LATE MODEL RACER JOHNNY WISE TURNS PROMOTER.
When most people receive a heavy blow in life, especially when that blow is health related most people down shift and slow their life down. But that’s not the case for Williams Junction, Arkansas Dirt Late Model Racer Johnny Wise. Instead, he shifted into high gear and became the promoter of Central Arkansas Motor Speedway, located in Plummerville, Arkansas.
Wise a veteran racer who races dirt late models in and around the state of Arkansas, was diagnosed earlier in the year with HPV, a form of cancer. Wise stated that it had been a long year undergoing the much needed treatments to battle the life threatening disease. And, as we caught up with Wise in late August, those treatments were still going on.
“I’m still undergoing the treatments,” Wise said. “And because of the treatments the doctors have installed a chemo port in my chest area. Because of the port, I can’t put the seatbelts on inside the racecar.”
Once the seatbelt issue was realized, Wise began weighing his options on how he could stay connected to the sport. Although there were several easier options available, he turned his sights towards the vacant race track at Plummerville, Arkansas.
“I put a lot of thought into what I wanted to do. I’ve raced for a long time and I’ve been to a lot of race tracks. I’ve been to tracks that I liked, and some I didn’t. Plus the fact that I’m and excavator by trade, I just felt that I had the right experience to try my hand at running a race track.”
With a little effort Wise was able to lease the property that laid out the old Plummerville Speedway, and the Central Arkansas Motor Speedway was born. And a few days later the renovation work began. “The old track had sat closed for several months so there was a lot of up keep and maintence that hadn’t been done in a while.”
Wise then turned his attention to the tracks surface. “The old surface was just flat worn out, so I’ve been busy hauling in new dirt to create a new surface to race on. So far I’ve hauled in about 250 loads of dirt, and I figure I have another 100 loads to go to get it where I think it needs to be.”
“We have also been busy rebuilding the restrooms at the track. I believe that for any track to be successful it has to have nice, clean and well maintained restrooms. These will be, along with being air conditioned as well as being handicapped accessible.”
Wise was then asked what where some of the other aspects that were needed to make Central Arkansas Motor Speedway successful. “We need and will have great concessions. When I’m visiting other race tracks I’ll order everything that they have on their menu whether I’m hungry or not just to test their products. I want people when they come here to get food that has a great taste, and be proud that they ordered it when they are finished. Also we have been doing a lot of work in the grandstand area in order to make the spectators experience here more comfortable.”
As the conversation continued the subject turned as to what future of dirt track stock car racing was going to be. “We have to get some interest coming into the sport in today’s youth. You look around the sport and it’s us older guys. There are a few young racers out there in different classes, but not enough to sustain the sport.”
“I’m working really hard to put together an IMCA sport compact class for kids ages nine to sixteen, with safety of the driver being the most important part. Hopefully doing something like this will get some interest going and create some much needed younger racers in our sport.”
“We will be a Friday night race track in the 2021 racing season, and we will be racing Factory Stocks, Mini Stocks, and Modifieds. I may also alternate in some B Mods. Also we will be running a Steel Block Late Model Class and that class will alternate on a weekly basis. I also plan to schedule some races for the Mod Lite class.”
Another area of concern with Wise is the rising cost of dirt track racing, and he is looking at all aspects to help lower the cost while still putting on an entertaining show. “It’s a long way out but I’m working with some folks on possibly starting a Limited Sprint Car class.” The class would index rules that would help make racing sprint cars more affordable on the local level by eliminating some of the more expensive mechanical parts that are used on the sprint car. “This would not only give us a more affordable way to race the cars, but also a class that would allow drivers to gain some experience driving a sprint car before moving up to the 360 class.”
Although regularly scheduled racing at Central Arkansas Motor Speedway is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2021, Wise will host a race on October 31, 2020. The event will honor the memory of Leon Cloninger, a local late model racer who later passed away, after suffering a heart attack while racing at the I-30 Speedway in Little Rock.
“Leon was just a great guy and regardless of what happened on the race track; bad finish, blown engine, just what ever, Leon got out of the car smiling. He always had such a great attitude about things. We need more people in our sport like Leon.”
Despite all the medical obstacles that Johnny Wise has had to hurdle this year, as well as making the decision to switch from driver to promoter, Wise is racing towards a new goal in his racing career. It is without a doubt that he has the determination and the work ethic to make it happen. In Johnny’s own words:
“I just want to put together a facility that people will want to come out to.”