Friday, November 07, 2008

Wise Returns to His Roots Before Nationwide Race at Phoenix

// Courtesy : Autostock Images //

Avondale, AZ (November 5, 2008) – Josh Wise enters Phoenix International Raceway with Michael Waltrip Racing to compete in the NASCAR Nationwide Series event following a strong 11th-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in the No. 00 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry.

"I have raced at Phoenix in open wheel cars, but never in a stock car," Wise said. "Nothing really applies from racing open wheel there, other than being able to see the track. It does make me more comfortable because I have seen the place before and I know where the bumps are. From a driving perspective, I will have to learn how to drive a stock car there just like other places I've been to this year."

Before Wise climbs behind the wheel of the No. 00 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota , he returns to his roots. The 2005 USAC National Midget Car Series Champion will race a Toyota-powered Midget numbered 75 for Cruz Pedregon in a 25-mile USAC National Midget Car Series feature during the traditional Copper World Classic at Phoenix International Raceway Thursday night.

"I'm pumped up because I haven't been able to race a Midget all year," Wise said. "I've been focusing on my stock car career. Growing up, I started racing Quarter Midgets, which are like go-karts you just raced on oval tracks. I stayed in that direction with open wheel racing most of my life up until a few years ago. I raced Sprint cars and Midgets on the West Coast with my family and eventually ended up moving to Indianapolis to drive for Tony Stewart with his open wheel team for three years."

One day out of the blue in 2004, Wise received a random call from Tony Stewart asking him to relocate from California to Indianapolis to drive for Tony Stewart Enterprises.

"Believe it or not, I was sitting on my coach and randomly got a call from him," Wise said. "For some reason, I recognized his voice and I was a little in shock. I was having success racing with my family and a few other rides out west. We won some big Midget races that year. When Tony asked me to move to Indy to drive for him, it was a big turning point in my career. I never thought it would get this far. I'm grateful I am at this level in NASCAR and I am trying to make the best of it."

Stewart recently stated, "The better cars you put Josh in, the more talent you're going to see out of him, and I think there is a lot more than what everybody has seen so far. It's just a matter of time before he gets a chance to show truly what he is made of."

The two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion was Wise's hero growing up. In the early 90's, the Riverside , Calif. native had a chance to ask Stewart for his autograph at Perris Auto Speedway in Perris , California .

"It's really funny now that I look back," Wise said. "When I was nine or ten years old, my parents and I were at a Midget race. I used to always wear a No. 9 hat, which was the number Midget he used to drive. I tracked him down in the pits one night and asked him to sign my hat because he was my hero. He did and my parents still have it. Low and behold, he probably would have never guessed at that time that I would be driving his race cars 10 years later. He was the guy I looked up to and to drive for him meant the world to me."

Wise followed in Stewart's footsteps and was successful. Some of his many accomplishments included becoming the 2005 USAC National Midget Champion and the 2006 USAC National Sprint Car Series champion. Wise also earned a runner-up finish in the USAC Silver Crown point standings and Rookie of the Year honors. Win after win and multiple championships led Wise to seek a new challenge in the NASCAR ranks.

"I had a lot of success with Tony and was starting to get interest from several NASCAR teams," Wise said. "I spent time in Charlotte to explore what options were real and Michael Waltrip Racing was one of them. I was intrigued by what MWR was putting together. Michael Waltrip is an awesome race car driver, an awesome guy and owner. It was something I really wanted to be a part of. After I visited the shop, I knew I wanted to be there. They told me they would give me seat time in different types of race cars."

The 25-year-old made his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series debut with Darrell Waltrip Motorsports at Kansas Speedway in 2007 and earned two top-10 finishes in only nine starts. Michael Waltrip was instrumental in Wise's debut and also helped align him with Fitz Motorsports to make his first NASCAR Nationwide Series start last season. Wise's career-best finish is fifth-place at O'Reilly Raceway Park this season with Fitz Motorsports. Wise has now moved to the No. 00 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota and has raced twice for MWR with two races remaining.

"I feel 100% right now," Wise said. "Now, I have a lot of seat time at several tracks. I keep checking them off the list. I'm glad I will be seeing a lot of these places for a second time next year. I will know what I need to be successful. I'm really looking forward to these last two events and performing well."

Live coverage of the Hefty Odor Block 200 at Phoenix International Raceway will air on ESPN2 at 4 p.m. ET and MRN Radio at 4:30 p.m. ET.

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