Las Vegas - Madison Payne won her first national event driving the Muscle Milk A/Fuel Dragster in convincing fashion and beat former NASCAR Champion Tony Stewart in the final round of the NHRA Nevada Nationals held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. "I wanted to race him and was very relaxed doing so" Madison said. "Tony is good for our class and good for the sport. I'm glad he's here" car owner Duane Shields added. Madison had a stellar car all weekend and qualified fourth with an impressive 5.242 at 278 MPH.
In round one, Madison faced Jasmine Salinas whom she lost to in the finals of the Texas Fall Nationals just two weeks ago in Dallas. Madison got out in front of Salinas with an .056 reaction time to her .183. Madison held on for the win with a 5.30 at 275 MPH to Salinas' close 5.33 at 272 MPH.
In the second round, Madison raced Hunter Green under the lights to earn her way to a Sunday afternoon semifinal. At the hit it was again Madison getting out of the box first with an .084 to Green's .139 reaction time. Green then struck the tires and it was all Madison from there with a consistent 5.31 at 274 MPH to Green's 6.41 at 144 MPH.
In the semifinals, Madison was paired with New Jersey racer Jackie Fricke. Fricke was all business as her crew shed the Ghost Busters Halloween costumes they wore from the night before. Fricke was off the line first with an 0.37 light to Madison's .055. At the top end it was all Muscle Milk with Madison ringing up a 5.25 at 275 MPH to Fricke's competitive 5.30 at 274 MPH.
In the final round, it was a dream matchup between two notable rookie drivers in cars that have battled each other on the east coast for years as Tony Stewart was driving a car owned and tuned by Rich McPhillips. All weekend the spotlight was on Stewart, possibly the most famous sports celebrity to ever pilot a dragster and a first time win for him was sure to make national headlines.
As the cars left the starting line it was Madison out of the gate first with a .061 light to Stewart's close .065. As the cars flew down the track side by side it looked like it could be anyone's race. At the starting line, jubilation broke out by the crew in the left lane as Madison's win light came on and she won her first national event title with a 5.262 at 275.80 MPH to Stewart's valiant and very close 5.258 at 271.57 MPH. Only two ten thousandths of a second, about one inch separated the two cars! "I saw the nose of Tony's car at 1,000 feet and then realized I won when I saw the win light. After we turned off the track Tony came over and gave me a big hug and congratulated me. I was in shock at first but I'm very exciting since all of my friends were here to see it" Madison said.
Duane was ecstatic with his first national event win in Vegas since debuting the Muscle Milk A/Fuel Dragster at his home track in 2019. "It was an excellent day and a big win at our home track. Madison did a great job as we raced nothing but tough competitors all weekend. This year we gave her a first Regional win and now her first national win. We have moved up to eighth nationally and now with two races to go we can have some fun" He said. Madison added "this win is for Duane's first grandson Memphis who I am the God Mother of".
Next, the team will compete at the Lucas Oil Regional event also in Las Vegas before moving on to the final race of the year in Pomona. Duane and Madison would like to thank Muscle Milk, Clean Boost, GRP connecting rods, NGK Spark Plugs and Brad Anderson Enterprises.
Content / Photo: Rich Bailey
Watch the final: