Winning a championship doesnât happen overnight, and doesnât happen with just one person.
It takes determined, hard-working, smart individuals pushing each other to the limit.
For 16-year-old Sam Mayer, his wisdom throughout his title campaign came from a former Cup Series driver, now turned âdriver performance managerâ or as his Twitter bio states, âCoach of Racers.â
Enter: Josh Wise.
The Riverside, California, native made 156 Cup starts, earning a career-best finish of 10th at Talladega in 2015. But Wise is now better known in the industry than anything he did on the track, because heâs helping drivers improve physically and mentally.
Wise currently works with Chip Ganassi Racingâs Kurt Busch and Kyle Larson, as well as Hendrick Motorsportsâ Alex Bowman. He regularly helps them with physical fitness goals (Wise regularly competed in endurance races) and working the mind to be sharp inside the car.
At the beginning of this season, he added newly crowned K&N Pro Series East champion Sam Mayer to that list.
âGMS reached out to me last winter to see if I would help out some of the younger drivers they had coming on,â Wise said. âThey had Sheldon (Creed) and Sam. That was definitely something I was interested in. Part of what I get to do is I get to work with really good guys in the Cup Series but I really look forward to working with younger drivers when I get the opportunity.â
At the beginning of their relationship, things were difficult to work out due to Mayer residing in Wisconsin and Wise being based out of Charlotte. But still, they made it work.
âWhenever (Sam) came down, he stayed at my house a couple times this year,â Wise said. âWeâve worked on the simulator, I can track his training, preparation and whatnot and itâs been a really fun time working with him.â
Sometimes strange to think about, Mayer hasnât finished growing physically speaking, only as a 16-year-old. For that reason, Wise focused on the between the ears area with Mayer.
âTraining the mind and preparing mentally for these races is probably as important as training the body,â Wise explained. âThereâs definitely some physical requirements that are kind of standard I like guys to meet for each series, but essentially, Sam trains a little differently than my Cup guys do. Itâs a special opportunity for someone like Sam because heâs in a room when he comes here training with Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, John Hunter Nemechek and all the guys I work with. I think thereâs value to having those interactions as well.â
But itâs not all mental. Wise and Mayer can be seen at the track regularly staring at a screen, pouring over data after a practice or qualifying run. Wise typically leads the conversations, as Mayerâs experience at most tracks is slim to none, whereas Wiseâs is extensive.
Now approaching the one-year mark since Wise and Mayer got together, the 20-year age gap has allowed Wise to see Mayerâs improvement in different areas from a unique lens.
âI feel like Iâve seen him grow a lot,â he said. âPhysically, thereâs obviously a lot of improvements heâs made since the first time I worked with him. Those are great to see, but the growth I see that excites me most is his growth as a young man. How he handles himself and how he communicates, how heâs able to mentally process being a race car driver and all the adversities that can present themselves. Heâs made some great strides.â
Wise hung up his racing helmet in 2016 to turn his attention to the driver performance managing side. It had been a dream of his to do so ever since he moved south to pursue a career in racing.
Now, heâs taking lessons learned from the mentors he didnât have back then and helping out the current and future generation of racers.
âIâve said this for a long time: the reason I do what I do now is because when I came to Charlotte to race stock cars, I came from open wheel racing and didnât have a clue,â he admitted. âNot a clue about how to operate on my day to day, let alone handle myself at the race track, how to prepare for races, what to look for, what to expect and how to handle the challenges of that.â
âItâs a roller coaster and youâre really on an island sometimes. All these relationships are special, and I really try to be the person I wish I had when I was a young racer aspiring to be my best.â