By BILL FOLEY
Alex Payne has enough to celebrate as he is nearing graduation at his high school in Canandaigua.
However, the 17-year-old has another milestone celebration as he has found himself with major sponsorship for the 2023 season.
Alex, the son of Eldon (not to be confused with Zach, the son of Mike Payne), spoke with Dirt Track Digest about his new arrangement.
He said, “I am driving for a new team this year. It’s Nardozzi Paving and Construction. Mike and Jim Nardozzi are funding three cars and two motors.”
Alex added, “We currently have seven motors available between the three the Nardozzi’s have provided us and what my dad owns.”
Brand new Bicknell powered with Billy The Kid Performance Engines big-blocks will help to start off the year for not only weekly racing, but some notable traveling.
Continuing he said, “I never expected to have an opportunity like this come up as fast as it had. I’m super thankful.”
The new arrangement started off innocently enough and then just expanded.
Alex said, “They brought a car to my shop for me to service and scale for them. It took them talking more with us and we eventually worked out the deal that we now have.”
That traveling will begin soon as he noted, “This year’s plan is to run Outlaw Speedway on Friday and Land of Legends on Saturday along with hitting a bunch of on and off tour races. We are racing both the Short Track Super Series (All-Tech) and Super DIRTcar Series (Volusia) in Florida.”
Alex has been a quick study, saying, “I raced slingshots in 2017 and had one feature win at Glen Ridge. I started racing Sportsman in 2018 and ‘22 was my first full year of big-block racing.”
He dove into the big-blocks and was extremely successful as he was able to get to victory lane in his rookie year.
Looking back at ‘22 Alex said, “Last year was unimaginable for me personally. I knew we had the equipment to get the job done, but I did not expect to have five Modified wins and tops five’s in the STSS and SDS in my very first year.”
His dad and grandfather have mentored and directed Alex in his career and Eldon took him to places where many first year Modified drivers might not run. He was a wanderer as he found different tracks to run and he felt that benefited him tremendously.
Success came a bit quicker than he anticipated as he explained, “I think that my past experience in the Sportsman car helped me get into the big-block, and I think what also helped was running more tracks. I think it made me better. I feel that enabled me to learn different things along the way that you might not have at just one track.”
He also attributes his success to something else, saying, “My dad and grandfather have been by far the biggest influences in my racing career. They are there for me every single step of the way and I couldn’t be more thankful.”
Along with Nardozzi Paving and Construction supporting the team are Speed Connection, Batzel’s Auto Services and Hot Rods, Emerson Oil, Bilstein Shocks, Troyer Machine, Winters Performance Products, Hoffman Speed Supplies, Rick’s Wheels and DCS Performance.
There is an old sports myth of a “sophomore jinx” in that second season of any sport, but already that myth has been stymied a bit as the new arrangement, new equipment and five Modified feature wins under his belt has Alex Payne rarin’ to go for ‘23.