By MIKE MALLETT
For a second time in their careers, car owner Mike Payne and driver Dave Marcuccilli, are getting together for a big-block Modified campaign. The pair last raced together regularly in 2013. Now, for 2019, they are getting the band back together.
It was recently reported that by Dirt Track Digest that Payne was interested in being a hands-off owner due to his work commitments while Marcucculli recently announced that he had secured a small-block engine to make the move up. The two were able to chat and now Marcuccilli has a big-block Modified at his disposal for a limited schedule in 2019.
“He fulfills everything I was looking for,” stated Payne of Marcuccilli. “He can help with the maintenance, he’s a half hour from home and he’s close enough that I can go there to go through things when I need to. He has a truck and trailer. It makes it so I can race. We raced together in the past. We’ve been through some of the learning curve.”
“With the situation that Mike wants that is similar to the situation that we wanted,” commented Marcuccilli. “I don’t mind working on stuff. It puts a little bit more on us as to what goes on. I don’t have to worry about traveling and all that with a full-time job. When we hooked up the first time the stuff was over an hour away. It made it tough to go out work on the cars during the week. I was half in and half out. Now I can be hands on.”
The last time the pair was together, Marcuccilli ran weekly at Canandaigua Motorsports Park (Land of Legends Raceway) while Dale Planck ran the car on the road. Marcuccilli ran just over 10 races races for the team. This time Marcuccilli and Payne plan to not run anywhere weekly, rather they’ll focus on big-block events that are in close proximity to the their base.
This will not impact his small-block deal, but it does give him another opportunity to get back into the more powerful big-block. He drove the car in hot laps while at Super DIRT Week at Oswego Speedway for Billy Decker where he was one of the fastest cars on the track.
“I was hoping to do the small-block deal this year,” mentioned Marcuccilli. “That was what we were kind of planning for all year last year. With this, we just ended up getting together and he asked me if I wanted to drive for him next year. I thought, like a lot of people, he was all done. I’m very thankful that Mike and Jacque were willing to give me another chance.
“This is going to be tough with the limited amount of races because I’m kind of a rookie again, but I have confidence now that as long as we can get the car comfortable for me we’ll run decent. I only ran 13 races before. We didn’t stick with it that long. I didn’t have the experience, but I think we did pretty good.”
Payne is equally happy with the arrangement as Marcuccilli is committed to making the jump to the Modifieds. Unlike the last time, he’s not continuing in both divisions. This time he’s focused on becoming a successful Modified driver which was a different scenario than the last time they were together.
“When he drove for me before (Dale) Planck was also driving for me,” stated Payne. “This time I don’t have the burden of knowing that I took him out of the points deal running Sportsman, messing up the great year he was going to have to come run and fulfill what I needed for the rest of the year. He’s moving up and he’s going to take that leap. I think it’s a way different deal.”
So now, in little less than a month, Marcuccilli has gone from a dominant Sportsman driver to securing both a small and big-block Modified ride. It’s a lot of pressure, but he’s ready and committed to make it at the next level as he prepares for what should be an exciting 2019.
“This is nerve racking a little bit, but the season is so far away,” stated Marcuccilli. “I’ve been trying to get everything in line for the small-block deal so that’s been keeping me occupied. I haven’t been thinking about the pressure. That will kick-in in March.”