Driver Spotlight: Josh Wise

Josh Wise

Wise drives the No. 35 MDS Transport Ford in the Sprint Cup Series. (Photo: Getty Images)


Get to know NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Josh Wise in this week’s edition of’s "Driver Spotlight."

Riverside, Calif., is your hometown and a place with a long NASCAR history.  What's it like to come back to your home state, especially coming from a city so close to Auto Club Speedway?

Wise: It's awesome.  I can't help but look forward to it because I get to see my grandparents, and my brother still lives out here.  I have lots of friends out here and you always know the weather is going to be nice, so the vibe is positive.

When did you first catch the racing bug and know you wanted to drive racecars for a living?

Wise: As far back as I can remember, it's always been what I wanted to do.  Most of the exposure was from television.  We would watch the IndyCar Series back then and Thursday Night Thunder (on ESPN).  I don't know if people remember that, but it was a big thing and we'd watch every Thursday night.  My dad and I never missed it, so that's probably when I decided I wanted to race.  I started in Quarter-Midgets when I was seven years old in Pomona.  That association is shut down now but at the time, it was the place to race in Southern California.

You cut your teeth driving open-wheel cars - from USAC Midgets and Sprint Cars to Silver Crown on dirt and asphalt.  What did you learn most driving those styles of cars?

Wise: The biggest thing you learn is car control, especially on dirt where you're sliding sideways around the corner and bouncing off 10-inch-tall dirt cushions ... all the while trying not to hit it too hard and flip your car.  Plus, they're 30-lap sprint races so you have to go as hard as you can.  What’s interesting since I started racing stock cars is the amount of respect you had to have in dirt cars because they were open wheels.  Everybody had to be aware of where you were, so you tried to keep that two-inch buffer between cars.  You never wanted to hit anybody.  The different styles of racing have always been interesting to me.  Now, I'm putting my car right on somebody's door to get a side draft down a straightaway.  We never would hit somebody on a straightaway in open-wheel cars.  You just didn't.  That etiquette is different in NASCAR.

You made the transition from open wheel to stock cars, first with Eddie Sharp Racing in ARCA and then with Michael Waltrip Racing in NASCAR.  How was that transition for you?

Wise: I dreamed of making it to NASCAR, but I guess I never fully believed it would actually happen.  I certainly aspired to make it.  Every step has been really cool as it's unfolded.

You've had a chance to race for some pretty good teams like the ones I mentioned earlier, plus JR Motorsports and Front Row at the Sprint Cup level.  What have those experiences been like?  Have they equaled the dream?

Wise: Yeah, it has.  But I guess I've gained a new perspective over the last few years of my life.  There are a lot more important things in my life other than success, as the world labels it.  NASCAR is a great sport.  I'm fortunate to be doing what I do and am thankful to be a part of it.

I can tell as you talk about it that you are referring to your wife and children.  How has being a dad changed you?

Wise: My kids are the most important thing to me.  I bet any parent can step back and look at their life pre- and post-children, and see the change in perspective it brings.

When you race at the Chili Bowl or some other big open-wheel event, you are a superstar.  Everybody screams your name.  But when you go through driver introductions in the Sprint Cup Series with, at minimum, 15 of the most popular athletes in the world, you get only minor applause.  Is that hard on your ego?

Wise: (Laughs) No, it doesn't bother me at all.  Yeah, it's funny.  But it doesn't bother me.

From a fame standpoint, not a success standpoint, would you want to trade places with Jimmie Johnson or Tony Stewart?

Wise: No.  I've actually had this conversation with some of my close friends and I've said I would gladly take any of those top guys' opportunities on the track because I want to win races and championships, and be the best at this level.  But there is such a price that comes with those things.  I guess in the end, it balances out either way.

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