Jordan Taylor is moving back to Wayne Taylor Racing in the 2024 IMSA season after a successful four-year run with Corvette Racing.
In addition to his full-time racing in IMSA, 2023 also saw Taylor debut in both the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity series. He got his first oval experience in a late model race at North Wilkesboro Speedway, and he played a key role in making Hendrick Motorsports’ Garage 56 program at the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans a success.
Frontstretch‘s Stephen Stumpf spoke with Taylor via a phone call on Oct. 20 to discuss his busy 2023 season and any of his future plans.
This interview has been edited and condensed. The full audio interview will be available in this week’s edition of the Bringing the Heat podcast.
Stephen Stumpf, Frontstretch: On the sports car side, the 2023 IMSA season wrapped up at Road Atlanta. It’s your final race with Corvette Racing, which you’ve had plenty of success with over the years. What are the emotions in both leaving but also returning to Wayne Taylor Racing, which, again, you’ve also had tremendous success with in the past?
Jordan Taylor: It was a bittersweet weekend that obviously didn’t go the way we wanted. We had some sort of technical issue which took us out of the race, but it was a great last weekend with everybody. Obviously, the whole team was there. We always get a great group of Corvette fans for that race. And I’d say since the announcement came out, the most special part of everything was just the reaction from all the Corvette fans, and they are some of the most passionate fans, I’d say, in sports car racing, and they can be pretty ruthless if you’re not on their side.
So I was a little worried when the announcement came out that I was moving away, but their reaction has been so respectful and appreciative of all my time there. […] I’ve got lots of cards written from them over the weekend. Lots of nice messages on social media. So yeah, it was a tough decision to leave. But I’m excited about the future.
I think the new GTD class is super exciting. It’s a class that I feel like I really want to be in and see what it’s like; there’s going to be a new challenge. Returning to Wayne Taylor Racing now with Andretti is going to be super cool to kind of learn those new challenges, and yeah, I have a new teammate in Louis Deletraz who sat on the pole over the weekend with the No. 10 car. So he’s already up to speed. So, looking forward to getting to some testing later on this year.
Stumpf: You won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2015 [in the GTE-Pro Class]. You won the 24 Hours of Daytona three times, [with] three titles in IMSA. Is there any of those victories that stand out the most? […] And are there any other wins that you particularly enjoy that I did not list there?
Taylor: Yeah, I mean, Le Mans was obviously special, just with how iconic the race is. And that year with Corvette, our team car went out in practice and actually didn’t even get to race. So, it was the first year that Corvette ever entered this one car into the race. So it was just a super intense weekend where all the focus on both sides of the team were just on our one car. So for that win to kind of come through, [it] was insane the way it kind of all happened.
But to be honest, it feels so long ago now; it’s kind of a little bit of a blur and how stressful that weekend was. Looking back on pictures and videos are the best way for me to kind of remember all those memories, but I’d say the most special one was winning Daytona in 2017. It was me, my brother (Ricky Taylor), Max Angelelli and Jeff Gordon, and we had finished second at Daytona like four times leading into that one. So it just seemed like a race that we were never going to win, and it’s a race that you could try 100 times and never win it. So it was kind of feeling like it was going be one of those events that you can never kind of tick off the box, but everything kind of went our way.
It was a crazy race with rain and everything to night. It was Max’s last race before he retired, it was Jeff Gordon’s last race. So, all things kind of came together at once, and that’s probably the one that will kind of always be one of my most special ones. But then I’d say the last one would be Virginia [International Raceway] this year, [it] was the week after we announced that I was moving away from Corvette, and then we won [VIR]. So that one was kind of more of on an emotional level that it meant a lot just to kind of give back to the Corvette community with one last win.
Stumpf: You were a key part in the formation of Garage 56 and getting that success at Le Mans this year. How valuable was that experience, and how fun was it to drive that car on the pace laps at Charlotte [Motor Speedway ROVAL] last month?
Taylor: Yeah, definitely, that whole project was super cool. I mean, it’s kind of sad that it’s over. I mean, we all spent so much time together over the past, eight or nine months in testing. It seemed like we were testing every other week, whether it was in Daytona or Sebring or Circuit of the Americas or doing some sim tests in Charlotte. It was just a super cool project to be involved with, and seeing the Chevy side, the Hendrick side, the Goodyear side and everyone kind of coming together for this one super unique project.
So for it to have gone as well as did at Le Mans was super rewarding for everyone. It was a true testament to kind of how professional all those organizations are. And yeah, to be able to drive in front of an American crowd at Charlotte was super cool.
Obviously, it was definitely a fan favorite at Le Mans with the size of the car. The noise was just spectacular. So I don’t think there are a ton of American fans over there, especially not that many pure NASCAR fans, so to be able to show the NASCAR community firsthand at Charlotte was super cool. And for them to hear it, you know, it sounds way different to Cup cars, it’s got headlights and looks super aggressive with all the extra aero bits on it.
So I think they had a great response at the ROVAL for those two laps. But yeah, it’s kind of sad that that project has kind of come to an end. But I think looking into the future, that’s always going to be a super iconic car now moving forward.
Stumpf: You got to make your Cup debut in March at COTA when Chase Elliott was sidelined. What was that experience like driving the Cup car for the first time, and despite the somewhat chaotic ending, what did you take away from that race and apply it to the Xfinity races you ran with Kaulig Racing later in the season?
Taylor: Yeah, the Cup race was a crazy experience. Obviously, I was actually at the Garage 56 test at COTA when I got the call from Jeff [Gordon] and Chad [Knaus] and Mr. [Rick] Hendrick to fill in for Chase. So yeah, it was super intimidating. Obviously, you know, I had to say yes to that opportunity. But as soon as I said yes, I was like, “Holy cow. This is crazy that this is actually going to happen.” […]
Looking back, I wish I had some more time to kind of prep and get my head wrapped around everything. But yeah, the Hendrick guys were amazing, kind of prepping me and getting me as prepared as possible leading into the weekend where we were fast right away in practice. I think we were maybe in the top 10 In practice. And then qualifying went super well, we were fourth.
So. I think having a little bit of time in the Sim and talking with Chase [Elliott] before the weekend really got me up to speed quickly. And then yeah, the race definitely didn’t go to plan. I think I went into it with a way-too-cautious of an approach, kind of trying to protect the equipment and kind of understand how strong these cars were and how much you kind of beat and bang and get away with it.
So once I kind of got shuffled to the middle of the pack, that was probably the end of my day. It was just tough to move forward from there. So it was unfortunate the way it ended, but yeah, an amazing experience. Love being part of it, especially with all the Hendrick guys.
And that event kind of led to Chris Rice calling to kind of fill in in the No. 10 [Xfinity] car at Portland, which was going super well. We were running, I think, sixth when the gearbox broke in stage three. And then. the Charlotte ROVAL didn’t go quite as planned. But yeah, I think just the more stock car experience like that, the more I kind of enjoy it.
Stumpf: And then heading into heading into the Charlotte ROVAL, Kaulig did a teaser about how you wanted to race on an oval, and you got to race on half an oval. I imagined that’s something you probably would like to try and do in 2024 If you get the opportunity, right?
Taylor: Yeah, I’d love to try it. I mean, I did the late model race in North Wilkesboro, which was my first oval experience and had a blast doing that. I think that’s it’s not really comparable to what a bigger oval would be and a bigger stock car, but I love driving a late model. I’d love to do some more of that.
And yeah, if there was a need to kind of do some testing or feel what it’s like on a mile-and-a-half oval in a Xfinity car, it would be a blast to kind of get a feel for and understand. I think it’s a lot different than what was on TV, especially when I drove the late model. It was not at all what I expected, it was a big learning curve. […] But if there was ever an open test day or something like that in a bigger stock car, I’d love to give it a shot.
Stumpf: You made your NASCAR debut; you made your oval debut in late model racing. Are there any other forms of racing that you would love to try that would be on the bucket list in the future?
Taylor: I mean, I’ve always liked to look at the [Australian] V8 Supercars, kind of where Shane van Gisbergen comes from. That style of racing looks like a lot of fun. It reminds me kind of the NASCAR road course racing. So that’s kind of something I’ve always had my eye on. I tested one a few years ago, but yeah, I think right now the focus is obviously on my new class that I’m going to be racing in IMSA next year with GTD.
And yeah, hopefully, you’re going to keep adding in some more NASCAR one-off races throughout the year. So that’s kind of the main focus right now. I’m enjoying what I’m doing now in sports car racing, and especially adding in some NASCAR racing on the side is kind of always what I wanted to do. […] I’d like to keep that kind of trend going and keep adding through the years.
About the author
Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.
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