MERCED, Calif. — Zeb Wise will close out the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Series season this weekend as part of the Matt Wood Racing team.
Wise drove at Florida’s Bubba Raceway Park for Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports in February and attempted the Indiana Midget Week opener for the team in June before a crash at Paragon Speedway scuttled his participation later in the week.
Team owner Wood told Sprint Car & Midget he felt his deal with Wise went “somewhat under the radar,” but that he’s looking forward to adding the talented teenager to his roster starting this weekend.
“That’s kind of how we like to do things. We like to stay out of the main stage where we can and we just try to show up with a good team, run our race and go home,” Wood chuckled.
“That being said, I’m good friends with Zeb and his family. We talk pretty regularly and I try to keep up with what Zeb’s doing on the sprint car side of things,” he noted. “His dad and I talk business and we talk racing, so we’ve been talking about things for a while. Zeb was in and out of the Keith (Kunz Motorsports) car a little bit and had his sprint car deal. And I was just talking to Chad (Wise) and I said, ‘Hey, you know, what, if Zeb ever finds himself where he needs a ride, let’s do something because we’ve got cars that are just sitting around.
“Over the course of the last several months, we just decided, ‘Let’s swing for the bleachers,’ so we got Zeb in a car for Merced this weekend and we’re looking forward to having a lot of fun racing with him.”
Wise’s Merced appearance is part of a broader strategy for Wood’s operation going forward.
The California-based team owner, who has fielded a sprint car team out of the Midwest in the past, plans to base several midgets in Wise’s Angola, Ind., race shop next season.
Wise will pilot one of seven cars Wood will field during the 35th Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in January, followed by a part-time USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Series schedule next year that will include the Indiana Midget Week mini-series and other marquee events on the calendar.
“We’ve got some big plans,” Wood tipped. “Zeb’s going to be a part of our Chili Bowl efforts, and then going forward, we’re going to base our East Coast midget team out of Zeb’s race shop there in Indiana. He’ll run Indiana Midget Week and as many midget races as he can with us, when he’s not racing a sprint car. His sprint car program will still be the primary (focus).”
The expanded plan for Wood provides a bright future for the team, which has grown into a powerhouse contender on both the sprint car and midget sides over the past two years.
In midget competition, the team put three of its six Chili Bowl entries into the Saturday A-main this year, also contending for top finishes when Shane Golobic drove during Indiana Midget Week in June.
“Last year we had a West Coast team and we had a Midwest team. We actually had a complete sprint car operation in Iowa for the whole year, last year,” Wood explained. “We flew back and forth and ran Knoxville (Raceway in Iowa). We ran some other tracks around as well, and ended up winning (in 360 competition) at Huset’s (Speedway) at the end of the year, but that got our fire going again.
“We’ll do the same thing next year. We’ll plan to have a West Coast sprint car team, a Midwest sprint car team and then … because we’re just absolute idiots (laughter), we’ll add the Midwest midget team with Zeb and he’ll represent our Midwest midget team effort. And when we go back for Indiana Midget Week or whatever races we try to run that our schedules permit, we’ll be based out of Indiana for all of that.
“It’s an exciting time for our team. We’re eager to get started and glad to have Zeb along for the ride.”