Taylors Have Three Crowning Reasons for Added Holiday Cheer

By Holly Cain
IMSA Wire Service
If the holiday season feels a little more special – the lights a little brighter, the cheer a bit merrier – in the Orlando homes of Wayne Taylor and his sons Ricky and Jordan, it is with three good reasons. Three large sparkling IMSA trophies will be among the glittering holiday décor.
The racing trio – who in 2017 won the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship Prototype class title together as a team with victories at in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts and Motul Petit Le Mans – are coming off another season of achievement. This time, each Taylor won a significant and different IMSA championship in their own right.
Wayne Taylor, a former IMSA champion driver who owns the much-heralded, multi-championship team bearing his name, earned the prestigious 2020 IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup crown in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class. It marked the first time in Taylor’s long and storied career that his team has taken that title.
Ricky, 31, co-drove with three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves to earn the 2020 WeatherTech Championship DPi driver and team championships for Acura Team Penske. They won four races, ultimately taking the DPi crown by a single point over Wayne Taylor’s No. 10 Cadillac.
Jordan, 29, co-drove with Antonio Garcia in a Chevrolet Corvette, winning the GT Le Mans (GTLM) driver and team championships for the factory Corvette Racing team. Jordan and Garcia hoisted five victory trophies and finished runner-up three times in dominating the 11-race season.
It was all enough to make a papa proud.
“2017 was the first year of the Cadillac program, and both Ricky and Jordan, Jeff Gordon and Max (Angelelli) drove for me and we won the Daytona 24, five races and a championship, and which was very hard to beat (personally), I think,’’ Wayne Taylor said.
“But then looking at this last year, and thinking about it, I think this year certainly tops everything because each one of us did something individually.’’
There is understandably great pride, even if Wayne Taylor tries so much to control it. He still laughs conceding more than once his team has caught him watching telemetry of his sons’ cars during a race.
“I am just really excited, really happy about the year and can’t say enough about them,’’ Wayne said of his sons. “I try not to say a lot about them because I don’t want to be ‘one of those dads,’ but I am still a dad.’’
His sons recognize that care, conceding they know their dad is watching. And they feel his pride.
“I don’t know if he gets in trouble with his team on the timing stand, but I know he’s always watching me and Jordan and it’s nice to know he’s always got an eye on us,’’ Ricky acknowledged. “He’s not going to stop being our dad when we left the team. And it’s nice knowing he’s there at the track and keeping an eye on us.
“At the same time, he wants to beat us, too. We all want to beat each other but we’re supportive of each other.’’
It’s easy to sense Wayne’s gratification. He and his wife Shelley also have plenty of reasons to feel good about the two sons they’ve raised. Ricky and Jordan are intelligent, engaging and possess a huge sense of well-tuned, oft-used humor. Jordan even has a famous social media alter ego, “Rodney Sandstorm,” when he dresses in disguise as a fan in homage to NASCAR Hall of Famer and former Rolex 24 At Daytona teammate Gordon. Jordan jokes that he’s actually been booked for a special appearance as Rodney.
“And I’ve never been asked to as Jordan Taylor, the race car driver,’’ he said laughing.
Gordon speaks of the Taylors as if they were his own extended family. He also laughs about Jordan’s “Sandstorm” tribute.
“He didn’t fool me with it,’’ Gordon said of the first time he saw Jordan assume the character. “But I loved how he took on this character and had so much fun with it. I think a lot of people have become fans not only of Rodney Sandstorm, but of Jordan because of it.
“There’s just this great balance between having fun and going out and competing at this high level which made it really enjoyable as well – feeling part of the Taylor family and knowing what that race meant to them. Not just to be a part of it, but to win it.’’
Gordon vividly recalls the final laps, the closing minutes of that 2017 Rolex 24 victory.
“It was really special to me,’’ he said. “When you’re sitting on the (pit box) over the whole span of time from testing in December all the way to the race, you really start to get so intricately involved in their history as a family and their efforts and then you become emotionally involved.
“So when that race was winding down and we had that shot at winning, it was intense. And then when it looked like it would be a win, everyone was practically in tears. That’s when I say it feels like family. When you’re running for Wayne, that’s what it’s like.’’
As race wins and championships indicate, the Taylors race with the kind of competitive spirit and talent that any team owner would value, one their father is grateful to have fostered and ultimately won with. In fact, Ricky will be rejoining his dad’s team in 2021, as Wayne Taylor Racing switches to an Acura DPi. Jordan will continue with Garcia in the No. 3 Corvette C8.R.
It’s been a carefully, thoughtfully guided career for both sons. Wayne insisted on proper training and that Ricky and Jordan become increasingly proficient as they moved up the ranks. It was a methodical exercise in learning, with no “gimmes” or special treatment. Now, all three are reaping the benefits.
That they would be together, racing professionally one day, wasn’t necessarily the plan from birth, but it soon became obvious that the talent gene was passed on.
“Before I was 10, I wanted to be a construction worker,’’ Jordan said with a laugh, adding that he played a little tennis as a kid and that Ricky was a standout soccer player growing up.
“I liked building things and working on things. But once my dad stopped driving fulltime and we stated go-karting and he could teach us, that’s when we fell in love with driving. Basically, that’s all we wanted to do and that’s where all the focus went.’’
Ultimately – as the 2020 season showed – it became a unique family dynamic of competing against one another. And it ended with the best possible outcomes despite the odds. Three teams, three Taylor championships.
“To have all three us of happy on any given weekend is nearly impossible,’’ Ricky explained. “But we are really happy and really excited with the season we all just had.’’
While the 2020 season produced individual herald, it took a family effort to get to this point. All three Taylor men are quick to credit Shelley Taylor for fostering that focus and providing support in such a unique situation.
“I think she’s the most important part of the family,’’ Ricky said of his mother, a sentiment echoed by Wayne and Jordan.
“I think that while we’re all kind of focused and have sort of target vision in our little world of race cars – what we think is the only important thing and we’re kind of stressed and worried – she does a really good job of staying steady,” Ricky explained. “More than just general advice, she kind of puts things in perspective.
“She doesn’t get caught up in the little details of everything and can look at it from a mom’s perspective and see what’s really important. For me, it’s perspective and steadiness that she brings us.’’
So, with great perspective, the Taylors will celebrate their triumphs this holiday season — and this unprecedented special year of competition. One that produced triumph for all.
“We’re so lucky we grew up in a family where we all shared a passion,’’ Ricky Taylor said. “I just feel really lucky in that way.’’
Adam Sinclair