The Wright stuff: Former Commerce teen pursues NASCAR dream

Monday, November 28, 2005

Josh Wright walked out of his house in Commerce, Mo., at the age of 6 and saw the seven go-karts that his grandfather had just brought back from Florida.

That's all it took for his racing career to take off in a hurry.

Now 17, Wright is living in the heart of NASCAR country, trying to establish himself as a national power in the racing world where he hopes to one day make it big as a professional.

"That just kind of started the whole deal right there," Wright recalled of his grandpa's surprise.

Wright started driving the go-karts around and eventually began entering races on motor cart tracks. His grandfather, Sonny James, built the SEMO Kart Raceway in Blodgett, Mo., where Wright did the bulk of his racing. By the age of 12 Wright had placed second in the World Kart Association dirt world championships and was competing in national WKA events, often traveling about 15 hours to races on the East Coast.

The long-distance road trips were the primary reason why Wright's family packed up and moved to Mooresville, N.C., in 2000.

"We moved for racing, for the most part," he said last week in a telephone interview from his home. "We just thought there would be more opportunities out here. So far, I think there has been.

"I've met some really good people that have really wanted to help out. Racing is the No. 1 thing out here, and that really helps out a bunch."

Wright recently completed his first full season in the International Motor Contest Association open-wheeled modifieds, the nation's largest authorized class. He led the state of North Carolina in points in the modified class, and he earned the IMCA National Rookie of the Year award, topping more than 80 first-year racers and edging the runner-up by eight points.

"That was pretty cool," he said. "There were drivers from 22 states. I was very proud of that."

Wright was honored for the award at the IMCA awards banquet Saturday night in Des Moines, Iowa.

Wright entered 35 races during his first season and won 13 times, including a victory in July in the 2005 IMCA Firecracker Tour at the Lowes Motor Speedway dirt track in Concord, N.C.. Wright defeated about 30 drivers in the three-race event.

The regular racing season lasts from January to September, but the bulk of the racing begins in March. During the regular season, Wright races about twice every weekend. This season he raced primarily at two tracks in North Carolina -- the Carolina Speedway in Gastonia and the East Lincoln Motor Speedway in Stanley-- which both require at least a 30-minute drive from Mooresville.

"That was one of the things we had to our disadvantage," Wright said. "There's not many tracks around here; there's not a big selection."

Wright has done his share of traveling throughout his career and said he'll be on the lookout for "some big-money shows" this offseason. Other than show-searching, Wright spends his offseasons working on his car every night and trying to keep up with his schoolwork. He gets in a few races here and there, but spends more time working on sponsorships.

"I'm trying to get hooked up with a big-name team out here," he said. "It helps out financially, and finally getting on a team and proving myself -- being as young as I am -- would be ideal because they'll go through the ranks with you and help you progress as you go along. I'm trying to do the best I can as quick as I can. I got my Web site going, and I keep that up all the time. I'm trying to get noticed as much as I can."

As if the best rookie modified racer in the nation hasn't been noticed enough already.

"My final goal one day is to be in the NASCAR circuit," he said. "Until then, I'll keep doing this, trying real hard to get on a team here. I'm still hoping for it, and I've been fortunate to have the stuff I have so far. I just have to keep plugging away."

Josh Wright's website can be accessed at

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