CONCORD, N.C. – The last two weeks has been a busy time for Jordan Taylor.
While serving as a driver/coach for the Garage 56 test at Circuit of The Americas two weeks ago, he got the call to fill in for the sidelined Chase Elliott in the NASCAR Cup Series race at COTA on March 26. Taylor will be driving the No. 9 UniFirst Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Elliott, who is continuing to recover from surgery for a fractured tibia.
In the middle of all that, Taylor competed in the 12 Hours of Sebring last weekend. He was on campus last week to meet with the team and get some work in the simulator. He was back again this week to finish his seat fitting, complete more sim work and take part in a pit stop practice.
"It was horrible what happened to Chase and we’re hoping for a quick recovery," Taylor told HendrickMotorsports.com. "When the call came, I was all in, 100 percent. Whatever it would take to make it happen and spend as much time as I could.
"It’s been busy, but all the preparation is definitely necessary. I wish I had more time to prepare but we are going to make the most of it."
Josh Berry has driven the past three races in Elliott’s absence. Elliott won the inaugural race at COTA in 2021 as Hendrick Motorsports placed one-two with Kyle Larson taking second.
The 31-year-old native of Florida has a very impressive road racing resume. He currently competes for Corvette Racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and is a 31-time IMSA Class winner. Taylor is a four-time IMSA champion, a 24 Hours of Le Mans winner in 2015 (in the LMGTE Pro class), a two-time overall winner of the 24 Hours of DAYTONA in 2017 and 2019 and a GTLM class winner in 2021. His 2017 overall 24 Hours of DAYTONA win came with Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman Jeff Gordon as one of his teammates. Taylor is also a 12 Hours of Sebring overall winner in 2017 and in the GTD PRO class in 2022.
In January, Taylor was announced as part of the lineup for Garage 56, which will run at the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 10-11. He is serving as a backup driver and coach, logging seat time at each test to provide insight and feedback as the group readies for its journey across the pond in a few months. In addition to his road racing acumen, Taylor’s fun-loving personality is on full display with his alter ego, Rodney Sandstorm. That persona is a big Gordon fan.
As accomplished as Taylor is, he is admittedly a little anxious about jumping in the Next Gen car. However, he is hoping his involvement with Garage 56 will help somewhat to ease the transition.
"Garage 56 is definitely a step closer from what I am used to, so I’ll have a general understanding of what to expect," Taylor said. I know it is going to be quite different and that is why the sim was important for me. Just to get an idea on the adjustment of braking zones and cornering speeds and gearing.
"I've been working on all the small details with pit stop practice. I am used to having a pit speed button to manage pit speed, so understanding the lights and how to use that and having jacks instead of airjacks to jack the car up. There's been lots of little adjustments."
RACING AMERICA: Taylor has 'once-in-a-lifetime' opportunity at COTA
Fortunately for Taylor, this start comes at COTA, a track where he is no stranger to success. In the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, he has two wins and three podium finishes in four starts at the 20-turn. 3.41-mile road course.
"Going to a track that I know and that I have success at in the past is comforting in that it is one less thing I have to worry about learning and adjusting to," Taylor said. "The cornering speeds and brake zones will be different, but it is a road course. That is what I do every weekend, so that’s one bit of confidence I can bring to the weekend. The rest of it is definitely going to be a challenge. I am glad I have at least one little bit of relatability I can rely on going into the weekend."
Taylor’s been a help in the past to Hendrick Motorsports when the Daytona International Speedway Road Course was added to the schedule in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic season. Cup drivers and crew chiefs had little to no experience on that track, but the sports car veteran landed a hand to help get the drivers up to speed.
"Don’t sleep on Jordan Taylor," No. 5 team crew chief Cliff Daniels said two weeks on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. "I actually leaned on him a little bit when I was the crew chief for Jimmie (Johnson) just to look for some tips on car balance (at the Daytona Road Course). The guy that you see on Twitter and Instagram is hilarious with his personality, but he’s a pretty tech-savvy, detailed guy. I think that shows up behind the wheel. I think that he’ll give them (No. 9 team) a great shot at the road course to go have a good finish."
What would be a good day for Taylor?
"I think a top 10 would be a really big day," Taylor said ahead of becoming the 14th driver to make their Cup Series debut for Hendrick Motorsports. "There’s so many elements that can take you out of contention. There’s so many things that I am not used to with pit lane procedures, restart rules and things like that. There’s a lot of things we are learning on the fly. Even if we have decent pace, there are so many other elements that we have to get right to be competitive and be in the mix at the front."
Tune in for Taylor’s Cup Series debut on Sunday, March 26, taking place at COTA on FOX, PRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90) at 3:30 p.m. ET.