By: Sandi Argo
When NASCAR™ crowned its new Champion on November 19th, tears flowed. Not just from the eyes of the first-time Champion, Martin Truex Jr, but from the eyes of his teammates. After a near “Cinderella” season that included an all time team high of 8 wins for Furniture Row Racing (including the Championship race at Homestead) plus 19 top 5 finishes, and 19 stage wins and several near wins, the FRR front tire changer Chris Taylor found the day to be bittersweet. After a tour in the Marines, Taylor played baseball for Elizabeth City State University, in North Carolina. As starting catcher, Taylor saw a lot of time on the field, yet he knew that pro baseball was not in his future. Taylor says “I had heard that NASCAR was looking for athletes and knew that I wasn’t going to be playing pro baseball so I sent out a few resumes.” Soon after, Ganassi Racing called Taylor in for a try out. “I guess they liked what they saw and signed me to a development deal”. The year was 2005, and the rest is NASCAR history. Taylor’s first race came with a win for Chase Miller and Cunningham Motorsports. When we sat with Taylor at Texas Motor Speedway™ November 5th, Taylor jokingly stated “I started off with a bang, it’d be great to finish with a bang”, which is exactly what he did.
From Ganassi to the team of Johnny Benson, where the team won the truck racing championship before the team went in different directions. Taylor found his way to the team of the 43 cup car and the 66 Xfinity car. An iconic car in the history of NASCAR™, the 43 was being driven at that time between Reed Sorenson and AJ Allmendinger. Eventually Taylor found himself looking for opportunities and found his way back to Ganassi, where he joined the team on the 1 car of Jamie McMurry. That year McMurry won the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard (both iconic races steeped with decades of tradition). When teased about the fact that where he goes, Championships follow, Taylor said “People call me lucky”, adding “I’m either lucky or I just happen to make the right moves”. After his second year at Ganassi, Taylor got the call from Joe Gibbs, an opportunity that he just couldn’t pass up. Pitting for popular drivers seems to come naturally for Taylor. Starting out with Joey Logano, in the 20 car until fan favorite Matt Kenseth took the wheel. In a twist of coincidence, the 2017 season has ended with the retirement of both Taylor and Kenseth. Only one of them because they wanted to, though. Kenseth found himself without a ride at the conclusion of the season. In 2016 Taylor moved to the crew of the 78 car. Though the team fought hard all of the 2016 season, a mechanical failure in the engine at Talladega prevented them from advancing in the playoffs, and from their first Championship. 2017 was a year of redemption for the team, and winning the Championship was the icing on the cake. Throughout the season the team suffered a number of terrible blows and personal tragedies. One blow hit Taylor close to home when he and rear tire changer Lee Cunningham were suspended for 3 weeks after an altercation with the crew chief of the 18 car. (Quoting Forrest Gump, in a promise I made to Taylor during this interview…”That’s all I have to say about that”…)
Taylor announced at the end of last season that his retirement would commence at the conclusion of the 2017 season. One of the more popular characters of NASCAR™, Taylor leaves with many memories of races (and Championships) won, but perhaps none as special as this, his last. Taylor will settle back into home life for good now, along with his wife of 8 years, Jennifer and their 2 boys. Taylor plans to pursue coaching track and spending time enjoying the things that he has missed out on over the years. Taylor says “I’m going to miss the excitement and being a part of this team but being able to go to watch my boys play their sports will more than make up for it”.
For a little fun, we asked Taylor a few “off the cuff” questions about the retirement plans… to make it a little more challenging, we also asked the same questions to Taylor’s wife, Jennifer. The results were pretty impressive that a couple that has spent so much time apart could keep so in tune with each other. Kudos to the Taylors for allowing fans to be a small part of their lives, and for keeping so grounded in all of the chaos that comes naturally within the entertainment arena. Although the track (and especially pit road) will seem a little less exciting without the ever smiling presence of Chris Taylor, knowing the dreams and “honey-do’s” of family is what matters to this hero-champ will bring a smile to those that know he is doing exactly what he loves to do. What else could one ask for?
Face to Face with Chris and Jennifer Taylor
Question 1: What are the top 3 “Honey-Do’s” you’ll be expected to tackle after retirement?
Chris: “Well, my wife has a chicken coop that she has been wanting me to paint and just improve overall. I’m sure that will be at the top of my list. Then, last year we bought a house that I have to finish painting the inside of. I have 2 walls half painted! And then I will probably be helping my wife move equipment that she will be using for her job”.
Jennifer’s answers: 1. Finish painting interior of house, 2. Help set up equipment at my shop. 3. Fix up chicken coop
Question 2: What are your plans for November 20th?
Chris: “I’ll be packing up the camper that I have been staying in, in North Carolina, and drive it back to Missouri”.
Jennifer’s answers: Pack and drive camper 800 miles from NC back home to Missouri.
Question 3: What are Jennifer’s plans for November 20th?
Chris: Oh man, thats tough! Probably just work. She is real busy.
Jennifer’s answers: Go to work, just another day!
Photos by Chris Taylor, (Retired) Front Tire Changer of the 78 Team
circa 2017 Championship Banquet