By DOUG KENNEDY
PULASKI, PA – A while back, we showcased drivers who are currently racing in the Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Dirt Late Model Series powered by Pace Performance, who have fathers who have raced or in some cases, are still racing. One family we neglected to include could perhaps be one of the most successful and that is the Wonderling Family. There’s three brothers, Jeremy and Mike Wonderling of Wellsville, NY, and Brady Wonderling of Scio, NY and their dad, Mike. The two towns are a mere miles apart.
During the 2016 season, the three brothers won a total of 12 RUSH-sanctioned races. The breakdown of those wins were Jeremy with nine (3 at Bradford, 3 at Freedom, 2 at McKean, and 1 at Genesee), Brady with two wins at Genesee and Mikey with a win at Bradford. Jeremy also won two non sanctioned races at Little Valley Speedway giving him a total of 11 for the 2016 season!
The boys’ mentor is non other than their dad, Mike Wonderling, who at 64, raced Late Models beginning in 1980. Besides helping his sons with their racing programs, Mike also had the opportunity to race against each and every one of his sons during his illustrious career. All of their resumes are quite impressive.
Jeremy won a 360 Late Model title at Little Valley in 2011 before switching over to a Crate Late Model in 2014. At 36 years of age, Jeremy, the youngest of the racing brothers and the most successful, first began racing IMCA Modifieds in 1998. He did that for three seasons before moving to then what was called Super Stocks in 2001. Twice he won points championships at both Little Valley (2011 and 2013) and Outlaw Speedway (2007 and 2008). The cars were then called 360 Late Models and the Series that he followed was the BRP Series, where he is the all-time leader in feature wins. His career feature win total is approaching 100. Jeremy’s initial reaction to the Crate Late Model as compared to the 360 Late Model is that the Crates are more responsive.
Being able to race against his brothers is very important for Jeremy. He looks back to a race at Little Valley in June of 2016 when he was in the lead with his two brothers, Mikey and Brady, in hot pursuit. Jeremy, who led from the start of the race, would win with Brady finishing second , and Mikey fourth. At one point in the race, the Wonderlings were at the top of the leader board with Jeremy leading, Mikey second, and Brady third, but that has happened on a number of other occasions as well. Upon conclusion of that race, Jeremy was thrilled with the victory, but was happier that he gets the opportunity to race against his two brothers on a regular basis.
There were two other occasions in 2016 that had Jeremy and Brady hook up with a one-two finish. In the May 28th Enlisted Club Warrior race at Genesee, Brady had the lead, only to lose it to his younger brother with 10 laps to go. In yet another 2016 race at Freedom, Jeremy was once again able to pass Brady for the win.
There a couple of races that Jeremy puts at the top of his racing list. Winning a Sweeney RUSH Touring Series race at McKean County Raceway this past August 18 during the Fair is very special for him, but the proudest moment came back in 2008 when he was able to win the “Brock Young Memorial” race at McKean. Young, who was a very close friend of Jeremy’s, had died in a car accident. “His dad and brother were there so it was a very special win for me,” said Jeremy.
Brother Mikey, who is the oldest at 43, has helped his younger brother on numerous occasions. Jeremy talks about a race at Little Valley this past season when he borrowed a spare motor from his older brother and went onto beat him in the race that evening. “Last year, I borrowed his spare motor for a half season or better and it really helped. Sometimes he took it back because I was beating him with it,” said Jeremy.
For 2017, Jeremy will be driving a brand new GRT since he sold last year’s car to Mikey. Living right next door to each other, Jeremy and Mikey are able to spend a lot of time with each other and share a lot of racing ideas. “Being that close, we are able to help each other out on a number of occasions,” said Jeremy.
For the last two seasons, all three brothers competed in the RUSH Late Model Series. Jeremy drives the #3J, Mikey, the #18, and middle son, Brady, who is 40, drives the #z1. Competing against each other is mostly a thrill, but let’s just say that there are times that aren’t so good either.
“At times, it’s pretty good and at other times, not so good,” said Jeremy. “But I have a lot of fun racing against them.”
“For the most part it works out, but we’ve had our nights,” said Mikey.
“All three of us have had our battles where each other didn’t feel the other guy did the right thing, but two days later we’re back at the race shop sharing information,” said Brady. “If we’re all up front and I can’t pass them, then I’m cheering them on to win. I want to win as much as they do because it is a very competitive sport.”
One of Mikey’s racing highlights is also winning the “Brock Young Memorial” race at Woodhull Raceway in 2014. Like his younger brother, Young was also a dear friend of Mikey’s.
In this past season, there was one race in particular that Mikey remembers that included all three brothers. “We were running one-two-three, at the end of a race at Woodhull,” said Mikey. The final finish was Brady, Jeremy, and Mikey. “We’ve had numerous one-two finishes as well.”
For his career, Mikey has won the 360 Late Model title at Outlaw Speedway in Dundee, NY in 2010 and the BRP championship in 2014. His racing career began in 1998 in a Sportsman car. After spending one year with that, he moved to a 360 Late Model and drove that until getting into a Crate Late Model in 2015. He figures he has somewhere around 15 career feature wins.
Brady’s racing career began with a Modified. From there he spent two seasons in the BRP Super Stock Series before moving into a Super Late Model. He, like Mikey, got into a RUSH Crate Late Model in 2015.
During his Super Late Model days, Brady had some good runs with the MACS and STARS Series. “I ran a number of World of Outlaw races and always made the show,” said Brady. In December of 2005, Brady and one of his friends decided to head South for 5 months and raced in Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and the Carolinas. “At one race at Columbus, Mississippi, I was seventh fastest out of 105 cars,” said Brady.
Brady also remembers a race at Outlaw when he won a BRP race in Jeremy’s back-up car. “He was running his main car and I passed him with a few laps to go,” said Brady.
“He kind of pushed him out of the way,” said their dad, Mike. In all, Brady has won somewhere around 30 features during his career.
For 2017, Brady will be running a brand new Ed Carley Rocket, while Mikey and Jeremy will be running the GRT. “We’ve always had good equipment,” said Brady. “It may not be the best, but it’s as good as most of what everyone else has.”
All of the three boys pretty much run their own racing operations so financing is always a major consideration. However, all three get support from The Store, a local gas and grocery store, and have some other small sponsors as well. Jeremy’s include Terry Prince Contracting, while Mikey has Evingham Auto Sales and Mike Mesler Garage.
As for their driving styles, it’s pretty much a consensus amongst the Wonderlings that Jeremy is the most aggressive and will take the most chances. Both Brady and Mikey are more conservative, but as Jeremy explained they will be aggressive when it’s needed.
“He’s wide open,” said Mikey of his youngest brother.
“Brady and Mikey are more conservative,” said their dad. “He (Mikey) thinks more about how much it’s going to cost to fix a race car if he wrecks it. For Jeremy, he knows that he will have to work harder the next week if he wrecks it.”
“I’ve had the most success with the most features wins because I’m probably more dedicated than they are,” said Jeremy of his brothers.
“He takes more chances,” added Brady.
Besides mom and dad, the Wonderling boys get a lot of support from their families. Jeremy gets his from his wife Abigail and their 8 year old son, Carson.
“I love it,” said Abigail of Jeremy’s racing. “He’s very dedicated to it. He does a lot of work by himself and doesn’t mind doing the dirty work to be successful in racing.”
Mikey’s wife is Michelle and he has a 24-year-old step son, Cody. Brady is married to Stacia and has three step kids, Tyler, Brooke, and Jessie and 8 year old Jadyn.
The real leader of the Wonderlings is the 64-year-old Mike. After a few seasons of racing a 360 Late Model, Mike moved into a Super Late and stayed there until 2007 when Crate Late Models debuted in the North. After driving for a few seasons in different series than his kids, Mike sold his car and trailer and was intent on just following the careers of his boys and not race at all.
However that changed when Jeremy called him up and said that he had found a really good race car. “I was working in Kentucky at the time as a service technician for Air Preheater,” said Mike. “He said that as long as you’re going to watch us race every week, you might as well have a racecar. That was in 2009 so I came home for Easter, got the car right, and raced it for the next five years.”
As for racing against his kids, Mike said, “I had more fun doing that than when I was racing by myself. At times, when they were leading the race or up front, I just got distracted thinking about what they were doing.”
Racing against dad was also special for the boys. “That was the highlight of my career being able to race against him for 15 years,” said Brady of his time spent with the Super Lates. “Dad was great in his time. When I first got into Late Model racing, he was in the front and I was in the back, but that eventually changed.”
“It was a lot of fun,” said Mikey. “I remember a BRP race at McKean. I was running second to him for 28 laps and passed him with 2 laps to go to win. That was a lot of fun.”
“There are a lot of memories I have of racing with him going side-by-side,” said Jeremy. “He cared more about what we were doing than what he was doing.”
Mike retired in 2014 on a good note, winning the Freedom track championship with seven feature wins. He also won 5 other championships and has nearly 100 career feature wins. A few years ago, Mike took all of his winning trophies down to Allegheny Mountain Speedway. When a young kid won a race, promoter John Layfield, who refurbished them, gave them to the winning kid. Now he just follows his sons with his wife, Deborah. They will take their motor home to the tracks and if it’s too far, they’ll just stay the night.
“I miss the driving and the excitement of racing,” said Mike of his retirement. “I don’t miss all the work. People don’t see the work that is involved. It takes one to two nights to clean up the car and that’s if you didn’t wreck it. The older you get, it feels like a lot more work.”
“I’m more impressed with my dad because he has done stuff in a race car that I’ve never seen anyone else do,” said Jeremy.
Business-wise, the Wonderling boys are all into the logging business. Jeremy and Brady are loggers, while Mike hauls the logs. Jeremy has been logging since he was 18, buying his own equipment when he was 21. He actually works for his uncle, Charlie, at Baldwin’s Forest Products, situated in Bolivar, New York.
“He picks the most dangerous things-logging and racing,” said Jeremy’s wife, Abigail.
Second son Brady, is the one who actually got his younger brother into the logging business. There are times, although not regularly, that they end up working together. Brady is a self employed logger who contracts a lot with Two Rivers Timber Company, located in Addison, NY. He’s been working in the logging business since he was 12 years old.
Mikey is the one who hauls the logs. “I went to the service for four years when I got out of high school and then started doing the logging right after.”
As for the RUSH Series, Mike said, “I think it’s a pretty good series. They’re doing a good job, especially with the teching. I’m sure no one gets away with anything.”
“I like the series,” said Jeremy. “I especially like the rule enforcements and the teching and Manufacturer’s Night is definitely a big thing.”
Brady said, “(RUSH Series Director) Vicki (Emig) does a real good job. Everyone would like to get paid more, but the tracks have to be able to afford us as well.”
“I think it’s a good thing,” said Mikey. ‘I don’t follow the whole series because of time and money. If you spend the same amount of money as you win, it doesn’t make sense to run the whole series. “Every year, I say I’m going to follow the entire series and then we have a bad race or wreck and I end up not running the entire series. But the competition level in that series is pretty stiff. It’s really the only class option for me because I can’t afford a Super Late.”
RUSH Late Model 2016 marketing partners include Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, Pace Performance, Hoosier Tire, Bilstein Shocks, Sunoco Race Fuels, Bazell Race Fuels, Insinger Performance, MSD Performance, Maxima Racing Oil, Jones Racing Products, Alternative Power Sources, Precise Racing Products, ARbodies, TBM Brakes, K&N Filters, Lincoln Electric, FK Rod Ends, Velocita-USA, Classic Ink USA, Rocket Chassis, Bobby Lake Motorsports High Gear Speed Shop, CrateInsider.com, B.R.A.K.E.S., RockAuto.com, and Valley Fashions.
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