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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”