Win locks Payne into upcoming ‘Tarheel 50’

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For the third time this season, fans were forced to wait 24 hours for an event at Tri County Racetrack thanks to rain. After heavy rains pounded Brasstown for two days, track promoter Ray Cook opened the facility gates Saturday, Sept. 26 for the “Tarheel Tune-up.”

Super Late Models took to the high-banked clay oval to compete for $1,500 and maybe more importantly, a guaranteed starting spot in the upcoming “Tarheel 50” which will pay the winner $10,000. Although track officials had to work on the track’s condition several times throughout the night, the surface was fast. In qualifying, the pilots of the funny cars of dirt were clocking in times within a second of the track record. It was no surprise the fastest time was set by the holder of that record, David Payne.

The driver known as “The Coach” brought the Super Late Model field to the green flag alongside fellow Murphy driver Kurt English. English got the jump on the high side and gained a slight advantage into turn one. However, his No. 17 jumped the cushion, struck the outside wall and climbed the bank, almost turning over. After track officials got his car back on the track, “The Captain” decided to keep racing and tagged on to the tail of the field.

That moved former track champion Shawn Chastain to the front row for the second attempt at a start. This time, Payne’s No. 8 got the holeshot and rocketed to the lead. While Payne pulled away to a comfortable lead, English put on a show cutting his way through opponents on his march towards the front. Soon, English found himself in a heated battle with Chastain and Jamie Oliver for the second position. The trio shot down the backstretch and into turn three with Chastain in the low lane, Oliver up high and English looking for an opening. English’s car made contact with Chastain, spinning the No. 17 and apparently cutting a tire on Chastain’s No. X15.

The incident was the final straw for English who called it a night and returned to his pit. Chastain made a quick pit stop and returned to the track to begin his own attempt of working his way through the field. After a failed attempt at a restart that saw Chastain collide with Preston Crisp, the field finally started logging laps as Payne continued to control the top spot with Oliver comfortably in second place.

Chastain made his way up to battle with John Eller for the third spot. Lap after lap the duo raced side-by-side with Eller choosing the high lane. With the white flag waving, Chastain found enough grip in the low lane to muscle by Eller and take the third position which is where he finished. Oliver settled for second while Payne celebrated the $1,500 win and guaranteed starting spot for Tri County’s premier event.

Other winners:

Limited/Crate Late Model: Jason Deal

Modified Hobby: Bobby Elkins

Street Stock: Charles Devine Jr.

602 Beginner: Tucker Anderson

Pony: Zach Sanders

Front Wheel Drive: Josh Deese

The stage is set for Friday, Oct. 9 when Cook will welcome fans to the 17th annual “Tarheel 50”. The event will feature local stars doing battle alongside some of the top names in the sport. While the Super Late Models will be the main event, the undercard will feature the 602 Thunder Series for $1,500 and the Front Wheel Drive class will compete for $300. All other divisions will also be in action. Grand stands will open at 5 p.m. with racing at 7:30 p.m. The race will also be live on the subscription service Dirt on Dirt.