Like many other Dirt Late Model racers, Payton Freeman began in the sport at a very young age. The Commerce, GA native was on the track at Hartwell Speedway in his home state before he even became a teenager. Soon thereafter, his racing endeavors expanded to include other tracks. The now 18-year-old driver found himself behind the wheel of a Super Late Model machine even before he had a license to legally operate a car on the roadway.
Freeman took to racing quickly, finding success in every type of car he attempted from go-karts to Late Models. And now, the rising star finds himself atop the Southern All Star Dirt Racing Series standings as well as the Rookie of the Year leaderboard in his first campaign as a full-time Super Late Model competitor.
“This year is the first year I’ve run a full season in the super stuff and we’re definitely seeing results from that,” Freeman declared in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com. “Getting the experience these other guys have is making a big difference.”
Freeman entered the 2021 season with a very definite plan. The up-and-comer wanted to race with a series so that he could have a fixed schedule and branch out to new places.
“We started the year with the intentions to run it,” Freeman explained of his current series. “We wanted something that would be consistent so we could have a plan for the year to get that experience that I feel like I was lacking. With the Southern All Stars, we’re able to do that pretty quickly, I feel like quicker than not running a series, by getting put in situations that I’ve never been in. And going to race tracks I’ve never been to always helps you learn faster.”
So far in 2021, the standout offensive and defensive lineman for the Commerce High School Tigers has gone through the ups and downs that one would expect to accompany any rookie endeavor.
“This year with running the super car more and running a full season with it, we’ve got to go to a lot of new places and that can be good and bad,” he pointed out. “It’s always fun going to new places and trying to learn, but at the same time, trying to learn new places is the hard part. Some places we’ve been able to roll in and be really good and other places I’ve had to really sit down and re-evaluate what I was doing and whether it was the car or myself driving the race track that was wrong.”
The No. F1 Cornett Racing Engines-powered Capital Race Car rolled into victory lane on May 1st at Clayhill Speedway in Atwood, TN for the driver’s first Super Late Model victory. And while there was the predictable excitement that came along with a first win, there was another emotion Freeman felt as well.
“It was the biggest feeling of relief, honestly,” Freeman recalled of crossing under the checkered flag. “I’ve told multiple people that was probably the most nervous of a race I’ve ever had to drive, but at the same time, I feel like it was one of the most complete races I’ve ever drove. Going back to the experience thing, almost every situation I was put in that night, I had been there before. I kind of knew what to try to do to get myself out of it and to do what I needed to do. The whole experience thing means a ton.”
Coming into his first full season of Super Late Model racing, Freeman expected there to be some rough patches. But with the right help, his season has come together quite nicely to this point.
“I didn’t really know what to expect coming into this year,” the young driver admitted. “We had kind of a rough year last year with the super stuff, just hitting and missing. We won a bunch of Limited races and Crate races, and stuff like that around the house. The super deal was really challenging but that’s how it’s supposed to be. I didn’t really know what was going to happen this year so to be where we are leading the points and won a race already I think that just shows a lot about Capital Race Cars, Cornett Race Engines, Penske Racing Shocks and everything we’ve got on this race car. It’s really a well put together package and I can’t thank Marshall Green and Shane Clanton enough for all their help. We’re in a really good position right now and hopefully we can keep it going all year.”
So where does Freeman want his racing career to eventually lead?
“When I started racing the ultimate goal was to make it to the Lucas or World of Outlaws tours. I think a lot of people have that dream and I think we’re on the right path toward that. I still have a ton to learn and I definitely don’t know everything. My ultimate goal would be to get on one of those tours and compete for championships one day. It’s a lot of hard work and a long road there but I really believe that I could end up there with the resources I have around me and a lot of work ethic.”
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