Eight days remain before the start of the 37th DIRTcar Summer Nationals, and the first rookie contender has emerged to lay claim to the 2022 championship.
Payton Freeman, the 19-year-old Super Late Model rising star from Commerce, GA, announced Friday his plans to tackle the entire 2022 Late Model schedule, in search of his second regional championship in two years.
Freeman won two Features last year in his first full-time season aboard the Southern All Star Racing Series, clinching Rookie of the Year honors and the Series championship by over 500 points. This summer, he faces the biggest challenge of his career against some of the nation’s best Dirt Late Model talent on their home turf.
Press release Courtesy of McCalister Precision Marketing
Freeman is expecting the Hell Tour to be a challenge from a physical and mental standpoint, but he believes that hitting so many races in quick succession will be beneficial towards giving him the confidence he needs to start tallying more victories with his own equipment.
“I think this will be a good learning experience,” Freeman said. “I’m still young, so this is something we need to do to help speed up the learning process so that we can make our cars better and try to get faster.”
Many of the best Late Model competitors have found success on the Hell Tour. Billy Moyer holds the all-time records in victories and titles with 100 and six respectively, while Scott Bloomquist, Dennis Erb Jr. and Bobby Pierce are all multi-time Hell Tour champions.
Pierce, who won the most recent Hell Tour title, is expected to defend his crown this season alongside other former champions in Shannon Babb and Brian Shirley. Freeman is also expecting drivers like Brandon Sheppard to make occasional appearances as well, which he believes will only help him in gaining valuable experience.
The competitive depth of the Hell Tour is exactly why Freeman wanted to take part in it despite the rigorous schedule. He said there is nothing to gain from thinking about the structure of the Hell Tour and is instead focused on regularly putting together strong finishes.
“If you start looking ahead through the next two months, then [the Hell Tour] can definitely get to you,” Freeman said. “This is right in the middle of the summer, so it’s going to be hot and really busy. We’re going to take it day-by-day and week-by-week. As long as we have fun with this, everything will be fine.”
Freeman has the benefit of entering the Hell Tour with momentum on his side, as he is fresh off a second place in the Southern National Series point standings to Carson Ferguson.
Bad luck prevented Freeman from challenging Ferguson for the title, but he was proud of the progress he and his team made during his time in the Southern National Series and is hoping that he can carry over a strong finish to that season into the Hell Tour.
Freeman knows the Hell Tour is going to be much different than the Southern National Series in many regards. Despite this, Freeman feels confident that he can make a statement by holding his own with the best midwestern Late Model competitors over a grueling two-month period.
“I just want to go up there and win some races,” Freeman said. “The points pay pretty good and there’s also a weekly points deal, so we’ll keep that in mind. At the same time, we’re not really worrying about points, so we’ll try to win as many races as we can.”
Following Kankakee County on June 14, Freeman will race over the following five days before getting a brief break on that Monday. The Hell Tour will formally conclude on July 23 at Merritt Speedway.
Payton Freeman would like to thank all his supporters and partners, including his parents, crew and fans as well as Freeman Plumbing, Coltman Farms, MPM Marketing, Stilo, KRC Power Steering, K1 RaceGear, Schaeffer’s Oil, Base Racing Fuel, SRI Performance, Capital Race Cars, Shelton Trucking, Chatham & Son Tile, Rod Roberts Trucking, Collins Signs, Sweet Victory Apparel, Accu-Force Dyno & Testers, Swift Springs, Penske Racing Shocks and Strange Oval.