Racing on the road

Whether he’s racing in North Dakota, California, Tennessee, Missouri or his home state of Arkansas, International Motor Contest Association Modifieds driver Jeff Taylor is no stranger to victory lane.

Just a month into the racing season and Taylor already has four victories, the last coming at Nodak Speedway on Sunday. The Cave City, Ark., native made an early trip to North Dakota to test out a new car and won by more than four seconds in the Modifieds feature race.

When Taylor typically makes his first trip of the year to North Dakota, it’s in July for the Dakota Classic Tour. Taylor finished second last year.

Taylor not only races cars, but he also builds them. He’s been helping build race cars for 10 t o12 years. In 2012 Taylor became a certified manufacturer from the Mark Bush Racewise Dirt Track Chassis School and Front Suspension Geometry School. He builds open-wheel modified cars for drivers across the country, including some that race at Nodak Speedway.

Aaron Turnbull of Estevan, Sask., had his No. 21 car built by Taylor and raced it to back-to-back feature wins last year at Williston Basin Speedway and Nodak Speedway.

Taylor said it’s rewarding to see drivers win with cars he’s built.

“Depending on the race, if it’s a local race I get pretty good enjoyment out of my people winning,” Taylor said. “I don’t have a problem with my people outrunning me. It tickles me. I get enjoyment when I win, but you also get enjoyment when you see other people win in your stuff. It gives you a good sense of pride.”

Taylor had a banner year in 2012. He won the IMCA Speedway Motors Super Nationals title at Boone (Iowa) Speedway, defeating 251 other drivers during the week-long event.

“When we started the race I didn’t know if I had a car good enough to do it or not,” Taylor said. “As the race went on the car kinda got better and better. It was pretty exciting. It was the most people I’ve ever seen at a race track in my life. It was pretty unreal. It’s the biggest race I’ve ever won. I’ve won some big races but as far as prestige, I don’t know if you could ever top that.”

The 40-year-old driver claimed four other headlining events in 2012, winning in the Central, Mountain and Pacific time zones. He took the checkered flag in the 16th Annual IMCA Mid-America Modified Championship in his home state at one of his favorite race tracks. Taylor won both feature races in one night at Batesville Motor Speedway in Locust Grove, Ark., for the $3,000 grand prize.

Taylor said a major part of his success comes from his sponsorships with Industrial Electric and Spur Bar & Lounge of Dickinson. Both sponsorships helped cover the costs of Taylor’s brand new No. 5 car that raced for the first time last weekend.

Of all the races Taylor has competed in, winning the inaugural Modified World Championship at Batesville Motor Speedway in 2001 sticks out among the countless number of career victories. More impressively, he did it in someone else’s car. Floral, Ark., native Brandon Smith opted to go deer hunting instead of racing and asked Taylor if he’d like to use his car in the race. Taylor said he hardly had to make any adjustments to the car before driving it into victory lane.

Long before his string of success, Taylor never imagined he’d be able to make a career out of racing. He didn’t start racing until he reached his 20s due to the expensive nature of the sport. When he began his racing career, things didn’t go as smoothly as he had hoped.

“Years ago we traveled and we didn’t quite have success so we went back home and I got back to where I could run pretty good around home,” Taylor said. “When I got to where I was running pretty good around home, we ventured out to a two- or three-state area. Different tracks require different things and different driving styles. If you go to enough of them you learn that.”

Racing is only part of Taylor’s life as he has a wife, Melissa, and two kids – a son, Cole, and a daughter, Darcie. While he tries to spend as much time with his family as possible, his work eats up a lot of his free time.

“It’s tough,” Taylor said. “I didn’t think years ago when we started out that I’d be doing this for a living. Building the cars is a pretty good toll on the family life. It’s not too bad in the summer. They can come with me. But it’s a tough balancing act. I’m gone quite a bit.”

Taylor said he sees himself racing another 10 or 15 years. He wasn’t sure if either of his kids would take up the sport, but said Darcie, who’s five, is the more likely candidate because she’s “rambunctious.”

Regardless of how many races he wins in the future, Taylor is thankful for the support he has received over the years.

“I have a good wife,” he said. “She stands behind me and supports me.”

Mike Kraft covers racing at Nodak Speedway during the summer. Follow him on Twitter at @MKraft23-MDN.