After finishing second in 2013, ’14 and ’16 and crossing the finish line third in 2015, the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing team captured their first Rolex 24 At DATONA 500 as Ricky Taylor won a back-and-forth duel to deliver the dramatic victory.
Ricky and his brother Jordan, both sons of the great Wayne Taylor, along with teammates Jeff Gordon and Max Angelelli, delivered a third Rolex 24 At DAYTONA championship for the elder Taylor -- his first as an owner. The brothers, who now each have 15 major North American sports car victories, took some time during the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test session in early January to sit down and discuss everything from growing up in the motorsports world, the addition of three-time DAYTONA 500 champion Jeff Gordon to the team and their chances in the 2017 Rolex 24 At DAYTONA.
Daytona International Speedway: You guys have a pretty unique perspective in terms of your introduction to motorsports. What was it like to grow up in this industry? What memories do you have of your father’s racing days? What did you learn from that?
Ricky Taylor: It was a big advantage. We’re extremely lucky to have grown up in a racing family. Aside from the fact that you get to know so many people in the industry, we were able to see the different paths that could be taken, learned how to get rides and the right and wrongs of the sport. The fact that (our dad) had a team was really great. We’ve gotten rides and worked our way up the ladder and are now driving together for this team. I hope we’ve both proven ourselves outside of the team and can hopefully win a championship.
DIS: What memories do you have of your father’s racing days? What did you learn from that?
Jordan Taylor: Yeah, we been going since we were three of four years old, including the Rolex 24. This is kind of our home race because we live 45 minutes away so we could always come. It became a family tradition to go to the big races together. We’d hang out with our mom, going around on golf carts and watching corners, but we were never that into it when we were really small. It kind of hit us at about 10 or 11 years old that we actually wanted to become race car drivers and follow in (our dad’s) footsteps.
DIS: Your father has won this race twice and both of you have finished on the podium multiple times. What advice has he given you about how to best approach and ultimately conquer this race? What have you learned from your prior experiences and how do you mesh those two?
Jordan: The past four years we’ve had almost flawless races. From history, those performances would’ve won races in so many other years. We’ve had four ‘almost-perfect races,’ finishing with three seconds and a third. We’re doing everything right and just missing little things. To get to that point, he’s always told us that you just have to make it to the end. If you have to give up 20 seconds on one lap for traffic, do that rather than taking a risk and doing something that puts you into the wall. It’s a balancing act of risk versus reward. The classic quote is, ‘To finish first, first you must finish.’ I think that’s very fitting for this race.
DIS: There’s a wealth of experience on the Wayne Taylor Racing team this year. What is it like to drive with such an experienced, respected group? What do you pick up from each person on the team?
Ricky: Our dad is a classic endurance racing driver. He really gives us a great mentality, framework and strategy for taking on a race like this. Then, there’s Max [Angelelli], who has tons of open wheel experience and is just one of the fastest guys out there. He’s very technically-minded. We really lean on Max for tricks on track line and setting up the car. And then you go to Jeff [Gordon]. With Jeff, it’s all about his approach. That’s the big thing that we’ve taken away. He’s won so many championships and was so successful in NASCAR, it was really great to see him come over to sports car racing and be so open to new information and have a willingness to learn. He focuses on every little detail that goes into winning a race. We have some really great resources on the team and, in addition, Jordan and I also push each other really hard to keep improving.
Jordan: Our dad has actually been a great source more on advice on the business side of motorsports than anything else. Konica Minolta is one of the only real sponsors in the series. If you look at most of the cars, they’re gentleman drivers or associated with someone, but he’s been one of the few people that has actually been able to find a company and create business for them. He’s been a big help in that aspect.
DIS: How would you describe the personalities of all of the drivers on the team?
Jordan: I think we can all have a good time and then get serious when it’s go-time. Max is probably the most intense one of the group. With Jeff, at the beginning I really didn’t know what to expect, but as soon as he got comfortable with everyone, he was the one giving us all a hard time. I think everyone gets along very well, but at the same time, we’re all here to win. When we go on-track, it’s all business.
DIS: Having such a personal connection to DAYTONA, what does it mean to you to race here?
Ricky: We don’t know what it’s like to win yet, but it’s really cool to come back. As sports car racing people, there’s only two races in the world that we care about – it’s here and Le Mans. It’s pretty special when you think about all of the success our dad had here and all of the personal memories we’ve made here. From getting stopped by security for racing golf carts when we were eight years old to so much more, we’ve lived our racing life around this track. To win here would be unbelievable.
DIS: What do you think of the new Prototypes? What can fans expect?
Jordan: I think it’s just a big upgrade in all aspects. The Daytona Prototype was designed almost 12 years ago so, by last year, it had gone through a few evolutions. This car is built from the ground up to be a pure race car. I think it’s going to be a lot faster. It looks great to the eye and still sounds good, which is cool. It should offer really good racing. This style of car has been run a lot in Europe, where they have very good racing. I don’t think we’ll lose a lot of the ‘rubbing is racing’ aspect that we had. The fan reaction has been great. I think everyone is excited for this new beginning.
DIS: What are the biggest challenges to running this race? What’s are the unique challenges that Daytona brings?
Ricky: Compared to other endurance races, in this race you’re flat-out the entire time. You’re always racing with someone. At Le Mans, you can spend four stints (in the car) and never see another car in your class. At DAYTONA, you are battling with someone else in your class for position for the entire 24 hours. You don’t know where you’re going to finish until the last lap, which is what it really comes down to after 24 hours of racing. Like Jordan said earlier, we’ve run some perfect races that, any time before 2012, would’ve won the race; but that’s not the case anymore. You have to not only run the perfect race, but you have to finish with a strong final lap and out race everyone to the finish line.
DIS: What’s so compelling about the racing action of IMSA?
Jordan: I think it’s a mix of a lot of things. You have all of the manufacturers racing so the fans can get behind their team and car and support it. The racing is very good with all of the different classes on-track making things that much more exciting. Throwing different classes in there, you never know what’s going to happen.
DIS: Overall, what does it mean to you guys to be a part of a family operation like this? What’s it like to drive with your brother and for your father? That’s pretty unique.
Jordan: It’s been awesome. Like Ricky said, we wanted to make our own name before coming to our dad’s team. We wouldn’t have wanted our dad to just put us in one of his cars without earning it. I think we made our own way and, once we were happy with where our respective careers were, we wanted to join up with our dad’s team. It has been a family affair. It’s an unbelievable feeling when you win a race together as a family and have beaten everyone else together. But, when you lose a race, you have to go home as a family and sit at dinner with the person that screwed things up. It is special, though. You can be super honest with each other and just take egos out of it. In sports car racing, your teammates can be your biggest rival and sometimes you keep little secrets from them. With Ricky and I, we share everything because we don’t care who is going to be faster; we just want to win together. It’s a big plus to have a family team.
Ricky: We just wanted to make it extra clear from the outset that we earned our spot and didn’t get here just because of our last name. We did everything we could do stay away from racing for our dad for the sake of earning our way in our careers. Ultimately, now, I know he wouldn’t put us in the car if it at all jeopardized the success of the race team.
If you're looking for more on the historic victory by Wayne Taylro Racing, be sure to read the race recap.
Don’t miss out when racing returns to Daytona International Speedway on February 18 with Speedweeks 2017 providing nearly two weeks of on-track action with leading up to the 59th running of the Great American Race – the DAYTONA 500 – on February 26. Secure your seat today!
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