News & Media

Wise making most of fill-in opportunities in 7 car

July 26, 2011, Dave Rodman,

LOUDON, N.H. -- Josh Wise was laughing about a bee sting that had gone bad, but the doctor who treated him at a nearby emergency room wasn't quite so cavalier.

"He told me I had come in just in time," Wise said. "Because it was gonna get a lot worse, in a hurry."

Josh Wise

2011 team breakdown
Starts7 car39 car
Best Finish613
Lead-Lap Fin.32
Avg. St.15.327.5
Avg. Fin.15.324.9

That could describe Wise's 63-race Nationwide Series career, which has taken five years to get to this point after multiple championships in short-track open-wheel cars. The biggest difference is what Wise has accomplished in that time, largely in under-funded equipment, makes him one of the more notable "up-and-comers" in the Nationwide garage.

But last Saturday afternoon in the countdown to the Nationwide Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Wise was in a comfort zone inside the back of the JR Motorsports No. 7 hauler. He had no problem rolling up his pants leg to show a reddish-maroon blotch outlined in medical marker.

It looked like the map of some irregularly shaped island off the coast of South America, but after two visits to the ER, two bags of IV antibiotics and a continuing course of medication, Wise looked plenty ready to get back on a bike -- where the whole problem started last week when he was stung on Thursday morning during a final training ride before he left for New England.

"By [Friday] night his leg was about this big," Wise's JR Motorsports crew chief, Tony Eury Jr., said Saturday, holding his hands apart about the size of a large grapefruit. "So he went to the emergency room, and they wanted him to come back [Saturday] morning."

By Saturday afternoon it was down to a flat red blotch, much better, but still something to keep an eye on. That sounds like the rest of Wise's season, which is almost incomprehensible, since he had worked his way into the top 10 in the standings after nine races, and was still 11th when he missed the Kentucky race two weeks ago. He's still 12th in the standings and if he races typically, he could be close to the top 10 once again when he might have to step back after Iowa.

"I do the next three races in the 7 -- I look at it as races that are sponsored, and that's all I can look at, for sure," Wise said matter-of-factly. "We have TaxSlayer at Nashville and then a couple races with iRacing, which is a cool deal for me because I'm such a believer [in its benefit] and I love iRacing so much."

For JRM the races at Watkins Glen and Montreal are being done by Ron Fellows and Danica Patrick, respectively. Wise is trying to get something going for those, and anything else he can muster.

"The road courses are going to be really hard for me to fill [with sponsorship] because I'm not a road-course guy and I don't have any sponsorship, at this point, to try to help any team out," Wise said. "It's really up in the air because I try to stay two or three weeks out on [sponsorship] so it's hard to know what's gonna happen, other than the stuff we have sponsored."

Wise does have another sponsored race in the 7, at Chicagoland in September, but what he's done so far really has him wishing he can do more -- as it does Eury Jr. And it gives Wise a pretty good cause to reflect.

"It's definitely been a scramble for me," Wise said, wearing what seems to be an ever-present smile. "When I look back to the start of 2010, I was really looking at what I even wanted to do with my racing career at that point. I decided I had to pick a direction because I was trying to do a Nationwide race here and there, then some start-and-parks and then go run Sprint cars and stuff like that.

"I figured I had to put my head down and really go at it. So I started with a really under-funded team -- I had to help set the cars up and get them prepared, get them to the track and through tech -- everything."

But the experience paid him well when Wise got into the JRM Chevrolet last season and ultimately did nine races. But he proved his mettle when his worst finish in those nine was 16th, which he logged at both Lucas Oil Raceway and Nashville, his first start with the team.

In nine more starts this season Wise has two top-10s, despite some misfortune.

"It's been awesome for me," Wise said. "I've gotten to work with some great sponsors and they -- both them and the team -- have been real supportive of me. I've done this my whole life and it seems like it's always been a roller-coaster. It's just a matter of not giving up, and that's what I've tried to do."

It's also got Eury Jr. extremely optimistic for the future.

"I've had a lot of fun with Josh," Eury Jr. said. "He's helped us figure out a lot of stuff with Danica's deal, trying to understand the setups of this new car. We've both kind of had our times, where we're learning and he's learning, but it's been a really good, unique situation.

"Coming into this year, our biggest goal was to try to have Josh in the car when Danica's not there; but we wanted to also keep Josh in the drivers' championship and that way, get some [TV and radio] air time for Josh because our ultimate goal -- if our deal comes through with Danica or whatever it may be -- we wanted to get Josh in the spotlight where he would get a full-time ride over here, because he definitely deserves one.

"We're looking forward to the next three weeks with him."

But not any more than Wise himself, who in the end had no function at New Hampshire other than being around his guys, whom he "loves."

"I would say the biggest thing he brings to the table is the ability to bring home the car, that week," Eury Jr. said. "I don't think he's tore up but one car since he began driving -- in all the races he ran for JR Motorsports.

"You really don't have that sense of him being a rookie or a guy without much experience [with Wise]. They tear up a lot of things and you typically go through that. He's really laid-back and he wants to bring the car home when things aren't right. He doesn't get blowed out of proportion -- he stays calm until the next pit stop, when we can get things corrected and go on."

Don't forget, Wise was a champion in open-wheel short-track racing, where 30-lap features are the norm and getting it done "right now" is a necessity. But Wise said his history also taught him a lot that's benefiting him now, to hear Eury Jr. tell it.

"I think when he decided to come down here and give up open-wheel racing and go stock-car racing because that was his dream -- he wanted to do it," Eury Jr. said. "It was a start-and-park situation. In order for him to come back and race the next week, he had to bring it back in one piece because a couple times they'd let him race but to come back the next week he couldn't tear it up.

"To get the valuable seat time and being in the car every week, that's what he had to do. He definitely can get up on the wheel and get it done when he needs to. But that's probably one of his good qualities.

"A guy in this garage that's got a smaller team that wants a good driver that can bring the car home every week and get him good finishes and get some spotlight on him -- [Wise] is the guy."