Coming into the 2017 NASCAR season, a lot of the talk around the garage was how established veterans Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, and Greg Biffle were gone from full-time competition in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
One name that slipped under the radar was Josh Wise.
Wise has 156 career starts in NASCAR’s premier series, recording a top-10 finish at Talladega Superspeedway in 2015 for Phil Parsons Racing. However, last season did not go as planned for Wise, fighting and clawing just to qualify for 28 events for The Motorsports Group.
It turned out 2016 was the California native’s last full year as a stock car driver.
Prior to the season-opening Daytona 500, Wise teamed up with Chip Ganassi Racing with the goal of coaching up-and-coming drivers Brennan Poole and Tyler Reddick. He would also be in the corners of Cup Series stars Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson as they are both in pursuit of the organization’s first title at the sport’s top level.
“I started a driver performance consulting business, and I started doing some work last year, quietly, as I was racing myself,” Wise told Frontstretch. “As the year went on, I knew that’s what I wanted to transition into because I felt like as a driver myself and within the sport, there was a huge void for that. Just the way guys are preparing across the board in every way; physically, mentally, studying, communicating, all these different aspects of what racecars do as athletes.
“That’s what I do here essentially. I rolled over from a few of the guys I was working with last year to just doing something exclusively here with the four and now five drivers we have with Justin Marks.”
Wise himself also remains an triathlete outside of racing. Sure, he spent almost a decade inside of the NASCAR garage, but off the track he trains like there is no tomorrow.
Oftentimes, you can see Wise pedaling on the side of roads or swimming in a pool whether at home or at the racetrack. Fitness is a huge part of his desire and passion outside of the sport. Last year, he even set up Trevor Bayne‘s exercise and eating schedule as the Roush Fenway Racing driver prepared for an upcoming triathlon.
Because of having those outside interests, stepping out of the car was not as big of a deal for Wise as it may seem, though it took a while to decide on what his new role would be.
“It wasn’t like an overnight decision or anything,” he continues. “For the last two years, I definitely was open to and trying to strategize what my next steps were going to be professionally. Whether it would be out of the car within motorsports [or] out of motorsports. It hasn’t been like an abrupt transition for me by any means, I was ready for it. Last year before going into the season, I knew it was going to be my last season unless some circumstances drastically changed as far as getting a competitive ride and whatnot.
“When you’re a driver, it’s all about you, right? You’re the driver and you’re getting the attention and it’s about how you’re handling your media relationships, your on-track performance, all this, that, and the other. It’s a very selfish position. One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most is doing something outside of myself, like helping other people rather than being all about Josh Wise all the time.”
Though transitioning out of the driver’s seat and taking on a different role within the sport, Wise doesn’t miss competing at the back of the field. When first coming over to NASCAR in 2007, running a combined 10 events between the XFINITY and Camping World Truck series, he had aspirations of being a Cup champion. Unfortunately, that never materialized along with a top-tier ride that could provide said opportunity.
“As you age, you just see things more clearly,” he said. “I realized a handful of years ago that I loved racing. I still love racing. I haven’t driven a racecar since Homestead last year. If I had the opportunity to do that on some sort of fun level where I’m not making a living at it, I’ll do that if I’m compelled to.
“I guess the underlining theme is that I was mentally ready for something else. It was just a matter of the right doors and opportunity and pursuing that path.”
Wise, 34, admits that he’s an “all or nothing” kind of guy. If he’s not driving, racing is kind of irrelevant and his time is directed toward something else. He has been able to spend more weekends at home, as he is only going to upward of 20 events this season.
“Honestly, my wife and I were just talking about this, but I’m, like, happier at home,” Wise said. “I would come home on Sundays and just be like not in a good place. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, I wasn’t in a good place because I was dreading what we were going to have to go through the next weekend and just wanting more than what I was capable of at that point of my career. Now, I think my time at home, while I do have a bit more of it, it’s more productive and positive and just happier in general.”
In 28 events last season, Wise had a best result of 24th at Kentucky Speedway. However, in 17 of those events, the No. 30 team, which is now merged with the No. 33 driven primarily by Jeffrey Earnhardt, had absolutely no funding.
“When I realized that I loved being a competitor and competing and I wasn’t competing the way I wanted to, it really compartmentalized the aspects of what I really enjoy about this,” Wise said. “I really enjoyed winning races and being competitive as a racecar driver. Driving around a racetrack in a circle at 200 mph, as strange as this sounds, is not that fun to me. Battling someone tooth and nail for a position at a go-kart track or a family fun center is more fun than just driving a car and trying to not tear it up, or whatever the objectives were at some points late in my career.”
Unlike some other retirees in the past that have come back, almost as quick as they left the sport, Wise has no intentions on returning to the racetrack.
“I think retired is kind of a silly term, but I’m not racing for a living anymore,” he said. “I will never drive another racecar that I’m getting paid to drive. If I want to go run a go kart at Millbridge [Speedway in Salisbury, NC] or something, then I will go do that, but it will be from a purely fun perspective. I can tell you at least from where I’m at now, nothing in this garage that realistically is ever going to get presented to me is going to be fun. I’m probably never going to drive a stock car again.”