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Jordan Taylor is known for many things. He’s a driving coach to the stars—having helped introduce seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson to Le Mans during the Garage 56 assault by Hendrick Motorsports.
Taylor has also been a road-race ringer in the Cup Series, qualifying fourth at the Circuit of Americas in relief of Chase Elliott before getting pushed out of a Top-10 finish. Then there’s the alter ego known as Rodney Sandstorm, a super fan who hoodwinks other racing stars into giving him their autographs.
Above all, Taylor is a consistent and popular winner whose future continues to look bright at the age of 32. The pressure he applied to the faster Lexus RC F GT3 of race leader Ben Barnicoat in the final stages of the Michelin GT Challenge at Virginia International Raceway resulted in Corvette Racing’s second victory of the year in the WeatherTech Championship. After gaining a 5-second lead, Taylor then saved enough fuel in his Corvette C8.R to make it to the finish following his team’s undercut pit strategy.
— Corvette Racing (@CorvetteRacing) August 27, 2023
It was a command performance for the driver returning to his father Wayne Taylor’s team to drive an Acura ARX-06 in GTP next season. When his engineer at Corvette Racing gave him the fuel mileage number, Taylor was not sure how it was going to end. “It was just down to saving fuel and managing tires and managing the gap,” he said after losing just enough of his lead to the chasing Barnicoat to make it to the finish. “I was counting down the laps with about 25 to go,” he said. “I was very happy to see that checkered flag.”
There wasn’t enough fuel left for a burnout, but Taylor’s eyes were burning after his 33rd career victory.
“It’s definitely emotional,” he said in victory lane while standing alongside co-driver Antonio Garcia. “I almost just started crying right there when I was talking about it. It’s been an amazing run. This one is definitely for all the Corvette racing fans out there. Since the announcement came out (about his move to GTP), the outpouring of fans from the Corvette side has been the best part,” adding, “Deep in my heart, I’ll always be a Corvette guy.”
Barnicoat, who pitted one lap after Taylor, stalled his Lexus as the Corvette driver entered the front straight, and lost the lead after their final stops. Those two were the lone GTD Pro finishers at the top of the leader board. A collision between the Porsche 911 GT3.R of Pfaff Motorsports’ Klaus Bachler and the Mercedes AMG GT3 of WeatherTech Racing’s Jules Gounon took them both out of contention. An adjustment to the horsepower under BOP undercut The Heart of Racing’s Aston Vantage GT3 effort.
Vasser Sullivan and drivers Jack Hawksworth, who won the pole, retained their hefty lead of 144 points over Corvette Racing with two rounds remaining in Indianapolis and the Petit Le Mans. But one never knows when Jordan Taylor/Rodney Sandstorm might surprise folks and alter the equation.
GTD Pro: Madison Snow Races at Next Level
Is Madison Snow a bona fide silver-rated driver? He drove like a gold-level competitor at VIR to help bring co-driver Bryan Sellers and Paul Miller Racing their fifth victory of the season. Snow, who sat out one season after being rated a gold driver before returning with a silver status, started and ended the demanding race on the high-speed, bucolic 14-turn circuit in his team’s BMW M4 GT3.
On a track where BMWs finished in three of the top four class positions, the tandem of Snow and Sellers, the team’s gold-rated driver, made the difference, winning by 12 seconds over Turner Motorsports, whose Robby Foley set the fastest lap in his BMW. In qualifying, it was Snow who set the fastest lap in class and won the pole.
The victory puts the Miller team and its drivers 375 points out in front of the championship with two races remaining. Consistent finishes will clinch the driving and team titles.
“It was the second half of the year when we really took off,” said Snow of the Miller team’s in-house record of five victories, including the last two WeatherTech Championship events. Next year, Snow will surely return to gold status, but already has that covered with the Miller team’s expected move to the GTD Pro ranks.
MX-5 Cup Cars Show Off Martinsville Skills
There was a lot of online chatter about a bevy of MX-5 Cup cars of IMSA running a test session at the nearby Martinsville Speedway prior to the VIR weekend. But not even the usual standards of NASCAR’s stock cars for contact at the end of races on the half-mile at Martinsville could measure up to the final lap of the MX-5 Cup race on Sunday at VIR.
Going into the Turn 14 complex known as Roller Coaster, the lead pack of seven cars failed to make it through unscathed on the checkered flag lap. Michael Carter, in fifth, hit Aaron Jeansonne, who then sent the three leading MX-5s into the grass. Carter ended up crossing the line first, followed by defending series champion Jared Thomas and Jeansonne, who managed to recover.
— Mazda MX-5 Cup (@MazdaMX5Cup) August 27, 2023
Unable to get back to a podium finish were front runners Gresham Wagner, Connor Zilisch and Max Opalski. But this was IMSA road racing and not NASCAR. Carter received a post-race penalty, advancing Thomas to the winner’s position, followed by Jeansonne in second.
It remains to be seen if the MX-5 Cup will race as a preliminary event at Martinsville in the future. But IMSA President John Doonan as well as test drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Clay Campbell, the track president, gave a thumbs up to the open cockpit Mazdas with roll hoops reminiscent of NASCAR’s old convertible series.
The MX-5s have run as a preliminary race to NASCAR road racing events, but have yet to appear on an oval.