BRISTOL, Tenn. (June 20, 2010) – Kevin Payne of Johnson City, Tenn., was named the 13th NAPA AUTO PARTS Honorary Crew Member of the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series at the 10th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway.
Payne, 39, is responsible for outside sales and delivery for the NAPA AUTO PARTS store in Johnson City, which is individually owned by Judy Semplenski, and has been with the store since December of 2009. Prior to that, he worked for a competing auto parts store in Johnson City.
“It's been awesome,” he said of his joining the NAPA family. “Judy Semplenski is the best lady I ever worked for, and it's a really good company to work for. I don't have any complaints whatsoever.”
As for Payne's racing experience and/or involvement, “I'm a track official at the Volunteer Speedway dirt track series,” he said. “That's a local track in Bullsgap, Tenn. I've worked down there for the past 12 years and I've also done some drag racing up here in Bristol. I drove my 1985 Mercury Capri in the Thursday Night Street Fights, but that was seven, eight years ago.”
He plans to return to the Thursday Night Street Fights within a month when he completes building a 1978 Mustang Mach I.
“Funny Cars and Top Fuel cars, there's nothing like them,” he added of his visit to the Don Schumacher Racing pits. “It's just unbelievable. You can just feel the force of the horsepower through the ground when they take off. It's just awesome.
“I've never done anything like this as long as I have been into dirt track or drag racing,” he said after receiving the honor, "and when they called and said that I was going to be the NAPA Honorary Crew Member, it just blew my mind.
“I try to keep up with a few of the drivers that I'm really interested in and see how they grow. Ron Capps is definitely one of them.”
Phil Harris, sales manager for the NAPA Distribution Center in Knoxville, Tenn., was on hand to help present the honor. “Kevin was selected randomly. Judy Semplenski had won the tickets and she wanted to reward Kevin for the fine job he has done. He came to us from the competition and he brought a lot of customers with him. He's got a great attitude and he's opened a lot of doors for Judy and her NAPA store.”
As for NAPA's relationship with DSR and the NHRA, “I think it's great,” said Harris. “We have a good relationship with Waltrip Racing and with NASCAR, and I think being involved with DSR and NHRA filled a void. So many of our customers wanted representation in drag racing and it turned out really well.”
Payne's non-wrenching crew-member duties included escorting the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Funny Car to the staging lanes for Saturday's two qualifying rounds. He then helped retrieve the car at the end of the track after Capps' run.
The side window of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge sported his name as the NAPA AUTO PARTS Honorary Crew Member this weekend.
He also met and chatted with the entire NAPA Dodge Funny Car crew, was a special guest in the NAPA hospitality area throughout the weekend, received a NAPA team jersey, experienced an up-close-and-personal view of the NAPA crew as the team worked on the car, and enjoyed a private tour of the team transporter and pit area.
NAPA AUTO PARTS distribution centers at each NHRA event during the season have different criteria for choosing the persons who are potential NAPA AUTO PARTS Honorary Crew Members.