From the July/August 2011 issue of ATV Rider Magazine
Walking the dirt roads at Mud Creek Off-Road Park I didn’t find it hard to figure out that the sport of mud riding and racing involves many racers and their families. The best part was the families that traveled to the Jacksonville, Texas, park for the High Lifter Mud Nationals just to see not their blood relatives but those they consider their “mud relatives.” The camaraderie these people share is deep like the mud they play in, and though some may look at their competition much like the Hatfields or McCoys they come together in a civil fashion to enjoy a week of great fun! I had the great pleasure of getting to know two couples and offer this look into what makes them mud related.
Mark and Lisa Wise might have been separated at birth but on a day in the early 1990s they were destined to meet and grow together not only as a family but also into the sport they love. They both moved into the town of Mandeville, Louisiana, in ’92, but it wasn’t until two years later that they actually had an official date. This would be their sophomore year in high school, and through mutual friends the history had begun.
“Our first date was the junior prom and we have been best friends and inseparable ever since,” Lisa claims. When asked who started the ATV fascination I discovered it was Lisa who actually rode ATVs at a young age on a farm before she moved south. When Mark agreed to join her for a ride on her ATV they accidentally ended up in a backyard pond. Lisa admits she was trying to get Mark’s attention and see if she could shake him up a bit, but all this did was seal the deal in Mark’s mind that he had found the best of both worlds: ATV mud riding and a lifelong companion! Asked what it’s like having Lisa not only supporting what he obviously loves to do but to be on a race machine right beside him, Mark has this to say, “To have someone who wants to race and compete as bad as I do is the most awesome thing a man could ask for. In fact, I get more riled up watching her race than I do racing myself.”
The Wises started an ATV riding club which led both of them to the racing scene, and in 2004 as Lisa was pregnant, Mark began his race career. “I was pregnant when Mark started racing, but I was able to attend and support him,” Lisa says. After their daughter Mandi was born it was time for Lisa to free up her competitive nature, and in 2008, Lisa was able to grab an impressive list of wins. This would get her noticed by one of the industry’s fastest growing companies, Gorilla Axle, which carved out a spot for her on the factory team. Mark would take his first win in 2007 at Creek Bottom Park in Doles, Georgia, and continues to believe his wife Lisa is the more competitive one of the two.
Mark and Lisa now have two beautiful children, and whether it’s dressing up like a princess or playing G.I. Joe you know someday they too may catch the mud bug. With a never-ending dedication to helping their fellow racer and the ability to make friends anywhere they go, Mark and Lisa Wise are a great pair of family racers. The Wises both now race for Team Gorilla Axle, and that leads us to our next couple who also race on the very same team.
Caroline Smoak and Seth Russell have carved their names in the mud world and on the race scene itself. Deep in the heart of Harleton, Texas, a young Caroline Smoak loves the adrenaline rush she gets from racing, as she is a self-proclaimed “very competitive person.” “The mud racing lets me exercise my competitive nature, and I have a great time doing it,” Smoak claims. I did have to question her on the fact that she took money from a one-legged homeless-looking guy in a challenge race, but she will tell you herself she “never backs down when called out!” The most valuable thing she states that she has found in her racing and ATV mud riding experiences has to be the lifelong friends who share the same passion. When asked to verify that most girls don’t like to get dirty she had this to say, “All girls love mud…some girls prefer a mask at a salon, I prefer it head to toe at a mud pit.” Well said for sure!
As a kindergarten teacher during the week and a mud racer on weekends, Caroline began to notice a tall Texan and fellow racer, Seth Russell, who spent his days as a construction foreman and his weekends digging deep in the pit. Seth has been around the deep mire of Texas himself for quite a few years. “Before there was any organized racing there was riding clubs. I was one of the cofounders of Team Bad Company, and we started competing against other clubs, hence mud racing was born,” Seth proclaims. Although I had already met Seth, I truly noticed his popularity in a video called Mountains and Mud VI, which depicted a few different aspects of ATV riding. Seth has several championships under his belt in the mud racing world, including the CMR and PSR series. The first race machine Seth remembers having was an old Honda that, in his words, “had no brakes, smoked like hell but was tough as nails!”
When asked how he and Caroline finally decided become an official couple Seth says it was a date on Bourbon Street that sealed the deal for them both.
As I walked the dirty roads around the pit area I carefully watched both of these couples and how they interacted not only with each other but also with all of the fans and fellow racers. Even as hard as they worked to get their own race rigs ready for competition it would always amaze me how they would offer a hand to another racer who had broken or just needed some advice. Even seasoned racers would look to either of these couples for help, and barring any friendly competition they were eager to chat about it. I watched as time after time social grace was displayed at the tracks and in the pits. The world of racing has its own set of different worlds and each has its family atmosphere, but I witnessed the guys and gals of mud racing working together to make the sport live on.
If I had to guess, I would say the family atmosphere in mud racing is bigger than the racing itself. Sure, most come to get that ever-popular check from the promoter, but I hear more than one attendee say they come to catch up with the friends they may only get to see once a year! Regardless of the reason the mud racing world is truly a family affair! ATVR