ANGOLA, Ind. — Despite a season in which Zeb Wise checked all the boxes he hoped to behind the wheel of a 410 sprint car, the latter stages of the All Star Circuit of Champions season didn’t go according to plan.
With that in mind, Wise is searching for his next opportunity.
Wise confirmed Monday afternoon that he has parted ways with Sam McGhee Motorsports after finishing third in points with the All Stars and earning the tour’s rookie-of-the-year honors. Ian Madsen was later tabbed to drive for the team for the rest of the season.
The soon-to-be 18-year-old notched three top-five and 19 top-10 finishes in 39 starts with the Tony Stewart-owned sprint car series, coming just short of reaching victory lane.
Wise won first 410 sprint car victory at Fremont (Ohio) Speedway on Sept. 26, but told SPEED SPORT that “it was just time for a change,” adding that the split with the McGhee family was an amicable one.
“Nothing really happened. It wasn’t a bad breakup at all. Myself, Mike, Sam and Kathy, no one has any hard feelings or anything like that. I’m really, really appreciative of everything they did for me,” Wise noted. “This was my first sprint car ride in a 410 and they put me on the map on the All Star tour. We came into the year with two goals. One was (to finish) top five in points and the second one was (to win) rookie of the year, and we accomplished both of those. The last two months with the All Stars was just … I don’t want to say rough, but we struggled with getting me comfortable in the car and making the car feel like I wanted it to.
“Obviously, I’m new to it at this level, so with me learning and Sam learning and us learning each other, it just took a while to get where we needed to be,” Wise continued. “I finally came to the conclusion that I just wanted to try something different … and it’s nothing against them. I think they did everything they could to get me where I wanted to be. It just didn’t work out. Like I said, I have no hard feelings toward them at all. They’re a great family and I hope they do well in the future.
“Regardless of our future directions, I think they feel the same about me and want me to succeed too.”
Wise said that despite his recent struggles, he feels like he’s begun to wrap his arms around what it takes to race a winged 410 sprint car successfully against the best of the best.
“I’ve been really, really trying hard to learn the racing aspects of winged racing, which is way different than the non-winged side of things. It’s a whole different world,” Wise said. “Once you step into a winged sprint car, on the track it’s way different, with dirty air and keeping your nose clean and stuff like that. It doesn’t really affect you a lot on the quarter miles, but the half-mile tracks are where I struggled. That’s not only because I was in a winged car; that’s because I don’t have a lot of experience on half miles to begin with. Midgets only go to one half mile now, and that’s Eldora (Speedway).
“Going to places like Port Royal (Speedway) and Williams Grove (Speedway) and Eldora, it was tough for me to figure out where I needed the car to be at certain times and how to race with other cars,” Wise continued. “I feel like I really had begun to get a lot better at that at the end of the season, but things just weren’t quite clicking the way we needed them to be, so we decided to make this change.”
While Wise doesn’t have any concrete plans at this point, he tipped that he’d like to contest USAC’s season-ending West Coast swing in a midget, as well as wheel a sprint car in several of the remaining 410 events on the calendar.
As for 2021, however, Wise’s focus is on remaining in the 410 sprint car world on a regular basis.
“There are midget races in Arizona and California that I’d like to run, just because there’s nothing else going on. And then I think there are some winged races at the end of this year, too, that I would like to run if the opportunity presented itself,” Wise said. “But as far as next year goes, I want to stay on the winged side. What I would really like to do is go back on the All Star tour, if a, if an opportunity comes alive.
“Right now, I have no plans, but we’ll see what happens here in the next few weeks or months.”