David Payne holds a unique position in the dirt racing world. Not only is a fine race car driver, but he is also an excellent high school basketball coach. And as someone who has coached basketball and been around racing, I can attest that handling such a schedule is not an easy juggling act.
Obviously, Payne has to work his racing around his coaching duties, which often causes him to start his season a bit later than some of his competitors. However, the Murphy, NC resident’s 2014 racing campaign is now underway, and it involves a series that is well suited to his schedule.
Payne will compete this weekend in the Ray Cook-promoted Spring Nationals at his home track in Brasstown, NC(Tri-County) on Friday night and then at the Smoky Mountain Speedway in Maryville, Tenn. on Saturday evening.
“We plan on running the full Spring Nationals tour,” Payne explained. “We finished 3rd in it last year. It works out well for us because of the fact that it’s broken up into four weekends which gives us a chance to do it as we can and not have to be gone for two weeks at a time or join a whole year-long series.
“The format of it and the way it’s laid out kind of fits my schedule and it fits the guys that help me too,” the 40-year-old driver added. “They can’t take off work every weekend or for two weeks at a time, but they can take off a few days here and there.”
As could be expected for any race team, Payne and his crew experienced some glitches in their initial outing. And to add to those early season bugs, a new car was making it’s first competitive laps around the track.
“We got started at Bulls Gap in Ray’s Spring Nationals races there,” Payne said. “That was our first time out this year and it was with a new car we’d been working on since about this time last year, just piece by piece.
“We had to pull in the first night while running 8th with a flopper brace rubbing the tire, and the second night I got into the wall and knocked the spoiler off. We didn’t finish either one of those races so it was kind of a tough start. But the next weekend, we went to Boyd’s for the Southern All Stars race and got our first finish of the year. So far, we’re just trying to get our bearings and trying to get everything going.”
But Payne has reason to be optimistic about this coming weekend on his home track and for the rest of the racing season.
“This by far the best that we’ve been prepared for a season,” the Murphy(NC) High School teacher and coach declared. “We’ve got three cars right now. All of them are MasterSbilts and we’ve got a Jay Dickens engine to go in that new car as well. For the first time, we’re actually having to put a little thought into ‘do we take this car and this engine package to a certain race track’ or ‘where do we go to give ourselves the best chance’. You just weigh all the options and try to come up with a situation in which you can be the most successful, just like in coaching.”
One place where the coach feels he can be successful is close to home.
“We’re going to try to run most of the local shows at Tri-County this year when there’s not anything going on close by in terms of a bigger series race,” he said. “We like to race locally when we can and Ray does a good job there. The fans are good and it’s handy right here at home, and we enjoy running when our people can come watch us.”