Jordan Taylor intrigued by NASCAR Next Gen at Le Mans: ‘Good to get new eyes on sport’

Jordan Taylor NASCAR Le Mans
Brian Cleary/Getty Images

As soon as news hit of NASCAR and its Next Gen likely heading to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Jordan Taylor naturally checked on his Cup Series connections.

“I texted (Hendrick Motorsports VP of Competition) Chad Knaus saying, ‘If you ever need some help or input, I’ll come test it if you want’ or something like that,” the Corvette Racing champion said Wednesday in a Zoom news conference with reporters. “I think it’s exciting. It will be cool to bring a lot of NASCAR eyes to Le Mans who haven’t seen it before. It might be confusing for them to see a one-off Cup car racing against Hypercars and things like that, but it will be good to get some new eyes on the sport.”

As a three-time Rolex 24 at Daytona overall winner and a two-time GTLM champion in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Series, Taylor, 31, bridges both the sports car and stock car worlds as much as anyone.

NEXT GEN AT LE MANS: Questions, answers analysis about the NASCAR project

Last year, he wore a special Dale Earnhardt tribute helmet at Le Mans (and later made a well-received guest appearance on the Dale Jr. Download), and he had Jeff Gordon as a teammate in the Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac that won the 2017 Rolex 24.

Gordon has been mentioned by team owner Rick Hendrick as a candidate to drive at Le Mans in the Next Gen Camaro that will be overseen by Knaus.

Hendrick also has been in touch with Jimmie Johnson, and Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson also would seem options as Rolex 24 veterans and with Hendrick wanting an active Cup driver. There is no timeframe on setting the lineup, nor have specifications been announced for the car, which will need to be specially modified for the rigors of a 24-hour race and likely will feature a hybridized engine.

Jordan Taylor (IMSA)

Having been part of the 2015 GTE Pro class winner at Le Mans, Jordan Taylor has been among drivers bandied about by fans (and also has been suggested by Dale Earnhardt Jr.) on social media as a potential candidate for next year’s NASCAR-proposed Garage 56 entry (a special one-vehicle class aimed at innovation and technology).

But Taylor said Wednesday that he hasn’t been contacted about racing the Hendrick-prepared car.

“I’m sure they’ll want some big NASCAR names, which makes sense to take them over there,” said Taylor, who will make his eighth 24 Hours of Le Mans start in a Corvette this June. “Racing around Daytona for the Rolex 24 against guys like Kyle Larson, those guys know what they’re doing on road courses these days. I don’t think they’ll need a lot of help. Maybe some tips on what to know about Le Mans to help prep the car and understanding what curbs you want to abuse and things like that. From a car durability standpoint, that would be interesting for them to understand.

“As far as drivers, I’m sure they have a humongous list to go through. My commitments right now are to Corvette and Corvette Racing. I wouldn’t want to take anything away from that.”

Taylor’s Le Mans availability also could depend on whether Corvette Racing is in the 2023 event with the GTE Pro class uncertain. During the March 17 announcement to unveil NASCAR’s Le Mans project, Chevrolet Motorsports VP Jim Campbell indicated Corvette “potentially” could be racing in France next year.

Taylor, whose Gordon-inspired Rodney Sandstorm alter ego has become a hit with NASCAR fans, has been angling at making his stock-car debut for a while.

He had an offer from an ARCA team and was in discussions with a Cup team about racing in the Aug. 14-16, 2020 race weekend on the Daytona International Speedway road course. Taylor also helped Hendrick drivers with preparing setups for that Daytona race on the Chevrolet simulator in Huntersville, North Carolina.

Though his offer stands to help Hendrick with advice and tips for Le Mans, he also knows the team “will have a lot of smart guys on it. From a European perspective, you look at NASCAR and see stock car racing and it looks pretty basic from the outside. These big metal machines racing around an oval.

“Being on the inside and seeing the engineering behind what they do and how much research and development they have, you know they are going to have a lot of smart guys working on it and developing it. It’s going to be an interesting project.”

Taylor’s 2022 season is off to an intriguing start. After struggling to a 30th in the Rolex 24 season opener, he and C8.R Corvette co-drivers Antonio Garcia and Nicky Catsburg rebounded with a class victory in the Twelve Hours of Sebring that “was pretty much perfect. No one in the car made any mistakes, all the pit stops were perfect, and the strategy kept us out front. It was one of those days everything went our way.”

After consecutive titles in the now-defunct GTLM division, the No. 3 Corvette moved this season to the new GTD Pro category that includes a common tire among teams.

“Daytona was definitely a struggle,” Taylor said. “We did a two-day test between Daytona and the Sebring race. We made some big gains from a setup point of view, understanding the tire and what makes it work. This car was designed around using the confidential tire, so we did huge setup swings at that test and found a ton of lap time just in that, plus compliance and durability of the tire and understanding how to make the tire work over a stint and not just a lap. Just little details like that brought us closer to the window.”

Taylor and Garcia next will race April 9 in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, which will kick off the IMSA Sprint Cup schedule. The race will begin at 5 p.m. ET on USA and Peacock.

Jett Lawrence wins Hangtown Pro Motocross, remains perfect in 450s

Lawrence Hangtown Motocross
Align Media

Jett Lawrence remains perfect in the Pro Motocross series after recording another perfect round at Hangtown in Rancho Cordova, California. In his second start on a 450, Lawrence won his second National with his fourth consecutive moto win. It is getting increasingly difficult to find the right superlatives to describe the exploits on the reigning 250 West Supercross champion.

“The track was so brutal out there,” Lawrence told NBC Sports Jason Thomas. “The bike handles amazing even when it’s not too friendly. You had to be really patient; you couldn’t take too much. I didn’t eat enough before that second moto. I kind of lost energy halfway through, but luckily I could use technique and balance and just keep that flow going.”

Lawrence leaves Hangtown with an 18-point advantage over Ferrandis in the 450 Motocross standings, but perhaps more importantly, he climbed to 19th in the SuperMotocross standings and should he stay there, he has an automatic invitation to the Main events in the SMX Championship.

“On this track, you just have to manage,” Lawrence continued. “If you try to take too much and not respect the track, it will bite you very quickly. It was humbling on the first few laps. I got kicked on the cutout at the start of the third section, the tabletop going to the left. I had to get my focus because the boys were coming.”

Still in his first few races since returning from a concussion suffered at Houston in the Supercross series, Dylan Ferrandis finished second with results of third in Moto 1 and second in Moto 2. While Ferrandis was happy with the result, he remains hopeful that he will contend for victory shortly.

“The first moto was very hard for my physically, Ferrandis said. “I got arm pump and when you get arm pump your body gets tired. But I’m very happy because we made a big change for the second moto. We tried stuff every session today and in the last moto the bike was much better, but unfortunately I wasn’t sure what I could do with this bike because the track was very hard and difficult to pass.”

RESULTS: How they finished in the 450 Overall at Hangtown

With the rash of injuries at the end of the Supercross season, the podium was filled with heartwarming stories. Cooper Webb returned to action last week in Pala and failed to make the podium. He is steadily improving with a third-place finish in Hangtown. after finishing with a 4-2.

“It’s incredible what seven days can do,” Webb said. “Last week I felt like I was going to get lapped in the second moto. This week, I could see the leader. It was nice. I fought hard, learned how to suffer again there and that felt nice.

Moto 2 wasn’t pretty for Lawrence. On several occasions in the opening laps, he nearly high sided as he rode the front wheel through the ruts. The reward was worth the risk. By the halfway point, Lawrence had 4.5-second lead over Webb, who was embroiled in a tight three-rider battle for second with his teammate Aaron Plessinger pressuring him and Ferrandis ready to take advantage if those made contact.

It took 20 minutes for Plessinger to get around Webb and once he did, he trailed Lawrence by four seconds. But then, with three minutes remaining, Plessinger crashed and had difficulty restarting the bike, handing second back to Webb who has seven seconds behind Lawrence. Plessinger fell to fourth with results of third and sixth.

Adam Cianciarulo rounded out the top five with a 5-4.

Last week Hunter Lawrence won the overall with a 3-1. He repeated that feat in Hangtown in an exact replica of his Fox Raceway results last week. In Moto 1, Lawrence got off to a slow start and lost 10 seconds in the opening laps. Forced to overcome a sixth-place position in the race at the end of Lap 1, he once again caught the riders ahead of him when the field hit heavy traffic. For the second week, scored another 3-1 for the Hangtown National win.

“The start was crucial’ I knew I had to go,” Lawrence told NBC Sports’ Jason Thomas. “They laid a lot of water down, so I didn’t want to be behind any longer than [I was]. First hot one of the year, was a bit of a wakeup call, so I’m happy to get out of here safe and healthy.”

Lawrence’s third-place finish in Moto 1 featured a fierce battle for final spot on the podium when he caught Spain’s Guillem Farres and France’s Tom Vialle. With Lawrence hailing from Australia, the international nature of the sport was highlighted.

Lawrence left Hangtown with a 10-point advantage over Haiden Deegan in the Pro Motocross championship battle.

Click here for 250 overall results

Justin Cooper finished second in both motos to finish second overall. Hangtown represented a huge improvement from Fox Raceway where he finished fifth overall with a 5-4 finish in the two motos. Cooper pressured Haiden Deegan in the second half of Moto 1 and he earned the holeshot in the second moto and stayed within three seconds of Lawrence in that race.

“He was following me a little bit, checking out my lines, seeing where he was better,” Cooper said. “It’s disappointing to give up the lead like that but it was way better than last weekend. I will definitely take two seconds. I want to be on the top of the step. I feel like I get close to the top step but I never get it done. That’s building up the frustration – the fire. I really want to get one of these wins, so it’s time to start digging.”

Haiden Deegan earned the first holeshot of his career in Moto 1 and rode away from the field, building a four-second lead in the opening laps. Cooper trimmed the lead at the halfway point and for a while it leveled off at two seconds. Then Cooper made another charge with three to go and closed to within a second. Deegan was biding his time, however.

“I was saving a little. I knew at the end Justin was going to try and put a charge on. I let him get up close and then sent it super hard at the end to break him a little at the end.”

Deegan’s first moto win comes in only his fourth National and he remains perfect in regard to podiums this year.

“This was a dream since I was a little kid, to win,” Deegan said. “And in my fourth race, it’s gnarly. I was just sending it. I was getting a little tired at the end becasue I left my mouth open the whole time. It’s unreal; I’m so hyped. I wanted to win bad and I proved it to you guys.”

Chaos erupted in turn 1 in Moto 2 Jeremy Martin went and another rider ran over his arm. Michael Mosiman crashed further down the track on that same lap. Both riders were helped off course by the Alpinestars Medical team.

2023 Motocross Race Recaps

Fox Raceway: Jett Lawrence wins in first 450 start

2023 Supercross Race Recaps

Salt Lake City: Chase Sexton ends the season with win
Denver: Chase Sexton wins, takes points’ lead with Eli Tomac injury
Nashville: Chase Sexton keeps hope alive; Cooper Webb out
New Jersey: Justin Barcia wins muddy race; first in two years
Atlanta: Chase Sexton is back in the championship picture
Glendale: Eli Tomac wins 51st, breaks tie with James Stewart
Seattle: Eli Tomac wins and ties Webb for first
Detroit: Chase Sexton inherits win after Aaron Plessinger falls
Indianapolis: Ken Roczen gets first win in more than a year
Daytona: Eli Tomac extends Daytona record with seventh win
Arlington: Cooper Webb wins for second time, closes to two of Tomac
Oakland: Eli Tomac ties Ricky Carmichael with 48 wins
Tampa: Cooper Webb gets first 2023 win
Houston: Eli Tomac bounces back from A2 crash to win third race of 2023
Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Eli Tomac wins opener for the first time

More SuperMotocross coverage

Chase Sexton is out for Hangtown
Enzo Lopes re-signs with Club MX for 2024
Record Supercross attendance reported in 2023
SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Pala
Results and points after Pala
Jett Lawrence wins Pala in his first MX start
450 Champion Chase Sexton takes back what he gave away
250 West Supercross champion Jett Lawrence ends dream career
250 East Supercross champion Hunter Lawrence overcomes doubt and injury