Jordan Taylor’s first NASCAR Cup race had the feel of a boxing match that devolved into a barroom brawl.
Jordan Taylor–the championship-winning IMSA sports car driver who was drafted in by Hendrick Motorsports to take the place of the injured Chase Elliott at Circuit of The Americas–impressed as expected, qualifying fourth in the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
Among the best road racers of his generation, the Florida-born factory Corvette Racing driver was a rocket in Elliott’s Cup car in practice and again when it came time to set the grid for Sunday’s 68-lap contest around COTA. And then NASCAR went and waved the green flag.
“The race itself was absolute mayhem,” the 31-year-old says. “I 'm glad I 'm able to walk away from it, finishing it in one piece.”
Accustomed to the forceful but respectful driving standards in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship where excessive contact can easily ruin one’s race, Taylor quickly learned that in NASCAR’s Cup series, its robust new cars also serve as excellent battering rams.
“The amount of contact and how strong those cars are…the level of hit that the car can take…we would have been out of a sports car race probably 12 times,” Taylor surmised. “It is honestly insane how strong the cars are. That's probably why the guys beat each other up so much just because there's no they don't lose anything just from slamming people.
“I should have expected it to be more of that than I planned for. I made the error of giving a little bit of room and lap one and I got pushed wide, which cycled me back. And then every restart was just honestly, mayhem. I dreaded every one just because I knew something crazy was gonna happen.”
Starting fourth, Taylor completed the first lap in ninth and either fell back or motored forward before ultimately settling for a disappointing 24th-place finish.
“And you're just ready for something, ready for someone to come up the inside and either push you into someone or use you as the brakes,” he continued. “So, it was frustrating. I couldn't really figure out the right strategy for it, we were kind of picking the outside lane early on, to kind of run the outside and stay away from getting hit, but then you just get pushed really wide. So, then we went to the inside, and we get hit in the back. It was interesting. I still don't really know what I would have done differently.
“On restarts, I made a couple of driving errors early in the race that I'd say pushed us back into the middle of the pack where we probably shouldn't have been. I don't think I've ever done any restarts in a sports car race, even at the end of a race, and had anywhere near the aggression or contact that we had. It was insane.”
Pitted against full-time Cup drivers who’ve learned the limits of punishment their cars are capable of delivering and receiving, Taylor was at a disadvantage at COTA. Mirroring their knockaround driving style would have been an option if Taylor treated the one-off opportunity as a free weekend of fun. It’s here where the 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner erred on the side of caution and professionalism.
Having the pre-event help of IMSA veteran Andy Lally, who earned NASCAR Cup’s Rookie of the Year honors in 2011 and continues to race in select stock car events every season, was invaluable for Taylor. Along with thanking Lally, who’s never driven for a NASCAR team of Hendrick’s caliber, finishing the race and positively representing the IMSA paddock was another motivation that kept Taylor on a cleaner path in the race.
“Andy was super helpful; he sent me track notes from when he drove there in the past,” Taylor said. “I knew it was a massive opportunity, and with Andy, he's a guy who's fought like crazy to get NASCAR rides and never been in a Hendrick car, so for me, I knew it was an opportunity to represent our whole sports car community.
“So I knew I needed to get the job done to show that sports car guys can get it done if they have the right equipment. I 'm glad that I could represent our sports car community well and hopefully open up some opportunities for guys like Andy to get some proper drives down the road.”
There’s no doubt about Taylor’s outright pace in a Cup car. Given another chance to compete on a road course, Mr. Nice Guy will be left behind in the IMSA paddock.
“It's too bad the race didn't go our way,” he said. “I think we were actually back in the hunt for a top 10 up until that last restart, so it would have been cool to finish it off, but that's the way it goes. It was still a great, great experience, fun to get the first one under my belt. And yeah, hopefully, we can get another shot at some time.”Looking to purchase a car? Find your match on the MSN Autos Marketplace 2023-03-28T18:20:14Z dg43tfdfdgfd