ON THE WRIGHT TRACK
Updated: Nov 28, 2020
Sky’s the limit for hot young racer
He’s bright, articulate, clean-cut and personable.
And he can flat drive the wheels off a race car.
All the ingredients are there to make Hunter Wright, 19, Middle Tennessee’s next racing sensation. But don’t take my word for it. Just ask legendary James “King” Climer, who has probably won more races on more tracks than any driver in the state:
“ He’s the most talented kid I’ve ever seen.”
And another titan of the tracks, Wayne Day, who for decades has fielded cars for some of the sport’s finest fledgling racers – and for whom Wright currently drives:
“ Hunter is one of the most impressive youngsters to come through here.”
Or Jerry Criswell, owner of Veterans Motorplex where Wright is a three-time defending Legends Series champ:
“ He’s not just a great young racer, but also a fine young man. I compare him to Richard Petty in terms of how he connects with fans. He’s exactly what our sport needs.”
Wright, a resident of Gladeville (site of Nashville Superspeedway in Wilson County) blushes over the compliments.
“That’s awfully nice them,” he says. “It means a lot, especially coming from people I admire so much.”
Wright has a warehouse full of Legends trophies (more on that in a minute) but this year has shifted gears – literally and figuratively – to run Late Models for Wayne Day Racing. Since 1989, Day’s Goodlettsville-based team has provided rides for numerous drivers who have gone to race in NASCAR’s Cup Series: Bobby Hamilton, David and Jeff Green, Morgan Shepherd, Casey Atwood and Brad Teague, along with dozens of others who competed successfully in NASCAR’s Busch/Xfinity Series and local divisions.
“I’m aware of how much Mr. Wayne has accomplished in our sport,” Wright says. “It’s an honor to get to drive for him. I’ve got a lot to live up to.”
Wright joined Day’s operation last year, working in the machine shop, a job he continues to hold, in addition to driving. Here’s how it came about:
“I was preparing to attend a technical school and needed a certain number of hours of ‘job shadowing’ (akin to an internship),” Wright explains. Mark White, who works for Mr. Wayne, is a friend of my dad, and he got me the job.”
The internship turned into a full-time job, and it wasn’t long before Wright was not only making parts for race cars, he was driving them. He ran three Late Model races last season, and this year has completed at tracks in New Smyrna, Montgomery and Lebanon, Missouri. The team plans to run a full schedule at Fairgrounds Speedway, where the season was delayed by the pandemic.
“ We plan to run a bunch of races this year,” Wright says. “I consult with Mr. Wayne to decide what we want to do. He’s great to work for. He’s probably the most down-to-earth person I’ve ever known. He’s humble and he never brags about what all he’s accomplished. I can’t tell you how much I admire him.“
Wright built an impressive racing resume in the Legends Series. Along with his three consecutive championships at Veterans Motorplex, he added a Late Model title on the track formerly known as Highland Rim Speedway.
He also is a three-time defending Legends champ at Fairgrounds Speedway, and won two Tennessee State Championships. Last year he came within one point of winning the national championship; he was in the points lead with three laps to go in the final race in North Carolina when he got shuffled back behind a slower car. He missed winning the National Legends Championship by a single position.
That impressive Legends legacy is in the past, as Wright focuses on bigger things in the future.
“We’ve sold our Legends car,” he says. “I’ve run a couple of races in a car owned by Dale Holmes, but basically my Legends racing is over. I feel like I should devote my full time and effort to Mr. Wayne’s car. It’s a great opportunity and I want to give it my complete attention. I don’t want to do anything to distract from it.”
While collecting six championships at two tracks, two state titles, and being a hiccup away from the national crown, Wright estimates he won between 50-60 Legends races.
“It was fun and I learned a lot, but it’s time to move on,” he says.
Wright emphasizes he has had a lot of help along the way.
“ I want to give other people the credit they deserve,” he says. “The fans and media tend to focus on the driver, but I couldn’t have accomplished anything by myself.”
Wright’s most avid supporters are his dad Dwayne, a retired racer, and his mother Julie who serves as the team’s scorekeeper along with other duties. Kid sister Brynlyn, nine, is the team’s “designated cheerleader.”
“Hunter works hard and is very focused,” says Julie, whose family owns and operates Premier Sign & Trophy in Gladeville. site of the family’s race shop.
“ We support and encourage him every way we can.”
“ He’s a good racer and an even better son,” Dwayne says. “We couldn’t be prouder of him -- for both reasons””