Jordan Taylor conceded with a smile, that it took a couple laps to get used to everything during his first ever laps in a NASCAR Cup Series car. But it took all of a few minutes into the session before the four-time IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship driver to quickly adapt and shine.
Taylor, who co-drives the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette fulltime in IMSA, technically is the single winningest driver at COTA this weekend with a pair of IMSA race wins and a runner-up showing in four previous sports car starts at the famed track. He is making his NASCAR debut driving the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet this weekend – filling in for injured driver Chase Elliott, who won the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race at COTA two years ago. “I was shocked we were fourth [fastest] right at the beginning because it was a much different animal than I expected right out of the gate,” Taylor said, acknowledging the natural transition to real life laps versus the simulator he had been practicing on. “I think I had this perceived expectation and maybe I expected more grip and downforce, but it was super easy to make mistakes. I did rely on the simulator a lot and I think that’s why I was up to speed so quickly so good for Hendrick and GM to know their simulators are doing the proper job to get us up to speed. I think that’s where that top five right out of the gate came from.” Taylor said he was grateful for the constant communication with Elliott regarding the car and said the spotters have been invaluable on track as well. “I think it’s going to be a much different animal when there’s 39 guys around me and I’ll just wait for that on race day,” Taylor said smiling. “I want to see where I kind of cycle out speed wise and set my place on the grid. Hopefully I’ll be around a good group of guys I can trust, and they don’t look at my yellow stripes too much and push me around.”
Taylor was in the top 10 in practice on Friday and qualified fourth on Saturday. He has a very real shot at this thing on Sunday.
Can HMS get back to victory lane on a road course?
They went 1-2 here in 2021 and entering last season, had combined to have won 9 of the last 11 road course races in general. Then came the new car last season.
They all said that this new car will greatly improve the road course racing because this car has an emphasis on left and right hand turns. It changes everything. So, did that change HMS’ dominance?
It absolutely did. They went 1-for-6 while Trackhouse won twice, RCR twice and JGR once.
Larson finished 29-15-3-35-1-35 on them last year. On those same tracks in 2021, he went 2-1-16-3-1-1.
Chase Elliott was 4-8-2-16-4-20 a year ago. The year prior, he was 1-2-1-4-2-12.
Elliott had won six of the last 11 road course races in general entering last season with the only four that he didn’t win being the February race in Daytona to where he led the most laps but was screwed for a caution being displayed for rain in which he was going to cruise to an easy victory. The other was a runner-up in Sonoma and Watkins Glen as well at Indianapolis to where he had a top two car that day before the last race chaos. Kyle Larson won 3 of the 7 road course races himself in 2021.
They went 1-2 in COTA, 1-2 in Sonoma, 1-2 in Watkins Glen and 3-4 in Indy for that 2021 season.
The Next Gen took away those advantages. Now, with a year of learning, plus a rules package update, do those changes help HMS get back to the front again?
Elliott isn’t here this weekend while Jordan Taylor fills in for him. Taylor was in the top 10 in practice on Friday and qualified fourth.
Larson struggled here last year but looks vastly better this time around. Bowman looked strong, but William Byron had no top 10’s at COTA and had no top fives on road courses a year ago in general.
The thing is, they’ve been dominant so far this season however too.
HMS went 1-2 in both stages in 2 of the last 3 weeks and taken home two wins as well. They’ve also combined to have led 506 of the last 839 laps (60%) run the last three weeks.