By Jill Waggoner
All this and more, Hunter Wright, has found at the speed of 80 miles per hour on a quarter-mile track. Hunter, an 18-year-old senior at Wilson Central High School, began racing when he was just 4 years old. But before Hunter ever got behind the wheel, he was watching his father, Dwayne Wright, race cars at Highland Rim Speedway in Ridgetop, Tenn. Dwayne no longer races, but in a full circle moment, Hunter claimed two of his own championships at Highland Rim, now known at the Veterans Motorplex at The Rim, in March.
Hunter cringes at the word “career,” but he’s been working toward his racing goals for over a decade. He maintains a schedule that would intimidate most adults. He attends high school, plays football when in season and spends most of his free time working on his cars with his dad. He’s made tremendous sacrifices in his teen years, mostly social, in order to pursue these dreams.
Hunter races regularly on tracks in Middle Tennessee, but will participate in races in Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Georgia this year. He would love to spend a lifetime in the driver’s seat, but also would be happy if he could continue working on the race cars professionally.
“This is a lot more fun that just a job,” said Hunter.
The car Hunter races has grown with him. He began his career in a small Quarter Midget model, which was created as a safe and fun way for children to become involved in racing. Wilson Living featured an article on Hunter while he was racing these cars in 2009. Today he races two types of cars, the Legends series, which is a 5/8-scale version of an early NASCAR modified car, and the Late Model, which looks like a car you could see on the road.
There are other teens who compete in these racing circuits, but both the Legends series and the Late Model series are semi-professional adult leagues. Hunter has been competing at this level since age 15.
“Over the past few years, it’s made me mature more quickly because of all the responsibility and sacrifice,” said Hunter.
“He’s in an adult sport and we expect adult things out of him,” added his mom, Julie Wright.
Hunter is not your average high school student. Yet, he’s also not your average race car driver.
“At the big events, most people lease a car, or they own the car, but pay someone to work on it. The driver just shows up to drive,” explained Hunter. As has been the case for over 10 years, Hunter and his dad do all the work on their cars themselves, adapting the set-up of the car for each track and performing any repairs. They have a home garage on their family property in Gladeville, Tenn., where the Wright family also owns and operates Premier Sign & Trophy. Julie is also actively involved in his career, managing his social media, and his little sister is his “biggest fan.”
“When we’re at the big events, I don’t really have time to get extremely nervous,” said Hunter. “Dad and I are just constantly hustling. I don’t have time to stop and think until I get everything done and get in the car and am waiting to race. That’s when it settles in.”
Yet, he says his favorite part is “racing.”
He says the Legends are his favorite to race. Up to twenty-eight cars compete at rapid speed on a quarter-mile track and can complete 25 laps in under 10 minutes–without caution flags.
“We’ve won six championships in the last two seasons,” said Hunter. “Most nights Dad and I are out here working on the car, and I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish.”
Not only does Hunter assist with the maintenance of his cars, but he also primarily manages the relationships with all his sponsors.
“We greatly appreciate the way our sponsors have been able to make this all possible,” said Hunter.
His current sponsors include a variety of local businesses: B. H. Holmes Construction, Tennessee 811, Springfield Plumbing, J & D Specialized Equipment Hauling, Ace Fence Supply, Wholesale Trailers, Sanders Lawn Care, Al’s Tire Repair, Old Dominion Brush Company, and Standing Ovation Entertainment Management & Marketing.
Hunter’s family and Wilson Central have forged a partnership during his high school career in order to allow him to pursue his dreams, all while attending school.
“Wilson Central has embraced us,” said Julie. Hunter is currently enrolled in the Work-Based Learning Course there, which allows him to leave a little early and spend more time working toward his racing goals. His enrollment in this course allows him to build on his Automotive Program of Study at Wilson Central, while pursuing his love of racing.
“Mrs. Jennifer Allen has been one of my teachers all four years and she understood what I want to do,” said Hunter. “Mr. Travis Mayfield, our principal, also has been very helpful and understanding.”
“Hunter is a great young man,” said Mayfield. “He is a good student, very mature and the kind of student that everyone likes. I hope all my students realize their dreams, accomplish their goals in life and are happy. In addition to that, for Hunter, I just hope he keeps the rubber on the road!”
“Hunter has integrity and initiative to get what he wants,” said Allen. “I believe that no matter what he chooses to do, he will be successful. He has the drive and determination to learn, along with an entrepreneurial spirit. That is what impresses me the most, he is not afraid to try. He gives his all to whatever he is pursuing and that will get him where he wants to be.”
Graduation will mark the end of a personal chapter for Hunter. He will be starting at Tennessee College of Applied Technologies for machining, a skill set he can learn and apply to racing, and he hopes his racing will only continue improving.
He is seeing some of his biggest goals coming to fruition this year. He has plans to compete in major races around the country in the months ahead.
“I never thought I’d get to do the majority of them, and now I get to do them all in one year,” said Hunter.
For every mile of the track, the Wright family has been in this endeavor together. Damien and Julie are proud of their son and are excited about his future because they know the character he has formed is what’s most important. “I’m proud that when he wins, he gives away his trophy to a kid in the stands,” said Julie.
“I’m proud that he deals with the majority of our sponsors and the relationships that he forms. I’m more proud of those types of life experiences than how many championships he has won.”