After his sons’ rise, Wayne Taylor feeling a ‘void’ at the Rolex 24


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Leaning on a small roundtable in a makeshift hospitality area outside his team’s hauler at Daytona International Speedway, Wayne Taylor felt “a bit of a void in my stomach.”

Crew members were scrambling in and out of the team’s technical nerve center behind him, making trips to the pit stand to prepare the No. 10 Cadillac for the opening session in the Roar before the Rolex.

It seemed business as usual at preseason testing for the overall championship team of the Rolex 24 in two of the past three years, but it wasn’t. For the first time in a decade, Wayne Taylor was contemplating a race weekend without either of his sons, Ricky and Jordan.

“It’s a little early for me to understand the magnitude of it,” Wayne Taylor said.

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Understanding the next step was easy, though.

“No, no, no,” Taylor said with a hearty laugh when asked if he considered leaving IMSA after helping propel his sons into top-notch rides. “What the hell would I do with my life? I don’t know anything else.”

It’s always all about racing for Wayne Taylor, but it’s no longer all in the family for his team, which will be without either Ricky or Jordan in its IMSA lineup this season for the first time since 2010.

Ricky Taylor, who raced for his father from 2010-12 and ’14-17, is entering his third season with Acura Team Penske. His younger brother, Jordan, has joined Corvette Racing this year after a 2013-19 run at Wayne Taylor Racing.

Jordan Taylor in his new Corvette firesuit (courtesy of IMSA).

In joining two top-flight teams, the Taylor brothers are being rewarded for excelling at WTR. They won the 2017 overall at the Rolex 24 (with Jeff Gordon) and the 12 Hours of Sebring on their way to the IMSA championship for their dad.

Though Wayne Taylor enjoyed having his boys behind the wheel, he also fielded cars for them to ensure they could land paying rides without needing to bring sponsorship.

“That was always the goal as a dad is have your kids make a living doing it,” Jordan said. “And not just make a living doing it but with two of the biggest sports car teams in the world. So our dad is very proud and very happy. I think part of him is sad and upset that we’re not with him, because it was always nice to have us with him to make it a little easier.

“But he’s proud to be our dad. And happy that he doesn’t have to pay us anymore.”

Wayne Taylor said “most people thought I’d stop the program” after Ricky and Jordan had found elite rides. But when renewing his contract with General Motors two years ago, he committed to keep his DPI team running if the manufacturer wanted to move Jordan into a factory team.

“Both of them have earned really good rides, which is what I always wanted at the end of the day,” Wayne Taylor said of his sons, who grew up in Central Florida under their father’s racing tutelage and progressed through go-karts to sports cars. “A lot of people thought that I set this up only for them, and hopefully they all realize now it’s not.

“I’d look at the teams they could have been going (to race) and think, ‘No, they’re not going to do anything here, so let me put them into the right environment and teach them.’ Because we’ve had a lot of success before them.”

Taylor, a successful sports car veteran in his own right with wins at the Rolex and Le Mans, has built quite the pedigree over the past 13 seasons as a team owner.

Testing at Daytona for Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 Cadillac, which will be driven by Renger van der Zande, Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon and Kamui Kobayashi at the Rolex 24 (Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

After winning Rolex 24 overall titles with a four-time NASCAR champion (Gordon) in ’17 and a two-time Formula One champion (Fernando Alonso) last year, Taylor has recruited five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon to his DPI car for Daytona.

“We got rid of our weak link with Jordan,” Wayne Taylor laughed, exemplifying his family’s omnipresent sarcasm and sense of humor (Jordan Taylor has become a social media sensation, mostly through his Rodney Sandstorm alter ego).

Dixon will join returning drivers Renger van der Zande and Kamui Kobayashi a the Rolex 24 along with new full-time Wayne Taylor Racing driver Ryan Briscoe, whose management ties to WTR co-owner Max Angelelli made for a smooth transition after the shutdown of Chip Ganassi Racing’s GT program.

At the Roar, van der Zande said there still seemed a family atmosphere within the team even without Ricky and Jordan Taylor.

“Clearly not having one of them is going to take some getting used to, but I’m very close with Ryan Briscoe,” Wayne Taylor said. “He’s like a third son, so that’ll make it easy. But I don’t know how the feeling is going to be (without Ricky and Jordan) by the time we get to the race.

“There’s certainly a void from my standpoint, but then I’ve surrounded the team with really good drivers again. We’ve got a good enough lineup that we can win the race again.”

That made leaving even more difficult for Jordan.

“It was a hard decision, and the hard part was leaving my dad’s team,” Jordan, 28, said. “Since 2013, we’d won two championships, two Daytonas, Sebring, the Petit Le Mans. You’re leaving a team that can win races and championships overall. And it’s a family team. I know everyone on the team. I was so comfortable and so easy for me to just be there.

“But Corvette Racing is kind of a hard thing to turn down. It was almost impossible to say no. If I’d said no to that, that opportunity probably is never going to come back.”

At least Wayne Taylor will be able to cheer Jordan’s progress in a new mid-engine car that Corvette will field in the GTLM class.

Ricky Taylor of Team Penske (courtesy of IMSA).

It will be a little trickier to root for 30-year-old Ricky, whose No. 7 Acura is a direct threat to WTR’s No. 10 Cadillac in DPI.

During the Roar, Ricky briefly stopped by outside the WTR trailer with Penske teammate Helio Castroneves but left after a few minutes of small talk and smiles with his father.

“It’s a bit odd the past two seasons,” said Ricky, who laughed while recalling a recent dinner table conversation in which his dad playfully pried for info about whether Team Penske had tested a new tire at Daytona. “We can’t necessarily go into the trailer. I can’t talk to the guys casually. I have to kind of keep my eyes straight ahead.”

Wayne Taylor said he still will keep at least one eye on the lap times for Jordan and Ricky.

“Racing against my two sons will be great,” he said, pausing for a devilish smile. “I’ll have to get the guys to figure out how to take them out.”

The road to the 2023 Daytona 500 is not paved for Travis Pastrana, he’ll attempt the DIRTcar Nationals

Pastrana DIRTcar Nationals
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws

Travis Pastrana will attempt to make his first NASCAR Cup series race on February 19 with the grandaddy of them all, the Daytona 500, but his road to get there will not be paved and his car will have only two fenders as he tackles Florida Speedweeks and the DIRTcar Nationals.

In mid-January, it was announced Pastrana will attempt to qualify a third car from 23XI Racing that fields fulltime entries for Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick. Sponsorship will come from Black Rifle Coffee, who approached him during the offseason to ask what kind of “really cool stuff” he would like to do. Pastrana replied, “the Daytona 500” with a characteristic laugh in his voice.

“It’s good,” Pastrana said in a press release. “We’re going to go down, we’re going to go hangout with [NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion] Matt Crafton, one of [Black Rifle’s] drivers, we’ll go to Modified races and watch all the Late Models. We’ll watch the racing, and we’ll bring [United States military] veterans down and hangout with [Steve] Arpin.”

But there is a saying among dirt track fans that goes, ‘asphalt is for getting to the track; dirt is for racing’ – and Pastrana is taking that to heart.

After racing on the snow in Nitro Rallycross February 4-5 in Calgary, Alberta, the original plan was to head to Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida to watch the modified and late model races. Until Crafton called him out for not racing.

Pastrana relayed the conversation: “I told Crafton [I was coming to watch] and he goes, ‘Ah, too much of a sissy to drive?’ I called Arpin, and said, ‘So, Longhorn, I heard you guys have vehicles that can kick the crap out of Crafton’s vehicle.’ [Arpin] said, ‘Yeah, if you don’t suck, you can beat him.’ I said, ‘Alright, I’m in.’”

The DIRTcar Nationals run from February 6-18. The first week features six UMP Modified Mains each night they run, on Monday (Feb. 6), Friday (Feb. 10), and then the prestigious Gator Championship race on Saturday (Feb. 11). Pastrana hopes to run every night in one of Arpin’s cars, also with sponsorship from Black Riffle Coffee.

And this is not just for bragging rights; there is money on the line. Pastrana and Crafton have a $1 bet on who has the best finish.

While Pastrana is accustomed pitching his car sideways on a combination of left and right turns in a rally car – he won the Nitro Rallycross race at ERX Motorsports Park in Minneapolis, Minnesota last October and became the first two-time winner in the 2022/23 season at Wild Horse Pass in Phoenix, Arizona in November – the DIRTcar Nationals will be an entirely different proposition.

It took a day for Pastrana to get comfortable in the modified. And it took a little coaching from Arpin, who has experience in both dirt modifieds and rally cars to make him fast.

“[Arpin] showed up the second day after hearing how bad the first day was,” Pastrana said, which is confirmed in the Instagram post embedded above. “But he just told me, until you commit, it’s not going to work. Once I committed, it started making a lot of sense. But coming in, if you’re lifting off the gas while trying to turn, it just doesn’t turn and all your natural instincts say, ‘Don’t get on the gas.’ So, yeah, I feel like it should suit my driving style because I’m more of an aggressive sideways type of driver, but it was very difficult. Turning and sliding, I’m fine. Getting it there is not the easiest.”

Pastrana has one previous start in a dirt late model that came in the 2010 Prelude to the Dream. He finished 23rd in the 27-car field and was three laps off the pace. He wasn’t the only driver having difficulty getting a feel for the car that night; Jeff Gordon finished on the same lap, only one position ahead of him.

Travis Pastrana will race one of Steve Arpin’s dirt modifieds during Florida Speedweeks as he prepares for the 2023 Daytona 500. – Jacy Norgaard, World Racing Group

The price of the weekend could well exceed the dollar he may lose to Crafton.

“It’s going to be an expensive weekend,” Pastrana said. “Not everything is covered. If I crash anything, it is going to be all on me. This is one of those things where I want to come down and have fun. I want to hang out with the crowd, I want to sign autographs and give high fives. Especially for the Modified crew, that’s the grassroots racing that I love and some of my friends are involved with. We’ll be camping down there with Arpin and all the Longhorn guys, just hanging out. I feel like that’s a great opportunity for us to bring a lot of [US] veterans and bring people that are into racing and aren’t into racing, friends and family, and just have an awesome time.”

And it’s not out of the question that Pastrana could add another top-10 to his record book in the DIRTcar Nationals. After the rocky first day, Pastrana gained speed. Enough so that Arpin’s confidence was raised.

“We’re pretty confident Crafton is going to have to run hard to keep his dollar,” Arpin said.