by Dale Ross October 27, 2021
Josh Wise has turned a focus on getting the right conditioning for racing and running into a career, helping today’s drivers find the right balance for winning performance.
When Wise drove in the NASCAR Xfinity and NASCAR Cup series, he was known as one of the best conditioned drivers on the circuit. Since retiring from racing, he now shares his fitness knowledge and experience with other drivers. As the Driver Performance Manager for Chevrolet teams Chip Ganassi Racing, GMS Racing, and Hendrick Motorsports, Wise works with such drivers as Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Tyler Reddick and Ross Chastain.
“As a driver, I was always looking at how I could improve myself and my performance,” said Wise. “My conditioning was a serious part of that, as that led me to become a triathlete during my racing career, participating in the Ironman competition and half-marathons. The things that I learned competing as a triathlete I tried to incorporate into my auto racing preparation.
“Conditioning is not optional for today’s athlete—it is a must,” said Wise. “Strength training, endurance, cardio, along with proper nutrition and hydration are critical. That’s the price of admission. My team and I work with drivers to ensure that they follow a conditioning regimen that allows them to perform in the race car at the highest levels. All athletic performance has both a mental and a physical component. Once a driver meets basic fitness requirements, we work on the mental aspects of performance. Then, we introduce situations into their workout regimen that help them also deal with mental stress.”
It’s talked about frequently, but it is hard for people to fathom how incredibly taxing it is on a driver to sit in a hot environment for three to four hours and stay focused on the task at hand. If a driver is not in excellent condition and properly hydrated, it can negatively impact both mental and physical performance, affecting their reaction time and ability to focus.
The preliminary results of a recently released study showed a connection between dehydration and driver performance errors. Conducted by Dr. David Ferguson, associate professor at Michigan State University, the study reinforces that the key to proper hydration is consistency—small amounts of fluids on a consistent basis.
“The topic of hydration has been well-researched, but not in motorsports,” said Wise. “Dr. Ferguson’s study addresses a problem that needed to be solved.”
It’s not simply about taking in fluids but absorbing those fluids that is the key. It’s the drinking pattern where most drivers get into trouble, going long periods without drinking, and then drinking too much at once.
“As a triathlete, I learned the importance of proper hydration,” noted Wise. “During an Ironman event, I would program myself to drink every three minutes. I took that philosophy into the race car and would monitor temperature, my weight pre- and post-race, fluid consumed, and take copious notes after each race. Hydration was something of which I was very aware, and it became somewhat intuitive to know when I needed to drink—provided I was not in the middle of a long stretch of green-flag laps. FluidLogic now has a system that takes a lot of the thinking out of it for the driver, so they can stay properly hydrated but stay focus more on driving.”
A constant level of optimal hydration, as provided by the FluidLogic™ system, can keep a driver well-hydrated, resulting in better reaction time and fewer driver errors, as the study shows. In the study, the drivers using the FluidLogic system delivered a 1-second faster late-race lap times in simulated racing conditions.
The FluidLogic™ “smart” hydration system is an automatic hydration system that precisely measures and delivers the right amount of fluids right when they are needed to achieve optimal performance. The frequency and amount of fluid can be pre-programmed through the FluidLogic app. The computer alerts the driver that it is time to hydrate with an LED light on the steering wheel. When the light flashes, the driver pushes the button and the “instant-on” pump delivers the perfect amount of water to keep them hydrated during the race through a 4-mil hydration hose that runs through the center of their MagLock® fresh-air hose to a mouthpiece designed to attach to their radio mic.