FOR JEFF TAYLOR, THE ROAD TO HIS 50TH DIVISION WIN WAS ANYTHING BUT SMOOTH
At the conclusion of the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Division 4 points meet in Nobile, Okla., Competition Eliminator driver Jeff Taylor admired his yellow 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt as it sat in the winner’s circle. He turned to his engine builder David Nickens and said, “You know that thing looks a whole lot better parked there in front of that sign than it did parked under those tires on Thursday.”
To say that it was an eventful week for Taylor would be an understatement of epic proportions. In Competition Eliminator, it seems there’s a story of struggle behind every success, and Taylor’s most recent win is no exception.
When the seasoned Sportsman competitor traveled to Oklahoma from his home in Sellersburg, Ind., he had yet to see, much less sit in, the car he would be driving. Nickens was bringing it from his shop in Texas with his brother, Robert, and nephew, Buddy.
“David (Nickens) and I have been trying to put this program together for over a year,” said Taylor. “We’ve had a lot of bad luck with stuff along the way. We finally got everything working well and did some testing. So we decided we’d give it a try.”
The Rooftec Comp Eliminator Bonus Fund, with prizes totaling over $225,000, was certainly a big motivator in making sure they had things working in time for the second Division 4 points meet at Thunder Valley Raceway Park.
The plan was to meet at the track a day early to do some testing. Mother Nature had other plans, and it was too cold to test. So the group called Brian “Lump” Self, who operates I-30 Dragway in Caddo Mills, Texas. He graciously invited them to test at the facility, and Taylor drove south to meet the Nickens family with his car. In his second testing pass, Taylor encountered some trouble.
“On the second run, we had a little bit of driver error. I ran it too far and couldn’t get stopped. Lump has some tires set up at the end of the track to help you stop. They sure helped me stop! The front end was severely damaged.”
After digging the car out from under the tires, the team put it on ProJacks and assessed the damage. Thankfully, the car itself was fine. With a “never say die” attitude, Taylor and his crew got to work.
“We started working on it to see what we could do with it, and after about four hours, we had a front end put back together. With pop rivets and aluminum tape and hose clamps and anything, we could get our hands on. We got it all back together around 7:30 on Thursday night and put it in the trailer and headed back to Nobile.”
With the Comp Eliminator Bonus Fund on the minds of every Comp Eliminator driver, Taylor knew that after missing the first Division 4 points meet, he needed to make a good showing to be in the hunt for the bonus money.
“That’s why we worked so hard to repair the front end in the first place,” said Taylor. “Because we knew we’d already missed Belle Rose, and if we missed another one, we were kind of dead in the water.”
The challenges didn’t end there. Before his first pass at Thunder Valley Raceway Park, they found a pinhole in the radiator that required epoxy and a diaper. Later in qualifying, there was a malfunction with the shifter, which turned out to be the transmission. On Saturday morning, they changed transmissions and ended up qualifying sixth.
“At that point, my confidence was starting to get a little bit better,” said Taylor. “I was starting to actually catch up with the car. I hadn’t driven anything that fast in 20 years.”
That was when things started to click. Taylor sailed through the first couple rounds of eliminations defeating John Clegg and Keith Hall without damaging his index, which was a blessing because he faced Comp standout Chase Williams in the third round. Williams was coming off of two bye-runs, so his index was also clean at this point in the day. Taylor was able to stay ahead of Williams, who shut off early, allowing Taylor’s index to remain intact.
In the semis, Jarrod Granier caught a red light to land Taylor in the finals against Dean Carter.
“The key to the race for us, in my opinion, is when Mike DePalma used up Dean Carter. Carter was late and had to go 65 under to beat DePalma. So thanks to him for giving us a little help there. I’m sure Carter could have gone a lot faster with his new combination, but obviously, he didn’t want to take any more personal index. We got down around 1000 feet, and I was out there pretty good. So he shut off, and I did as well. I came out of there without losing any index.”
In the winner’s circle, Taylor was able to take a moment to appreciate his 50th divisional win. It certainly didn’t come easy, but it was worth it. Taylor is quick to add that none of this would have been possible without Jim and Annie Whitely, who sponsor his Competition Eliminator setup, as well as his wife Patty, his biggest supporter.
The team will continue to chase the Comp Eliminator Bonus Fund throughout the year. Rodger Brogdon, the creator of the fund, is excited about how the year is going so far and looks forward to the rest of the season.
“We’re having a pretty good turnout,” said Brogdon. “We had a lot of cars in Nobile, which is a little unusual, and I think Houston is going to have even more.”
In addition to Brogdon’s company, RoofTec, here are the other sponsors of the Comp Eliminator Bonus Fund:
* Ashton and Mignon Hudson - AMBE AMPERSAND SOAP Co.
* Nicky Fowler - SCOGGIN DICKEY PARTS CENTER
* Jerry Haas - JERRY HAAS RACE CARS
* Richard Freeman - ELITE MOTORSPORTS LLC.
* John Clegg - CLEGG INDUSTRIES, Inc
* Stan Holt - LUPE TORTILLA’S
* Joe Napoleon - TURNKEY INDUSTRIES
* Jim Whiteley - J & A Services LLC.
* Clint Neff / Harry Clack - ATC TRANSMISSION CENTER
* Dean Carter - QUALITY FLOORS
* Sean Schwartz - CCR MOTORSPORTS INSURANCE
* Ray Skillman - RAY SKILLMAN AUTO GROUP