With the American-Canadian Tour (ACT) season now at its halfway point, the Payea name is standing at the forefront in more ways than one.
Cousins Scott Payea of Colchester, VT and Dylan Payea of Milton, VT are at different points of their lives and of their Late Model careers. But what both have in common is that they are on pace to accomplish big things in the 2018 ACT season.
As many fans anticipated, Scott stands atop the ACT Late Model Tour standings with five events in the book. The defending champion already has two wins to his name, including a $5,000 score in the Summer Showdown Series event at Connecticut’s New London-Waterford Speedbowl.
Scott has also has posted two runner-up finishes and hasn’t finished worse than fifth this year. This incredible run has pushed the veteran to a 43-point advantage over Eddie MacDonald.
“As a team, we’re firing on all cylinders right now,” Scott said. “It always takes racing luck as well as having a well-prepared car and a good team. So far this year we’ve been fortunate to score several good finishes, and we’ve eluded some bad luck.”
Meanwhile, younger cousin Dylan is making waves of his own in his first ACT season. He has opened up a big lead in the 2018 Rookie of the Year chase and sits tied for eighth in the overall standings. Dylan has gotten stronger as the season has gone along, posting top-10 finishes in the last two events.
These accomplishments are even more impressive when you consider Dylan’s limited Late Model experience prior to this season. Four of ACT’s first five events so far this year were at tracks where he was making his first visit with a Late Model.
“It can be a little bit overwhelming at some tracks – some days more than others,” Dylan said. “You can get a little nervous. I don’t want to be in the way, and I don’t want to be an embarrassment on the track. I’m trying to compete against guys like my cousin, and Eddie MacDonald, and Jimmy Hebert that are fast everywhere they go.”
“This season has definitely been an eye-opener about how much work goes into running the Tour,” Dylan added. “Preparing the car for each track, figuring out the differences in setup. We struggled a little bit at the beginning of the year just because I really only had one track worth of experience at Devil’s Bowl. So we were kind of lost on setups.”
Not only are the Payea cousins at different points in their careers, but they are driving for very different teams. Since 2016, Scott has been behind the wheel for Rick Paya’s RPM Motorsports, which now has nine ACT championships after last season’s title. Their Dodge Charger also carries major sponsorship from Harrison Concrete & Redi-Mix.
“Everyone clicks really well,” Scott said of his RPM team. “People have really found their groove within the team, and we can really rely on each other to get the job done. We have a lot of trust and a lot of faith in each other.”
Dylan, on the other hand, is piloting an unsponsored family-owned Chevrolet. His race-day crew primarily consists of his father, stepmother, and her father. The limited levels of funding and personnel have forced the younger Payea to make due with less as he gains experience.
“It also changes my driving style on the track,” Dylan noted. “At Waterford, I could have finished 8th or 9th if I’d pushed the issue with the guys in front of me. I was faster than them, but I didn’t want to get taken out with 20 laps to go, or lose a fender, lose a door, and not be able to buy tires at the next race.”
But even as they compete against each other on the track, the Payea’s look out for each other off the track. Dylan credits Scott with convincing him to run the ACT Late Model Tour full-time this season. And Scott believes Dylan is approaching the year exactly as he should.
“I think right now the Tour is in a good place,” Scott said. “We have a good amount of cars, but there’s a little less stress about getting into the show. You can just focus on having a good car and settling in for a good run. Dylan’s got a small team, and he’s doing the right things – learning, asking questions, and just going out and keeping his nose clean.”
“On days where (RPM is) fast out of the gate and they don’t really touch a bolt on the car, I can go over and ask Scott for advice,” Dylan added. “He’s definitely open to helping. If me and my dad are unsure about a change, I’ll go over and I’ll tell Scott what we’re thinking about doing, and he’ll say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. He won’t necessarily tell us what to do, but he’ll tell us what direction to go in. With his experience, I take everything he says very seriously.”
Both drivers will be looking to finish what they’ve started in second half of the season. Scott is on pace to become the first driver to win back-to-back ACT titles since Wayne Helliwell, Jr. in 2012 and 2013. But he knows the importance of not looking ahead in his quest.
“We approach every race individually,” Scott said. “We just go out and try to have a great car and a great race on that day, and things will sort themselves out in the end. We’re only halfway through, so we’ll just keep plugging away, and hopefully when we get to Thompson at the end of the year, we’re in a position to win again.”
Meanwhile, Dylan hopes that lessons learned on the first half the year will pay off. The Tour will make return visits to three different tracks, which means he will now have experience to draw from. And their recently improved efforts at have given the team renewed optimism.
“Now that our results are getting better, I’ll have some more confidence, and our team has some more confidence,” Dylan said. “We know what certain adjustments do now. At the first Thunder Road race, we didn’t know what moving the Panhard bar did, and we didn’t know what changing your upper angles did. Now that we know what they do, I definitely have more expectations. I hope to get a top-5 finish by the end of the year – that would be awesome.”
The Payea’s, along with the other stars of the ACT Late Model Tour, will return from their mid-summer break on Saturday, July 14 at Groveton, NH’s Speedway 51 for the J.P. Sicard/Kingdom Gravel 151. Post time is 6:00pm.