OF POWER 2021
MADISON PAYNE MAKING HER OWN NAME BY KELLY WADE /// PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOE MCHUGH
Madison Payne is a third-generation racer with some very distinct lineage , but the rookie Top Alcohol Dragster competitor is on course to make a name for herself in the family business of power and speed . Madison licensed in late 2020 in Duane Shields ’ Muscle Milk-branded A / Fuel dragster , and she made her debut in the class at Atlanta Dragway ’ s final NHRA Southern Nationals in May of this year .
“ I always knew it was going to happen , I just never knew when I would get the opportunity ,” said Madison after completing the licensing process in the rail last October in Las Vegas . “ I was having so much fun being out there with my family that I was never in a real rush .”
Madison ’ s grandfather is Brad Anderson , No . 33 on NHRA ’ s list of 50 Greatest Racers . Anderson is a four-time Top Alcohol Funny Car national champion and the founder of legendary Brad Anderson Enterprises ( BAE ), a key manufacturer of proven , high quality racing engines and components . His daughter – Madison ’ s mother – is Shelly Payne , who gained experience in an alcohol dragster before graduating to Top Fuel , where she was nearly perfect in final rounds .
Shelly also raced Pro Mod alongside Madison ’ s father , Jay , who has claimed an assortment of championships to go along with his 46 national event wins and the 1995 Top Alcohol Dragster
national championship .
Madison competed in just a handful of NHRA Jr . Drag Racing League events as a child , but her heart was always with the big cars . At the age of 17 , she licensed in Super Comp under the tutelage of Tom Bayer at Tom Bayer ’ s School of Drag Racing in Fontana , California .
Her first Super Comp race was the divisional event at Woodburn Dragstrip in Oregon in 2019 , and she debuted in the class at the national level at Sonoma that same year , picking up round wins there , then again at the season closer in Pomona and the 2020 Winternationals . Although the racing schedule for the year of the pandemic was completely disjointed , Madison was able to contest a total of 14 races between divisional and national events .
“ For the most part , everyone in the class is super good , and that ’ s what I like about it ,” she said . “ There are so many competitive cars and drivers that it really helps you learn and become more competitive , yourself .”
After licensing in Top Alcohol Dragster under the thoughtful direction of Shields , Madison had a new career best – a 5.351-second pass at 275.86 mph – and the desire to continue moving forward in her racing career . The fact that her national event debut was scheduled for the final Atlanta Dragway NHRA national event was meaningful .
“ My mom ’ s first win ever was here [ in 1992 ], and she beat my dad in the second round ,” said Madison after securing the No . 8 position in qualifying . “ For my family , this track is really special . My grandpa has done a lot here , both of my parents have won here . It ’ s a good track , and I ’ m sad it ’ s closing , but at least I get to run it once before it shuts down .”
In the first round of eliminations and on a very toasty racetrack , the tires were up in smoke soon after her launch . The young driver certainly doesn ’ t enjoy defeat , but she accepts that she is in learning mode and is more methodical in her pursuit of experience than she is perturbed .
“ It felt good to get back in the car , and now the nerves are gone . I think we have all the kinks worked out ,” Madison explained .
She isn ’ t ready to let go of that Super Comp life , however . At the time of print , Madison was gearing up for double-duty at the NHRA SpringNationals in Houston , where she planned to race both Top Alcohol Dragster and the Super Comp car that she recently purchased from bracket racer Hunter Patton and had set-up for the quarter-mile .
“ I ’ m excited to have everything together ,” she said . “ It ’ s nice that it ’ s finally all happening .” DI
May 2021 DragIllustrated . com | Drag Illustrated | 77