DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — After more than 23 1/2 hours of racing, Jordan Taylor figured he was in prime position for a victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Then his team made a major miscalculation.
Wayne Taylor Racing erred when it put Taylor back in the car at 12:17 p.m. Sunday. Between Taylor’s previous driving stint — 2 hours, 35 minutes — and the amount time left in the race (1 hour, 53 minutes), he would have exceeded series rules that prevent drivers from being behind the wheel for more than four hours over a six-hour span.
It was a costly mistake.
Instead of having a chance to pass leader and eventual champion Scott Dixon on a restart, the team had to swap drivers with 11 minutes to go in the twice-around-the-clock endurance race. Older brother Ricky Taylor replaced Jordan, and since the switch happened under caution and with pit road closed, it prompted a pass-through penalty that dropped the No. 10 Chevrolet way behind Dixon.
It also led to a third consecutive oh-so-close finish at Daytona.
“Having that last restart opportunity was like a golden ticket,” Jordan Taylor said. “And we haven’t had that the past three years.”
The Wayne Taylor Racing team finished third for its third straight podium finish, but still shy of the elusive top spot. The team finished second the previous two years.
“It was just a small miscalculation, an unfortunate one because we were right where we kind of wanted to be, second place on the restart,” Jordan Taylor said. “I think we had a stronger car on restarts on cold tires, so it was a perfect opportunity to make something happen.”
Making matters worse, the team was in position to win after overcoming a major mechanical issue. The car’s electrical system failed all weekend, and the engine was cutting out in the opening leg of the race.
But the same engineers who couldn’t fix it in practice or qualifying found a solution during the first pit stop.
“We were having all sorts of electrical issues, and I thought, ‘You know, we might not finish,'” Ricky Taylor said. “But the guys did an incredible job … and they finally nailed it on the first stop of the race and gave us an absolutely incredible car.
“It’s just a shame that after all that effort we weren’t able to produce a result for them.”
Jordan Taylor looked as if he would bring it home with about 20 minutes to go.
He was on new tires, and like so many times before in the previous 23 hours, he thought he would be able to get by one of the Chip Ganassi Racing cars.
Then he got the call over the radio — and it changed everything.
“Obviously, when you’re about to restart with 10 minutes to go, you’re not expecting to get out of the car,” Jordan Taylor said. “I figured I kind of had an idea about what it could have been. There’s no other reason for that to happen.”
Ganassi sympathized with the Taylors after winning his sixth Rolex 24 in 12 tries.
“They were right there,” Ganassi said. “They were doing everything it took to win. … It was unfortunate they had to make a driver change. Obviously, that team knows how to win races and they know how to win this race and they know how to win championships and they’re a good measure for any team in automobile racing.”
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