdom, has been racing stock cars since he was 12 years old. The soon-to-be 21-year-old currently races in a class called Stock Rods, and this year he is competing in a class called American Cup Cars UK, where he races miniature NASCAR-style cars with Yamaha Motorcycle Engines around the United Kingdom.

In October, Tully plans to make the big move from the United Kingdom to North Carolina as he aims to make a career for himself in NASCAR in the United Sates.

British NASCAR drivers in general are quite rare, so it should surprise nobody that no driver from the United Kingdom has ever won at any one of NASCAR’s top three levels. But Tully is aiming to change that.

“I’m British, I’m 20, I turn 21 in about two weeks,” Tully said. “My mum is from California, so there’s quite a lot of my family on that side. I’ve been racing stock cars on the short ovals in the UK since I was 12, so that’s coming up to nine years now. … We have about 25 short ovals in the UK, and they’re all a quarter-mile or shorter, so we don’t have any big superspeedways or anything like that, nothing like Daytona or stuff like that.

“Three years ago, I was spotted by Jesse Iwuji, the Truck Series driver, now Xfinity — he’s raced in that series for the last year, he’s done four races in that series. He spotted me and offered me to go over there and race in a Super Late Model at Meridian Speedway in Idaho. I’ve done that, and then ever since then, I’ve been trying to get back over there to race in Super Late Models or ARCA.”

He has been planning to make his move for the last two years, which have included quite a bit of saving.

“I’ve had that planned for the last two years,” he added. “But because I’m still young, I’m paying for it all by myself, so the last two years have just been saving to try to get to that point and now I’m in the position where I’ll be able to move over there this October and buy my first house.”

His experience with Jesse Iwuji and Jon Woods’ old team, Patriot Motorsports Group, was a huge jump for him, as he went from driving something with 120bhp and front wheel drive to something with 600bhp and rear wheel drive. He started and finished that race in fifth place.

“I had never experienced fans coming over to you and asking for autographs before, so that was awesome!” he said.

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He has been offered a ride in ARCA with Rette Jones Racing (team car pictured with driver Tristan Van Wieringen) for the 2021 season, which includes a handful of short track races

“I’ve now been offered a ride to race with Rette Jones Racing to race in ARCA this year. But it’s budget-dependent obviously, and COVID-dependent. We just got into our third national lockdown so we can’t go anywhere now, so hopefully the virus clears up soon and I’ll be able to get over there and race.

“I’ve been offered it, it’s about 10 races. I’ve only been approved to race on the short tracks to begin, which is about nine or 10 on this year’s ARCA schedule. But I’m still working with a couple companies to try to get sponsorship. Nothing is set in stone yet. I’m still waiting to hear back and we’re still working together. It honestly might not even happen this year, but fingers crossed it does.”

Prospective sponsors are free to reach out to Tully at

Due to personal obstacles and adversity, he hopes to partner with a hearing aid company called Phonak and an online stuttering therapy platform called SpeechAgain.

“I am hearing impaired, and I used to have a hearing aid, which I stopped wearing due to social anxiety,” he noted. “I use racing as my release from struggling to hear and communicating with people. The same goes for my stuttering too, I really struggle speaking with new people, so racing helps with giving me that release, and it’s partly why I have had so much success and pushed myself to get to where I am today, because it’s given me that underdog mindset!

“I am hoping to partner with a hearing aid company called Phonak, and online stuttering therapy platform called SpeechAgain. Nothing is yet set in stone.”

Growing up in the United Kingdom, NASCAR isn’t always where Tully has wanted to be — or at least where he thought he wanted to be.

“To be honest, when I first started racing, I didn’t think about NASCAR,” he continued. “It wasn’t until two years after I started racing that I actually found out about NASCAR. We were on holiday visiting my cousins in Santa Barbara, California, and my cousin was watching NASCAR and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s quite cool!’, and ever since then was when I started getting more into NASCAR.

“Then it actually became like my dream to race in it. It’s weird because most drivers from the UK or Europe at least, they start off in karts, and then they go up the ladder to get to F1. Not many British drivers think about NASCAR or any racing in the states, so I was quite different. I went straight into full-size cars, I never drove a go-kart before I actually drove a full-size stock car. So stuff like F1 and circuit racing wasn’t really on my mind, to be honest.”

He noted that current NASCAR driver Austin Theriault reached out to him with advice on how to  get started on his journey.

“Austin Theriault reached out to me, he’s raced in the Cup Series a couple times and the Trucks. … He actually reached out to me on Facebook about a month ago, and he helped me get in contact with Rette Jones Racing, and so he’s kind of given me some guidance on who to contact, what teams I should go with, the best way to approach companies for sponsorship and stuff like that.”

Despite growing up in the United Kingdom, he really only follows NASCAR.

“Mainly NASCAR,” he said. “There’s a cool series in the UK called the British Touring Car Series, which Dale Earnhardt Jr. actually follows as well, but apart from that, that’s like the only form of racing that I follow. Most of my friends like F1, but that’s never really interested me. I just like the sort of bumping and rubbing, I suppose, side of racing.”

To this day, his top career experience is racing at Meridian Speedway.

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“Racing in the states was the biggest thing,” he admitted. “That was just a massive eye opener, and that was like my first opportunity to kind of understand how racing works in the states because it’s completely different to the UK. So that was like my eye opener, and then that’s helped me gain more contacts in the states to get to where I am now, where I’m now in the position to be able to race in ARCA this year.”