“You always have expectations,” said the 26-year-old Howell, Mich., resident. “Like maybe I can work out a trip and get them a check, but I knew going in I had some power to win some races, but I would be lying if I said I thought I could go in and win them all. I didn’t realize it was that big of a deal until after I was done and had all those calls and texts. I guess I thought a lot of people had won 10 races on a racecard and not just a small amount, but then someone texted me and told me Palone congratulated me, but he wanted to let me know he won (11) one night. I thought that was pretty funny.”
|Ronnie Wrenn, Jr. won 436 races in 2012 and is currently North America's fifth leading driver in wins.|
Wrenn, Howard’s grandson and Peter and Gary’s nephew, never even sat in a jog cart until he was 19 and only won a little over $6,000 from 49 starts in 2008 and 2009, but put $31,819 in the bank from 137 starts in 2010 and in 2011, the year he decided to get serious, drove 1,226 miles with 150 wins, 149 seconds, 159 thirds and just shy of $500,000 in purse money. That’s when he was awarded Michigan’s Rising Star Award.
Last year the former criminal justice major drove 2,214 horses with a record of 436-342-278 and more than $1.5 million in earnings. In 2013, Wrenn has already racked up 83 wins from 388 starts and $214,714 with a UDR of .347. He is North America’s fifth leading driver in wins.
“I’m one semester away from my bachelor’s degree,” he said. “I have a few classes I need to take and an internship, but that’s when I made the decision to stick with racing about a year and a half ago. In high school and middle school I played sports so with the road trips and all it pretty much took up most of my time. I played baseball in college for a little bit and then I decided to work for my uncle while I was going to school. I started to like the horses while helping my uncle and dad out, got my license and ended up buying a horse. I started having success with it, so I started racing every night.”
Currently Wrenn is competing at Northville on Friday and Saturday, Northfield on Monday and Tuesday and Buffalo Raceway on Wednesday.
“I went to Hoosier last year for the first month it was open and then I decided to race at Hazel Park here in Michigan,” he said. “Then I chose to go up to Running Acres during the week. It was cool, but it was a lot of driving and flying during the week. It wasn’t a good routine. I drive up to Buffalo from Cleveland which is less than three hours and I’m off on Thursdays so I drive all the way home to Michigan. Money is always important, but the biggest thing now is wins and exposing myself. I need to get to know owners and trainers. I think the key to being successful is just knowing a lot of people in the business.”
After his 10 win evening last Friday, Wrenn’s name is certainly in the media, but he admits the horses are what enabled him to pick up so many checks.
“You have to drive for good trainers and have good horses,” he said. “Everything seemed to fall into place last Friday. I had some good spots and a little bit of luck. I won the first four races and when I’ve done that before it always ends up being a decent night. You think maybe you could win a couple more, but I don’t think anyone really thinks they could win 10. I didn’t really think about it when I was in races 7, 8 and 9, but I’m not going to lie, I was really excited winning the 10th.
“I had a lot of friends there that night and the announcer even came down to the winner’s circle,” Wrenn continued. “Curt Watson, who designed the UFO sulky, was there, too. After the races I go to pick up my girlfriend and he is always there so I would tell him how much I like the bike. You still need a fast horse, but this bike is awesome and I just feel like it fits me very well.”
With his background as a high school and college athlete, the young driver certainly enjoys competing and that may be what propelled him towards the racing industry, rather than the law.
“I like to win and just like making horses go fast,” Wrenn said. “I know everyone says that because every driver wants to win, but I do love it. I don’t care if it’s a non-winners of $5,000 or a $100,000 stake. I also like driving for trainers and owners that I win for. It makes me feel good that I can win for them and make them money.”
When Wrenn decides to change his venues later this year, he’s considering relocating to the Ohio circuit.
“I’m shooting for Scioto,” he said. “As long as I’m doing well there the first couple of weeks I will stay. If not, I might go back up to Western New York and do Buffalo, Tioga and Vernon. I’d like to set up headquarters in Ohio because it seems like a great place to go. It’s going to be tough because a lot of people are going to come back home, but maybe I will do Scioto and Northfield. They also have the fairs and if I want to go back to Michigan it’s only a few hours away. I don’t know if I will ever totally leave Michigan.”