Throughout Josh Wise’s eight year Sprint Cup career, he has raced for several lower budget teams, including The Motorsports Group in 2016.
In 146 career starts at NASCAR’s top level, Wise has a best career finish of 10th coming last season at Talladega. Since then he’s raced for four different race teams in 33 races.
Owned by Curtis Key, The Motorsports Group is in its second year of existence at the Cup Series level. In 2012, Wise and the team ran 22 events in the XFINITY Series, finishing 33rd in the championship standings.
According to Wise, 2016 has been about building for the future. Every little amount of speed that the team can find will benefit them down the road.
“Expectations for us are just based on our execution of the weekend,” Wise told Speedway Digest. Obviously, you look at where you’re starting, where you want to be and you create some sort of plan to get there. It’s all about the execution of that plan. If you don’t end up where you want to be then that’s something you reevaluate. For us, those steps are simple. It’s about practice and making changes the right way and communicating well, spending time with Dave [Fuge, crew chief] going over what I feel like the car needs.”
Including Wise, The Motorsports Group has seven full-time employees, the lowest amount at the Cup Series level. He also believes that his team is a long ways away from being in a position to run in the top 20 on a weekly basis, admitting that compared to other small teams in the garage, TMG is “microscopic.”
The team has competed in 18 of the 22 races this season, missing all three restrictor plate events and the Brickyard 400 last month. Finishes like a season-high 24th-place at Kentucky are a step in the right direction for the organization.
“Those are weekends that the morale is naturally higher,” Wise said. “As much as I try to keep the guys on focusing on our jobs, trying to improve and find gaps that are within us, you still get caught up in the board and what it says with what position you are and where you finished. It looks a little more optimistic than it really is at times.”
Whenever the team finishes in the 20s, it’s a small victory for the organization. Wise has been among the top 30 in three races this season Kentucky, Watkins Glen and Pocono.
“It’s a bit of a cliché statement, but it’s a David and Goliath scenario,” Wise said of his team. “Those finishes are wins for us for sure. Even weekends where we finish 32nd, if we do a good job and execute well and out race some cars with a fast racecar its worth it. At the last Pocono race we finished 34th, but I went home and I was really exciting because every time we hit the track we made some sort of gain on our cars and learned a tremendous amount in going toward the right direction.”
At the bigger tracks such as Pocono, there are some laps that TMG is faster in the race than they are in qualifying, something that Wise also believes the team can build on.
Missing a race for TMG isn’t the worst thing in the world. Wise is a racer and he will compete in anything, giving 100 percent on the race track, but the psyche of the team can rise with a solid car that doesn’t make the feature event.
“I’m getting excited about the direction that we are going and I feel like at Indy, we learned a lot there,” Wise said. “We missed the race, but we had an extremely good car just to have a fuel pump go out in qualifying. It’s just a total misfortune, not meant to be type thing. I was disappointed that we missed the race, but it was sort of out of our control, we had a lift pump go out, but I was excited that the car drove so well.”
Like many of the big teams in present day NASCAR, TMG has started off small, hoping it pays off down the road. Though comparing TMG to BK Racing is like BK Racing being compared to Hendrick Motorsports, Wise believes that in order to take the next step the team needs to find sponsorship.
TMG has had zero sponsorship at all in eight of the 18 races they’ve competed in this season. With the start-and-park era all but gone from NASCAR, Wise has an average finish of 34.6 this season, which is better than his 2013 season competing primarily for Front Row Motorsports.
“I think you always want more,” Wise said of his situation. “Contentment is a choice. You can choose to be content, but you can choose to continue to apply yourselves to do more. I think there is room for both ends of it and that’s where I’m at. Yeah, I want to run for a bigger and better team with a better opportunity or try and win an XFINITY race, but I’m not doing that, I’m here. I’m not caught up in the fact that I’m not there. I’m doing the best that I can.”
One thing that Wise has always had is the support from the fans. In 2014, competing for Phil Parsons Racing, Reddit, an online community fully backed the California native in his pursuit of making the All-Star Race. He won the fan vote, making it into his first career All-Star event.
At the time 2014 looked to be a turning point in Wise’s career. Missing just the second race of the season at Phoenix, the 33-year-old had 14 finishes in the top 30, the most he’s ever accumulated. Much of his success came from the fans.
“It means a lot,” Wise said of the fan support. “It’s a strange thing for me because I’m not naturally a public person. I have to try and work at that end of it. I shy away from fans because I don’t like being admired. I’m just like a normal guy who happens to drive racecars. I don’t think that I’m anything special. I was given a great gift by God to do what I do and have the ability to do well at the opportunity.”
Not knowing his future is a hard thing on Wise. Racing for TMG is one of those handshake deals that could end at any moment. The plan for now is to make it through the 2016 season and go from there.
“It’s almost as good as any piece of paper that I’ve ever had a contract with,” Wise said.
I guess anybody will tell you that a contract is not worth the paper that they are written on. We have that commitment though this season and work hard every week at it.”
The main priority for the tri-athlete is to one day compete in an elite car, winning races on a consistent basis. But for now it’s about surviving, hoping that he sees that day.
Off the race track, Wise swims, runs and bikes training his body to perform in the racecar. Becoming good friends with six-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson as well as Trevor Bayne and Landon Cassill has sparked a fire under him.
Working out in a mental train of thought, otherwise known as a triathlon is something that translates over to the track for Wise..
“That’s something that I pushed into more recently where you build fitness eventually and then you are able to do more fitness above what the racecar demands,” Wise said of his training. “There are barriers that you can break down in your mind with intense fitness sessions and intense races that kind of directly lead to the racecar with the intensity and sometimes the frustration and mental fatigue of all of it.”
At every town on the circuit, Wise has a place he likes to do his training. Whether it’s a bike route that leads to a coffee shop downtown or a swim that leads lunch on the lake, he fully believes that pushing your body to the limit helps a driver perform.
“What happened was, I started wearing heart rate monitor and my heart rate monitor looks similar to if I were to run a marathon,” Wise elaborated on. “My heart rate goes into an aerobic rate where it’s a steady rate on your body and it’s physical. It’s the heat, it’s the movement and it’s the G-force that elevates your heart rate. I believe that anyone that is driving a racecar for more than an hour needs to be doing some sort of endurance exercise.”
Last year both Wise and Cassill competed in the Iron Man 70.3 World Championship in Zell Am See-Kaprun, Austria.
Wise finished 1,016th overall, completing the circuit in 5 hours, 13 minutes and 4 seconds. Cassill topped him by just seven minutes, finishing 867th.
But in the end it all goes back to racing.
“I feel that I’m an underrated racecar driver,” Wise said. “I’m way better than anybody realizes. Maybe that’s somewhere where I don’t undervalue myself. I think that on any given day I can get in somebody’s racecar or anybody can get in my racecar and I can perform with or better than any racecar driver out there. It’s something I’m very confident in.”
While it’s hard to showcase his talent at TMG, Wise likes to overachieve, proving that he is one of the best drivers in the world. He’s not going to allow driving for a small team hurt his chances to make it in NASCAR.
“Our sport is a team sport, almost more than any other sport,” he said of his situation. “There are so many hands that touch every part on that car and every part is so important. It’s kind of being between a rock and a hard place sometimes with where I am. I feel like I can do a lot more, but you are limited a little bit and you are doing the best you can.”