Lebanon racer Hunter Wright left himself a tough act to follow last season.
The rising Wilson Central High senior won a total of three championships in the Legends Division — capturing the crown at Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway and Highland Rim Speedway and winning the points championship in the Tennessee State Legends Series.
Hunter finished 41st in the National Legends Series among 400 registered drivers across the country.
So far, this season’s encore hasn’t been quite what he envisioned.
“It’s been OK, but I haven’t won yet and that’s kinda disappointing,” says Hunter, who won Rookie of the Year in 2016 and posted 13 victories during last season’s flurry of checkered flags.
“My cars have been fast – I’ve won some poles – but I haven’t been out front at the end,” he says. “I’m not getting the results I want, but I’m not frustrated. It’s still early in the season with a lot of racing to go.”
Hunter says he had no illusions about transforming the triumphs of last season into automatic repeats this year.
“Every year is a new year,” he says. “We hear a lot about ‘momentum’ in this sport, and I guess it can be important from a confidence standpoint. But when it comes down to performing on the track, what you did or didn’t do last season really is not a big factor. You have to go out and perform every race.”
Hunter also believes luck – or fortune – can play a role in racing. Things sometimes happen that are out of a driver’s control, such as a cut tire, broken car part or getting caught up in someone else’s crash.
“They say that racing luck runs in cycles, and last season I had a good-luck cycle,” he says.
In addition to racing in the Legends Division at Highland Rim and Fairgrounds Speedway, Hunter is also running in the Late Model series at the Rim.
“It’s been a big adjustment, because the Late Model cars are about twice the size of the Legends cars,” he says. “On a little (quarter-mile) track like Highland Rim, there’s not a lot of room for full-bodied cars. It gets pretty crowded out there and it’s something I’m having to get used to.”
Hunter credits his dad Dwayne for much of his success. Dwayne, a retired racer, helps prepare his son’s cars and provides trackside coaching.
“My dad is a great coach,” Hunter says. “He has taught me a lot about driving and setting up cars. We do all the work on our cars ourselves.”
Hunter says his mother Julie also is an enthusiastic supporter of his racing efforts. The family owns and operates Premier Sign & Trophy in Gladeville, where their race shop is located.
“Without the support of my mom and dad I couldn’t have accomplished anything,” he says.
Hunter also gives an appreciative nod to his sponsors, starting with Sanders Lawn Care which is also providing him a summer job. Others include Tennessee 811 Call Before You Dig, Springfield Plumbing, Ace Fence & Supply, Al’s Tire Repair and G&S Farms and Trucking.
“My sponsors make it possible for me to race,” Hunter says. “I couldn’t it without them, and I really appreciate their support.”
Mt. Juliet’s Roger Cunningham, Highland Rim Speedway’s co-owner, says bright young drivers like Hunter are the future of the sport.
“They attract fans and that’s what keeps us going,” he says. “We need more like them.”
Superspeedway update: Owners of Memphis Speedway recently announced plans to pursue NASCAR Xfinity and truck series races, stirring speculation that idle Nashville Superspeedway might eventually follow suit.
The Memphis track was formerly owned by Dover Motorsports, which also owns Nashville Superspeedway. Dover officials say they have no plans to re-open the Gladeville track, which is for sale. However, if Memphis is able to successfully host second- and third-tier NASCAR races, that could revive ownership interest in the Superspeedway.