Josh Wise, an Ironman on and off the track

Front Row Motorsports racer Josh Wise spends his off time by taking on a different challenge that keeps him fit for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events.

In the old days, race drivers weren’t into conditioning and good eating habits, but the new breed of driver adheres to programs with emphasis on physical training, nutrition and all-around healthy living habits. Some are more diligent than others, and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Josh Wise is an example of a driver than has raised the conditioning bar to a new height.

Wise, 30, is relatively new to the Sprint Cup ranks, but the former USAC champion has gained a reputation for being a steady performer with considerable upside potential. While honing his stock-car skills, he has driven in 53 Sprint Cup races and 115 Nationwide Series events to date. His primary job is to drive the MDS Transport Ford for the Front Row Motorsports team, and that organization is impressed with the skills he has brought to the multi-car team.

Josh Wise, Front Row Motorsports Ford
Josh Wise, Front Row Motorsports Ford

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

Although not as well- known as NASCAR’s star drivers, Wise is well-known among his peers because of his advanced conditioning program. While he didn’t spend his youth playing baseball, football or track, he’s making up for that void by taking up running, swimming and biking. And he’s doing it up in a big way through triathlons and he recently raised the bar another wrung by completing a 70-mile half Ironman Triathlon. It was done as a training exercise leading up to a full Ironman Triathlon in Mexico after the racing season ends. A full Ironman Triathlon totals 140 miles of intensive activity.

“Scott Speed got me into cycling three years ago, and we used it as a way to training for racing,” he said. “It started out as a joke, but it turned us into challenging each other. I didn’t have a background in athletics and had never run more than three miles until a year ago.” As the two progressed, one thing led to another and it wasn’t long before Wise tried a triathlon where he fell in love with that form of competition. “Since then, it has been a growing experience for me.”

Wanting to take care of his body in the demanding form of competition, Wise began working with a trainer, to learn more about the complexities of training and nutrition. “There’s a fine line in training,” said the well-spoken racer. “Ironman competition puts high demands on your body and a lot of maintenance has to take place, ranging from eating to doing things to recover your body.”

In Racine, Wisconsin, during a break in the Sprint Cup schedule, Wise joined 2,200 others in a half Ironman Triathlon, which included 70 miles of swimming (1.2 miles), biking (56 miles) and running (13 miles). Finishing 394th the first time out was considered a major accomplishment.

Josh Wise, Ford
Josh Wise, Ford

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

“It was really fun, and I learned a ton doing it, in particular the importance of sticking to a plan,” he said. “It was the longest triathlon I have done.” Just like in racing, fuel management is important for a competitor. He admits to burning 1200 calories an hour. “You run out of fuel, so you have to eat during a race and eat the right things. To keep your body fueled. I didn’t get my nutrition right, and I decided late in bike ride and early in the run, not to eat any more, which turned out to be a mistake.”

To enhance his biking performance, he took his bike for a wind tunnel evaluation, using the same facility used by the race teams.

Pacing yourself and having a workable strategy are important to have and adhere to during a triathlon. There’s no resting time between events, as competitors climb swim, bike and run without taking a break. Swimming in Lake Michigan was a surprising experience for Wise, as the Great Lake was cool, windy and choppy, dissimilar to his swims in a calm North Carolina lake.

Wise indicated he needed a week to recover after the Wisconsin ordeal, and he used days leading up to the Brickyard 400 to mend his body. Light workouts were completed, including a short bike ride and run along with swimming while in the Indianapolis area. Also, he kept in close contact with his trainer, so not to injure his body.

In addition to Speed, Wise trains with fellow drivers Blake Koch, Trevor Bayne, Michael McDowell and Justin Allgaier. Koch will compete with him for the full Ironman Triathlon. His motivation has also enticed his parents, Eric and Kris Wise, into a conditioning program. Also, Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, a fitness buff, has inquired about Wise’s programs.

Wise’s most vocal fans are his wife, Ashley, and daughters, Harlow and Remy, who accompanied him to Wisconsin. They are the focal point of his life and he said they come first. Time management has been another challenge for Wise, and he has found the means to do so, giving up other hobbies (golf and go-karting) and time wasters to focus on his priorities. “I have given up my nothing time,” he said.

Josh Wise trains for a triathlon
Josh Wise trains for a triathlon

Photo by: Breaking Limits, LLC

One of the benefits of his intensive training program is that it has put him into better condition to race. “Racing is more mental than physical, but it does become very hot in a race car,” he said. “Being in better condition is huge for me while in the car, and it also gives me a better focus. Being fatigued doesn’t even come to mind anymore. Although you are tired after a long Cup race, I feel like I can run four Cup races in a day and not bat an eye about it.”

In more ways than one, Wise is a young man in a hurry, and he’s pulling out all stops to becoming a better racer on and off the track.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson , Trevor Bayne , Michael McDowell , Scott Speed , Eric Gilbert , Josh Wise , Justin Allgaier , Blake Koch
Teams Front Row Motorsports
Article type Special feature
Tags biking, cycling, ford, front row, ironman, mexico, nascar-cup, nascar sprit cup, running, speed, swimming, triathlon, wise