WEEDSPORT, N.Y. – After a year of building and preparing his program, Alex Payne is set to join the Super DIRTcar Series full time this season.
The Hopewell, N.Y., driver will battle for rookie-of-the-year honors after a two-win season that included his first DIRTcar big-block modified win at Land of Legends Raceway.
But last year wasn’t just about success. It was about preparing for the future. The third-generation driver built his big-block modified program to compete against the best in the coming year.
“We probably could’ve made it happen last year, but I feel like we took our time to really prepare everything to the point where we’re going to be good and give it our best shot,” Payne said.
Even though this year will be his rookie season, Payne is no stranger to Super DIRTcar Series competition.
The 18-year-old has made 18 Super DIRTcar Series starts, with a career-best finish of fifth at The Dirt Track at Charlotte in 2021.
Despite that experience, Payne knows he’ll face a learning curve.
“It’s going to be tough trying to unload fast,” Payne said. “Time trials are super important. So, there’s going to be some struggles with that, I feel like, but maybe we use some DIRTVision tapes from the past and maybe compare it to somewhere that’s close and get a feel for it. We’ll just try to unload with our best shot.
“I think we’ll be ok. It’s all going to be learning constantly until we get to the point where we feel like we have a good baseline everywhere. It’ll be tough, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Along with his Super DIRTcar Series starts, Payne got the chance to race against several Super DIRTcar Series stars during his time racing weekly at Land of Legends. The night he found victory lane at the iconic Canandaigua, N.Y., oval, he beat one of the tour’s best – Peter Britten – to the checkered flag.
“There’s a lot of good cars in that field,” Payne said. “We had some really good speed in our first year, but that win was pretty big with some of the names that were behind me. I think we would’ve had three [race wins] there last year if we didn’t have some issues.
“Just knowing what it takes to win there, a lot of people don’t get that opportunity, and for us to do it in our second year was really cool.”
Before his rookie-of-the-year campaign officially kicks off at New Egypt Speedway on March 30, Payne will make his second trip to Florida’s Volusia Speedway Park during the Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals, Feb. 14-17.
With three prior starts at Volusia, Payne has a better idea of what to expect when he returns to the Florida venue, which serves as the first test of his preparations.
“It’s definitely different down there,” Payne said. “One thing that’s going to help us this year is we have a pretty good engine program together. We know what things will do compared to last year when we were just getting some of our better pieces straightened around to try and learn. But we have a pretty good feel on what everything is this year, and I think we’ll be ok.
“I’m hoping to be consistent and run decent. That’s definitely the goal.”
Payne and the Super DIRTcar Series kick off the new season during Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals competition at Volusia Speedway Park, Feb. 14-17.
For those unable to attend at the track, every lap of the DIRTcar Nationals can be streamed live on DIRTvision.