The Dirt Late Model racing career of Payton Freeman has been a steady progression upward. For someone who has raced relatively little compared to many of those he routinely competes against, the 20-year-old driver’s list of accomplishments is an impressive one. And during the 2022 season, the young driver who was crowned as last year’s Southern All-Star Dirt Racing Series champion has stepped outside of his comfort zone for the purpose of achieving growth in the sport.
The Commerce, Georgia native left the red clay of the South during the summer months to invade the Midwest with the intent of taking on the daunting schedule set forth by the DIRTcar Summer Nationals. As a result, a great deal of experience was gained over a short period of time.
And Freeman wasn’t just racing for the sake of racing. He finished second in the final standings of the grueling series that featured 22 races of the course of just over one month.
“I think the biggest thing is that it has progressed me as far as I think I’m a little further along right now than what I would have been if I wouldn’t have done that deal,” Freeman declared in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com prior to the World of Outlaws race at Smoky Mountain Speedway. “Seat time means a ton. All of these guys I race against have a ton of laps. Even though this place here is only four hours from my house, most of these guys have a lot more laps here than I do. I think that right there is the biggest deal. I’m trying to progress myself to be the best that I can be with the experience that I’ve got.”
Freeman and his team could have stayed closer to home this summer but he feels as if the move north to venues where he had never raced will serve him better in the long run.
“That’s what makes a well-rounded really good race car driver is being able to go to different places in different conditions and still be yourself and be fast,” Freeman explained. “I think that right there is a big deal with what we did, getting lap time and seat time in those conditions up there. Like I say, hopefully we’ll be able to transition that to down here even those those tracks are different. Seat time, in my opinion, does nothing but make you better. The guys who are really good race all the time.”
The No. F1 Capital Race Car was often fast early in the Summer Nationals programs. The challenge going forward is to carry that speed all throughout the night. Freeman believes those days are coming as his experience level grows.
“I surely hope so,” he remarked. “I think, with that deal up there especially, with it being different dirt and different track conditions, I think that was a big part of that. We weren’t able to finish the night a lot of times as good as we would have liked to. We’ve got a notebook now and we’re trying to use that and have that make us better down here around home. Hopefully, we’ll be able to transition through the night and keep up with the race track.”
The former star football player knows that to get better at any craft, work will have to be put in. And this rising star intends to do exactly that.
“More so than people realize,” he replied when asked about the amount of work that goes into racing. “A lot of times, we’re working more than 40 hours a week like most people do on their jobs. I think that is a thing with racing that kind of goes along with other sports in that you’re putting in work and hours that nobody really sees. That’s what it takes to be successful. It’s not only showing up at the race track, it’s being prepared by what goes on in the shop. But that’s why we love it, it’s a lot of hard work.”
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