Josh Wise wins Sprint Fan Vote
May 16, 2014, Pat DeCola, NASCAR.com
RELATED: Redditors fork up cash for Wise to drive Dogecoin car
CONCORD, N.C. -- The fans have spoken.
Or, perhaps more specifically, those that frequent r/NASCAR Subreddit of social networking and news site Reddit.com have spoken.
Phil Parsons Racing's unsung internet hero Josh Wise, who has 79 Sprint Cup Series starts and a career-best finish of 19th under his belt, has earned a berth into Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race (9 p.m. ET, FS1) via the Sprint Fan Vote and a large contingent of Redditors who pitched in a few different ways.
"That's unreal," Wise said. "I can't believe that. That's amazing. Thank you everybody watching."
But how did it happen, exactly? How did Wise, a relatively low-profile driver, unseat one of NASCAR's most popular drivers in reigning winner Danica Patrick?
"I'm still trying to wrap my head around it," Wise said in his post-race news conference. "Really, it just started with a 16-year-old kid posting something on Reddit.com about some good runs that we've had and for whatever reason this huge, awesome community just got behind us."
In March, the Reddit community raised 67.8 million Dogecoins -- a cryptocurrency that equates to about $55,000 -- to help Wise put his No. 98 Ford in the Aaron's 400 at Talladega Superspeedway. Dogecoin/Reddit again sponsored his No. 98 All-Star Weekend ride -- this time a Chevrolet.
And in a true underdog -- or should that be underdoge? -- story, the same group of fans had a heavy influence on his case for the Sprint Fan Vote, as Wise overtook the Stewart-Haas Racing driver.
"Everybody knows about them raising money to sponsor us at Talladega and then it was on to the Fan Vote," Wise said. "I'm just super thankful to be a part of it, really. It's been a cool experience. I really don't have an answer (why the Reddit community picked me); it's just one of those things, you know? If you asked me two months ago, there's just no way I would've thought this was possible.
"Something I wanted to say, too, was that this is kind of a big deal for our sport, I felt like. It's a lot of young kids and people from around the world and I've had a chance to interact with a lot of them and there's a lot of people that never watched a NASCAR race who've now watched several, so this is a pretty cool deal."
Wise has started 10 of the series' 11 races thus far in 2014 and stands 36th in points, even trailing a cast of rookies such as Justin Allgaier, Michael Annett, Cole Whitt and Alex Bowman. Not only that, but Patrick herself has close to 100 more points than Wise, making this whole scenario seem even more unlikely.
But the power of the Internet is strong, my friends.
"I saw the potential there. There's 110 million people that regularly use Reddit, and there was a large portion of them that knew about this and were a part of it, I felt like. It's one of those things where you didn't know if people were just telling you they were voting for you or how many times they were voting, so I thought it was definitely a possibility."
Even if Wise doesn't come home with the $1 million prize for finishing first in Saturday night's race, he already considers himself a winner. This type of attention is enough to garner the attention of sponsors -- which is the whole reason this thing started in the first place.
"It's been really, really hard since I've been out here (in NASCAR). One of the challenges I've faced is gaining momentum through sponsorship and being in good opportunities to showcase what I think I can do, so this is a big deal because obviously we have a lot of people behind us. Hopefully it helps us to build our program here as we go forward."
Wise will now join the pool of drivers trying to earn the top starting spot via Saturday's Sprint All-Star Race Qualifying (7:10 p.m. ET, FS1).
Wise has never participated in the Sprint All-Star Race before. He placed 13th in the 2012 Sprint Showdown.