Payne Completes Winter Nationals Sweep
BAYTOWN, Texas – His win on Thursday was big. Friday’s win was even bigger. But Jeremy Payne’s victory Saturday night at the Royal Purple Raceway was the biggest of his career.
With a wire-to-wire triumph in the 50-lap main event, the 27-year-old from Springfield, Mo., completed a three-day weekend sweep of the 6th Annual USMTS Texas Winter Nationals presented by Ron Craft Cadillac-Chevrolet – the first time such a feat has ever been performed in the 14-year history of the United States Modified Touring Series.
For the third time this week, a strong performance in his qualifying heat put Payne in the redraw and for the second time this week he found himself on the front row of the feature race.
Except for a trio of brief cautions that slowed the middle portion of the event, the start of the race was as close as anybody would get to the pole-sitter as he led every lap. In the week’s three main events, he led 105 of the 120 laps around the three-eighths-mile clay oval in Baytown, Texas.
The win was worth $4,000 and brought his three-day take-home pay to $9,000. Saturday night marked his sixth win of the season and eleventh of his USMTS career. Four of those have happened here.
Starting behind Payne on the inside of the second row, Zack VanderBeek shot underneath Mike Steensma to claim the second spot at the drop of the green flag. Except for the restarts following yellow flags, VanderBeek was unable to get back to Payne’s rear bumper during the race and had to settle for the runner-up paycheck in his best result of the week.
Rodney Sanders represented the Lone Star State with a third-place finish while Shane Hebert climbed from the 12th on the 24-car starting grid to fourth at the finish line.
Two-time defending USMTS national champion Ryan Gustin wound up fifth while Jason Krohn, Dustin Hyde, Steensma, John O. Whittington and Bobby Malchus rounded out the top 10.
An event record 82 cars and drivers were on hand for Saturday’s finale.