Story By: CARA COOPER / NASCAR – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – Prior to this season, 19-year-old Payton Talbot had never raced at a NASCAR track.
This summer, while racing at both the newly-NASCAR sanctioned Fonda Speedway and Utica-Rome Speedway in New York, he unexpectedly has found himself at the top of the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series Division II national standings.
The South New Berlin, New York driver has six wins and 10 top fives in 12 races at Fonda, where he’s leading the points in the track’s Swagger Factory Apparel Crate 602 Sportsman standings. At Utica-Rome, he has three wins and has finished in the top five in all nine races to also put himself in first in the Vernon, New York track’s Worthington Industries Crate 602 Sportsman standings.
“Honestly it’s been a breakout year for us,” Talbot said. “We ended up with eight wins last year, but this year we’ve had a really good year so far.”
Talbot is in his 10th year of racing, but it’s still a pretty new sport to him and his family. No one in his immediately family raced.
When he was growing up, Talbot spent time with Ed and Sally Wilson while his parents were at work. They weren’t his biological grandparents, but he became so close to the couple he started calling them Pops and Grandma Sally.
The Wilsons owned a late model team in the 1980s and 1990s, and they would often show old videos of their races to Talbot when he was as young as 2 or 3.
“They basically raised me while my mom and dad were working, and they were always into racing, so they got me started,” Talbot said. “They backed us financially-wise and everything.”
Talbot said he was “pretty obsessed” with racing from those videos and watching NASCAR. He was such a big Tony Stewart fan he still drives the No. 14.
When he got a little older, Talbot’s dad took him to a go-kart track.
“We just spent the day there, and ever since then, we were pretty hooked on it,” he said.
Talbot traveled up and down the East Coast and midwest racing go-karts for about five years before he made the switch to a sportsman car when he was 14. His family found a used car they raced until this year.
The young driver didn’t expect to have so much success so quickly. He is the defending sportsman champion at Fonda, where he’s been racing since 2019.
He credits his success at both tracks this summer largely to a new chassis his team built in the spring, plus consistency and better decision making as a driver.
“I’ve really enjoyed this car so far; it’s been really good,” Talbot said. “Mike here at Fastline Performance sets us up with really good stuff.
“I feel like I can make, I don’t want to say better decision, I feel like I was decent last year, but I feel a lot more comfortable this year with this car. I definitely think I’m a little more consistent, for sure.”
At both Fonda and Utica-Rome, where Talbot has been driving since 2021, there are experienced, good drivers he has been battling in the standings. Matt Janczuk has seven wins and is second in the standings at Utica-Rome, 26 points behind Talbot.
Chad Edwards is 25 points behind Talbot in the points at Fonda.
Talbot said competing against good drivers only makes him better.
“Matt, he’s tough anywhere he goes,” Talbot said. “He’s a competitor every single night. You walk into any track, and you know you’ve got to beat him. Matt is one of the best sportsman drives out there for sure.
“Chad’s been really, really tough at Fonda; he’s good anywhere he goes, too. … You’ve got good guys at every track, and then you’ve got guys that you know you’ve got to walk in and beat. They’re both tough. It definitely makes me a better driver, makes you work a lot harder, for sure.”
Talbot will get a chance to defend his Fonda title this weekend when the track hosts its Benjamin Moore Paints Championship Night.
There are still six races remaining at Utica, where Talbot said he’s struggled a little more than Fonda. He’d be happy to just finish strong there, and continue to collect national points.
“Matt Janczuk being at Utica-Rome for so long, he’s tough to beat,” Talbot said. “We got three wins early on in the year, and he’s got seven on us since then, so he’s going to be tough to beat… but all we can do is our best. If we run second to him, it’s still better than running fourth or fifth or losing points, for sure.”
Talbot is sponsored by Teds Body Shop, LMC Industrial Contractors, Parker Excavating, Broedel Energy, Fastline Performance, Bicknell Racing Products, Dig Race Products, Precision Hydraulic & Oil, Terrys Custom Coatings, Training Tails Dog Training + Daycare, J&D Farms, MIR Raceline, Competition Carburetion, Next Generation Graphix and DNA Designs.
Competing for a national title was never a goal for Talbot coming into this season. Having never raced NASCAR before, he said he never expected to even be close to having a shot. But with just a few weeks left in the season, he has a 42-point lead in the Division II national points and the most wins of any driver in the top five.
He tries not to look at the points, but he’s hoping his consistency at two tracks will give him the boost he needs.
“As long as we can go out here and do what we do on a normal week, it’s just about focus,” he said. “You don’t want to put any added pressure on yourself. That’s when mistakes happen. I haven’t watched a lot of the points… it would be awesome to stay where we are, for sure. I don’t know, I think it’s going to be tough, but we’re going to try our best, for sure.”
Racing will return to Utica-Rome Speedway on Friday for the track’s Algonkin Motel/Slade Automotive & Friendly Family of Dealerships night, featuring modifieds and all divisions.
Fonda’s championship night on Saturday will feature all divisions plus Mohawk Valley Vintage Dirt Modified Series.