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TAYLOR: Daytona Debrief

Jordan Taylor files his first Sportscar365 column of year..

Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA

Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA

What a weekend. I joined Wayne Taylor Racing back in 2013, and from 2013 through 2016, we have had flawless runs at the Rolex 24.

We never went to the garage, we never went a lap down, but we always came up just short, with three second place finishes and a third. This year, it all came together.

We came into the weekend with a lot of unknowns.

We were coming into the toughest race of the year with a brand new car, the Cadillac DPi-V.R. However, Cadillac did come into event with the most testing out of any of the new platforms.

Our team in particular did 13 days of testing before hitting the track on race week.

The weekend started off well. We were in the top-five in all practice session and qualified fourth. We used qualifying as a test session, as we were still trying to get the car sorted for the race.

We had a lot of major storylines heading into this Rolex 24. Cadillac’s comeback to prototype racing, Max retiring after this event, and Jeff Gordon making his second attempt at this event.

Our team has a few superstitions, and we’ve started a tradition over the past few years to boost team moral prior to the green flag.

Two years ago, a team member would select a pump up song to blast over the speakers in the trailer. Last year, it was a scented candle in the engineering office.

This year, we have decided to go with the temporary tattoo. Each event, a certain member of the team will be selected to design a temporary tattoo that everyone on the team will have to wear during the race.

Since Jeff Gordon is only with us for this event, we obviously chose him, and boy did he deliver. He designed a beautiful tattoo, a Rolex Daytona with all of the driver’s faces in the face of the watch.

It was perfect. His line was, “This is just temporary. We’ll replace this tattoo when we win the real watch tomorrow.”

We knew we had a good car going into the event, it was just going to be a matter of staying out of trouble for the first 20 hours of the race and then go racing at the end.

This was my 10th Rolex 24 and 15th 24-hour event, and it was easily one of the toughest. The conditions were brutal for the entire race. Cold, wet, and unpredictable.

The race was difficult, but everything was going to plan. We got to sunrise and we were still in the battle. Everyone was doing a great job. The car was running flawlessly, the pit stops were perfect, and the drivers had kept it clean.

It was going to come down to a battle on track, and we had our best bullet in the gun, Ricky. We were second with about two hours to go. He made a great pass into the bus-stop and quickly pulled out an eight-second gap.
And the next thing we know a yellow comes out just as the second place car leaves the pits for its final stop.

It seemed like déjà vu, almost identical to our last four years. We were back to second with 40 minutes to go. I knew if Ricky got close enough, he was going to make it happen.

The team was all on the edge of their seats watching the screens. The pit box was packed with the team, friends, family, and all of our Konica Minolta and Cadillac guests. But it was completely silent.

As they exited the bus-stop with only a few laps to go, Ricky was about three-tenths back. Jeff looks over and says, “He’s closer than he’s ever been.” We all knew how much stronger we were under braking into Turn 1, so this was going to be the time, and knowing Ricky, it was going to happen.

As they went to the brakes, there was a car width left on the inside and Ricky made the move. The pit box went crazy! We’re now leading with just three laps to go.

It was stressful, but as the time ticked away, we were all slowly realizing that we almost had it.

The emotions from everyone started pouring out as Ricky came off of NASCAR Turn 4 and took the checkered flag. We finally did it!

There are so many people to thank for this amazing day. Our amazing guys from Wayne Taylor Racing for once again doing a perfect job in preparing this race car and executing perfectly for 24 hours.

Cadillac, Dallara, and ECR for building this amazing machine that ran flawlessly in its first event. My teammates for doing exactly what we needed. It was Jeff, Max, and my job to get this car in one piece to Ricky for that final stint.

And what can I say about my brother. Proving that he is the driver that we all knew he was. He made it happen when it mattered. And lastly, my Mom and Dad. My Dad does all the work to make this program work, and my Mom has to keep him sane.

We were just missing one guy at the podium, but he was there via Facetime, Adam Banet, our assistant to the engineer. The guy that wired this entire car, and did whatever magic he did to make this all work.

If there was going to be an electrical problem, he was going to be our guy to troubleshoot it. But. Adam had his first child, Thomas, born on Thursday morning and flew back to Indy.

Thanks to his incredible work leading up to this event, we didn’t have the slightest glitch.

We are finally leaving Daytona as the points leaders. Can’t wait to see what this Cadillac can do at Sebring in a few weeks.

Jordan Taylor (@jordan10taylor) is a multi-time IMSA champion, driving for Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

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