INDIANAPOLIS – It has been nothing short of a whirlwind month for Zeb Wise since returning from a broken collarbone to the seat of his No. 39bc national midget for Clauson-Marshall Racing.
Not only did the 15-year-old capture his first-career USAC National victory, storming to the top step of the podium in his very first race back during Pennsylvania Midget Week, but Wise has also rebounded back into the top 10 in the series standings despite missing four races during the month of July.
The competitive cyclone will be capped with Wise’s appearance in this week’s inaugural Driven2SaveLives BC39 presented by NOS Energy Drink, this Wednesday and Thursday night at the new Indianapolis Motor Speedway Dirt Track.
Wise is among a loaded pool of 118 entries set to try their hands at the newly-built quarter-mile dirt oval located inside turn three of the historic 2.5-mile track. He’ll carry new sponsorship from Sundollar Restoration, a full-service roofing and siding repair company based near Indianapolis, for the event.
Racing the BC39 this week is special to Wise, in part because he raced in the Battle at the Brickyard for quarter midgets at IMS in his youth.
Granted, he’s barely a teenager now, mind you.
“It’s been a dream of mine since I’ve been a little kid,” Wise said of racing at Indianapolis. “I got a chance to race quarter-midgets there, at the little Brickyard, and that was pretty cool. But to do it in a midget and be part of such a cool program at the first dirt race is going to be awesome.”
Of additional significance to Wise is that he’s racing at the event named in honor of his mentor, the late Bryan Clauson, a multi-time USAC driving champion who was the one to first recommend Wise to his father Tim for a potential ride with Bryan Clauson Racing.
Tragically, Bryan Clauson lost his life shortly after that conversation, which occurred during the 2016 edition of Indiana Sprint Week. However, Tim Clauson didn’t forget his son’s advice and hired Wise as a development driver in October of that same year.
Fast forward nearly two years later, and Wise has graduated out of micro sprints into the same cars his mentor made his name driving, doing so for the exact same team and carrying the exact same number on the tail tank.
“It’s truly an honor,” said Wise of competing for Clauson-Marshall Racing, the team co-owned by Tim Clauson and Richard Marshall.
“I’m racing in the same number that he had. I’m running the 39BC, and his number was 39,” Wise noted. “Racing in honor of him and racing alongside friends and family of Bryan’s, it’s unreal.”
Wise is part of a six-car Clauson-Marshall effort this week at the BC39, with teammates Tyler Courtney, Justin Grant, Shane Golobic, NASCAR Cup Series star Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Cole Bodine, who subbed for Wise while he was out of the car recovering from his broken collarbone in June and July.
He’s not intimidated by the caliber of names that are driving alongside him at CMR, either. Wise knows he has the equipment to get the job done and believes in his own driving ability, as well.
“I have a lot of confidence in myself,” Wise said. “The confidence in the car helps you quite a bit. Tim has these things dialed in. We have one of the nicest cars out there. That helps me get confidence in myself.”
Yes, Wise is confident, but in the next breath he laughs and reminds everyone that he still has to be driven to the race track each weekend before he can strap in and compete in his own right.
“Tim always tells me this; just stay humble,” Wise noted. “To be a part of this program … to be a part of Clauson-Marshall and to have the amount of knowledge I’ve already learned is cool. I started racing midgets when I was 14, and now I’m 15 and I can race the full USAC schedule and the BC39.
“This is a special event and it would mean a lot just to start the feature, but we come out to the track to win and I’d like nothing more than to do that for this team on Thursday night.”