Although he ran all the laps in his NASCAR Cup Series debut, Jordan Taylor was looking for something more from Circuit of the Americas.
“It was definitely wild,” Taylor said after finishing 24th. “I wouldn’t say I survived, I feel like I’m beat up pretty much. Every restart, you just get smashed front, rear, side, so it was pretty much just survival. I felt like guys knew that I would probably be a bit hesitant, so they would take advantage of us.
“Near the end, I got more aggressive. We made our way almost all the way back to the top 10, and then the last restart, I don’t know who went down the inside, but they were never going to make the corner and kind of used us to stop. I’d say disappointing day.
“I made a couple of big mistakes early on that probably put us back there, but the car was fast. I’ve got to thank all the UniFirst people and Hendrick Motorsports for giving me the opportunity. We had good pace; it was just we got shuffled back every restart. Tough day.”
Taylor experienced everything a Cup Series race can throw at a driver. The sports car ace, called upon to replace the injured Chase Elliott, qualified fourth in the No. 9 Chevrolet and showed competitive pace.
But it didn’t take long for Taylor to know he was thrown into the deep end. First, there were the radio issues the team battled from a race course 3.41 miles long, which started before the green flag flew.
“I couldn’t hear the pit box, so I think everything was relayed through the spotters,” Taylor said. “It was probably better to have less communication with too many people, so the spotters were amazing today. They kept me out of enough trouble as they could. I think it was pretty much impossible to keep me out of trouble, but they were amazing. They definitely helped me survive the day.”
Good track position gave Taylor the experience of running near the top of the leaderboard. The rest of the day was filled with other eventful incidents like how easy it is to lock up the tires, being pushed around, green flag pit stops, and multiple restarts,
“Just the level of aggression and respect on track,” said Taylor of what stood out. “Guys see openings, and they probably know they’re not going to make it on their own, and they use you. It’s just a different form of racing from what I’m used to.
“On the sports car side, you’ve got to be a little more gentle, and these cars are definitely robust, and they’ll use you up. Just an experience thing that I definitely wasn’t ready for, but it’s good to get it in my back pocket.”
Taylor went into the last overtime attempt lined up 13th but didn’t make it back around without again encountering an issue perhaps not of his own doing. With a long uphill front straightway, Turn 1 at Circuit of the Americas lends itself to trouble as drivers can fan out three and four wide as they push the issue going into a tight left-hander.
But having gone through so much in the course of 75 laps, Taylor learned a lot. And was struck by the type of competition NASCAR Cup Series racing provides.
“It’s brutal,” he said. “Guys fight for every inch, every position, and even if you’re a second faster than someone, they’re going to push you off just to go for a top 30 finish. So, it’s just a different style of racing. Something to learn and something to know if I ever come back.”