Herman Wise – Deep South Sprinter

Herman Wise sits in the Super Modified that he drove from 1964 through 1966. He built the car from scratch.

By Mike Bell
Posted in Feature Stories 7/7/11

Before the Swindell brothers and Bobby Davis Jr. left Memphis for the Outlaw Trail; before Rickey Hood invaded Indiana and won his USAC titles; and before the ageless Frank Riddle drove up from Florida to show his physical prowess by winning the Little 500 in Anderson, Indiana, there was a deep South driver who invaded sprint car country and was successful.

Herman Wise, born in North Carolina and raised in Northeast Georgia first showed the USAC drivers how good southern drivers are, went on to win the Little 500 in 1971, and won at what was called then, and still is now, the toughest weekly sprint car circuit in this country, Central Pennsylvania.

Where did Herman get the credentials to do battle on these tough circuits? He was almost born on the Fourth of July (July 6, 1937) in Asheville, North Carolina, moonshine and racing country. In the late forties, Herman’s father died and his mother became a teacher at Toccoa Falls Bible School in the northeast Georgia town of Toccoa, moving Herman and the family there.

As a teenager, Herman hung around Sam Brown’s Body Shop in Toccoa with friends Sam Sosebee and Jabez Jones. Racers would ride by all the time. One was Sam Elrod, who towed his 1956 Ford by as he went to race at Darlington in the Southern 500.

Finally, Herman and Jabez went to Gainesville, Georgia Speedway (which is now under the waters of Lake Lanier) to see Herman’s first race, but Mother Nature intervened with a rain shower. After that, Herman was a pit crewman for his good friend Jabez Jones. This went on for about a year before Herman bought a 1936 Ford. He stripped down the body and painted it, but for the sake of a marriage and a move to Foley, Alabama, that car went to someone else.

Foley is a small farming town in that part of the state called L.A. – Lower Alabama – between Mobile, Alabama and Pensacola, Florida. Of course, Herman found his way to Five Flags Speedway and a completed 1940 Ford coupe.

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