Making of a Champion: Jordan Taylor
Tuesday, November 21, 2017

At just 26 years of age, Jordan Taylor already has accomplished an awful lot behind the wheel of sports cars. He won the final GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype championship co-driving with Max Angelelli in 2013. He won the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans with Corvette Racing, and he owns 19 career IMSA victories.

But to him, nothing compares – or likely ever will – to what he and his older brother, Ricky, accomplished in 2017 driving the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R for their father’s Wayne Taylor Racing team.

 “I won the championship in ’13, I won Le Mans in ’15, and I kind of understood how much more special it was to win the races with Ricky,” said Jordan. “It was a much different feeling, a much different emotion to win it with him and with my dad as my team owner than winning Le Mans with Corvette or winning the championship with Max.

“It had a much deeper meaning to be able to do it with Ricky. In ’15 and ’16, we were close every year. I wanted to do it more for Ricky than almost myself because I had a championship at that point, and I knew that was missing off his C.V., and I knew he deserved it. I was just hoping that at one point when we were teammates that we could do it together, and to finally check that one thing off the list.”

They checked more than that one thing – the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype title – off the list in 2017. They also won their first Rolex 24 At Daytona – alongside co-drivers Angelelli and NASCAR star Jeff Gordon – and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, completing the same sweep of Florida endurance races that their father did 21 years earlier.

“To come out and win those two races – which for our family are our two home races and the biggest ones that mean the most to us because my dad won them – those were obviously incredibly emotional as a family,” said Jordan, who lives in the Orlando area, as does his brother and parents. “We got halfway through the year, and we realized that we could win the championship together.”

At about the same time the championship began coming into focus, so too did the likelihood that Ricky would be leaving the team at year’s end to join the new Acura Team Penske program in 2018, which was confirmed shortly after the season. That added even more of a sense of urgency to win in 2017.

“To win the championship and all those races with Ricky, knowing that he was leaving the team, made it even more emotional,” Jordan said. “I’m just super-relieved. No matter what happens now that we’re separated, no one can take away the fact that we won a championship, we won Petit Le Mans (in 2015), we won Daytona, we won Sebring, and we won, I think, 12 races together. It’ll be the highlight of my career, no matter what, these couple years with Ricky.”

But again, Jordan’s career has had plenty of highlights. Both he and his brother started off on a similar path in go-karts, but diverged shortly after moving into race cars.

“I went to GT racing and Ricky went to Prototype racing, and I’d say my first year where I had some success was 2010 with Racers Edge (Motorsports) in the Mazda RX-8,” he recalls of his early GRAND-AM Rolex Series days. “We had, I think, two podiums, but our big thing was, we were always qualifying well. I was always showing speed. I think I qualified seven times that year and had three poles. The other four, I was on the front row, so I every time I was on the front row.”

Ironically, Jordan’s big break ended up coming out of one of the bleaker moments of the 2010 season.

“At the end of that year, I wasn’t doing the (season finale at) Utah with them, because we had an engine problem with the Mazda and we couldn’t get another engine,” he said. “That was my opening with GM. They had a seat open at Autohaus (Motorsports), and it was, I guess, kind of a tryout race.

“I was teamed with Johnny O’Connell that weekend, and we didn’t have a great result, but I had a good weekend on my own, showing good pace and everything. That one race in Utah sort of set my career off. Since then, I’ve been with GM, whether it be a Camaro, Corvette, a Corvette Daytona Prototype, or now the Cadillac.

“I think that’s been my turning point. Without that engine blowing up in the Mazda in Montreal, that super down moment, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be in a GM car in Utah. Funny things like that create opportunities and just being in the right place at the right time.”

He ended up driving the Autohaus Camaro in the 2011 and 2012 seasons, winning his first race alongside co-driver Bill Lester at VIRginia International Raceway in 2011 and coming up just short of the 2011 Rolex Series GT championship.

For the 2013 season, he made the move to prototypes and the family team, replacing Ricky – who joined the Spirit of Daytona team – as Max Angelelli’s teammate in the No. 10 Corvette Daytona Prototype. That season led to another one of those “turning points” for Jordan.

 “I think Kansas was a race that year that was a turning point in my own self-confidence,” he said. “I was holding Scott Pruett off for what seemed like an eternity. That was the time where I felt like I could actually compete with these guys and race with these guys. That race turned around our championship and we were able to win three straight at the end of the year to win the championship.

“It was obviously an amazing thing to do with my dad as a team owner and a family team, but it was sad to have Max leave the team the following year full time. But it was also a cool transition to have Ricky come back and have Max still involved in the endurance side.”

Another turning point came for Jordan in 2014, this time off the racetrack. On a lark, he decided to bring back the mullet hairstyle he wore as a child. And as silly as the “business up front, party out back” hairstyle may have been, it may have transformed his whole personality.

“I was really shy growing up, awkward and introverted,” he said. “I didn’t have many friends, so that’s why Ricky and I were so close growing up, just because we were the only ones we had. Even when we got into racing, it was just our family that we kind of talked to.

“I think the mullet was a big thing. I think that’s really what opened me up and opened up my personality to where, obviously, it was funny and a joke, but at the same time, it gave me a lot more self-confidence. I looked ridiculous, and I think it gave me a lot of confidence to not really care what people thought of me. Whatever I was doing, I was confident in, and I didn’t mind walking around looking like a weirdo.”

The mullet, coupled with an expanded presence in social media, has made Jordan one of the most popular drivers in the WeatherTech Championship. His mullet sadly met its demise at Watkins Glen in 2015, just two weeks after he won Le Mans. However, his antics on social media remain popular as he still enjoys cooking up wild, fictional stories about strangers he’s seated next to on airplanes, treadmill Olympics or adventures with his Goldendoodle, Fonzie.

“The social media side is just a way to express myself in a more fun way that people probably wouldn’t understand if they just saw me being interviewed during the race,” he said. “I try and have fun with it. I follow people on social media that I look up to or I’m interested in. I know what I enjoy seeing from their social media.

“I don’t enjoy seeing the standard race car picture or the standard picture of their helmet or in the gym. I try to stay away from the generic stuff, and I think people appreciate being able to relate to someone that, in other worlds, they’d only be able to see on TV.”

The next turning point figures to come next year. Jordan remains with Wayne Taylor Racing and now will share the No. 10 Cadillac DPi with Renger van der Zande. It’ll be different without Ricky as his co-driver, for sure, but this new challenge has him energized.

“I think 2018 is going to be, by far, the most competitive year in many recent years in sports car racing,” Jordan said. “We won the championship last year and we won all those races, but I think it’s a huge opportunity for us as Wayne Taylor Racing to prove ourselves as a racing team and as an organization.

“We were beating very strong teams and lineups last year. When all these teams that are more world-renowned, like Joest and Penske, get here, now’s our time to shine. If we’re able to beat these guys, like we were last year, we can really prove ourselves and prove that we belong here and we belong on the top step.”