Young Lebanon racer Hunter Wright spent the summer chasing a Legions Series national championship through five states, only to lose it in the final race of the season by a single point.
"It was definitely tough," says Wright, who graduated from Wilson Central High this spring and immediately began to expand a racing career that began years ago as a youngster.
"But it was still an amazing season."
Amazing indeed. Although the national title narrowly eluded him, Wright -- the defending state Legends champ -- won Legends track championship at Nashville's Fairgrounds Speedway and at Veterans Motorplex (Highland Rim Speedway) in Ridgetop.
The championships were Wright's third straight a row at both tracks, giving him six titles in three years.
He also made two runs this season in the Late Model division, finishing 8th among 19 drivers in his first.
While racing at the two Tennessee tracks, Wright also went on the road, competing for the national Legends championship points on tracks in Florida, Georgia, Texas and North Carolina.
It was at the latter, in the final race of the season, that he finished one point shy of capturing the national title.
"It hurts to get that close," says Wright, "but I try to look at the positives. I got to travel a lot, race at tracks in five states, and won races at all five."
Wright, who along with fellow Wilson County racers Chase Johnson and Dylan Fetcho are considered among the area's top young racers, this season caught the attention of legendary driver James "King" Climer.
Climer, who has probably won more stock car races than any Tennessee driver, termed Wright the "most talented" youngster he has seen.
Jerry Criswell, owner of Veteran Motorplex, compared Wright to the legendary Richard Petty in terms of his personality and connection to fans.
Wright also caught the eye of Wayne Day, who for a half-century has fielded cars for area racers, several of whom have gone on to race in NASCAR.
Day hired Wright to work at his famous Wayne Day Racing headquarters in Millersville.
"It's great to work with people like Wayne Day, who knows so much about racing and race cars," Wright says. "I've always admired him."
The feeling is mutual -- Day put Wright in one of his Late Model cars, and there could plans for more rides in the future.
Wright is not sure what that future holds -- other than more racing.
"We probably won't run as many local races next season," he says. "I'd like to travel some more and race on different tracks. Right now our plans aren't finalized. A lot of it depends on sponsorship and financing."
Reflecting on attention he has generated this season, Wright emphasizes that he has had a lot of help along the way.
"I want to be sure to give other people the credit they deserve," he says. "The media tends to focus on the driver, but I couldn't have accomplished anything by myself."
Among his supporters are Wright's dad Dwayne, a retired racer, and his mother Julie who serves as the team's score-keeper along with other duties. Sister Brynlyn, 8, 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 couldn't be more proud of him."
Larry Woody is The Democrat's motorsports writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.