National: Jay Payne Pomona preview

FireIce champion drag racer Payne ready for fresh start POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 9) -- There will be plenty new for veteran So Cal drag racer Jay Payne and his FireIce Top Alcohol Funny Car team as they kick off the season at this weekend's 50th ...

FireIce champion drag racer Payne ready for fresh start

POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 9) -- There will be plenty new for veteran So Cal drag racer Jay Payne and his FireIce Top Alcohol Funny Car team as they kick off the season at this weekend's 50th annual Kragen O'Reilly NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona.

For one thing, Payne will be piloting a brand new racecar, and it will feature an all-new FireIce paint scheme in honor of a renewed partnership with the esteemed company. His experienced crew, based in nearby Ontario, Calif., will even be suited in new uniforms to round out the fresh look for the New Year.

But for all the change, the one thing that remains the same is that Payne is stepping into the 2010 Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series intent on showing he's still the same championship-caliber racer who has claimed one national and 11 division championships in his career.

"It helps our program a whole lot to be associated with FireIce," Payne said. "It's a very, very good company and the folks over there are great. They have a good company and make a great product, and for them to get involved and commit to us like this before the year starts gives us a lot stability, which is a big benefit to our program.

"We're starting the season with some newness, but once they put the body down and we're at the starting line the only thing that matters to me is racing."

Payne stretched his legs in his new car at a recent test session in Las Vegas, and though the track was cold and tricky, there was still useful information to be collected.

"We made a couple test runs," Payne said. "We went 5.65 at almost 256 mph, and for the conditions we were running under, that was a good run. We have a few things that we changed on the car and we'll change a couple more things before this weekend, so we're hoping it'll run even better at Pomona."

Payne's crew will be the same as prior seasons, with wife Shelly joining veteran crewmen Donnie Peterson, Andre Monarque, and J.R. Clark. The team is geared up and ready to make a drastically different impression this year after a substandard ending to 2009 when Payne finished eighth in the national standings and second in the Southeast Division points.

"Last year could have been better," Payne said. "Nothing quite clicked, we had bad luck, we had bad breaks, and I made a couple bad tuning decisions. Of course, our standards are very high. But sometimes you need those kinds of years to make you appreciate the better years. If we go into the season a little more confident and not second-guess ourselves, I think our car will do much better.

"It's awesome starting the year in Pomona at our home track. We won the Winternationals for two years in a row a few years back and that was a great way to start the year off. Every time you win a race it's very special, and when you're the points leader leaving the race, that's just awesome."

-source: jay payne PR

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jay Payne