Taylor was an infant during his dad’s tenure as the driver of Dave Braskett’s Lone Eagle Top Fueler. Yes, he was truly born into the sport.
At 8 he was getting his paws dirty actually working on another of his dad’s rides, the Crawford & Head CA Independent Funny Car Assn. (CIFCA) ride, cleaning parts, etc. Later it was converted to an NHRA TA/FC. By 16 he was responsible for bottom-end maintenance on Dennis’ own TA/FC. That was the beginning of his learning how to “read” a race engine. Fuel systems ace Ralph Gorr also shared his considerable knowledge on that ride. With just a learner’s permit for a driver’s license, he occasionally drove the team’s support vehicles.
At 18 he was working at Bob Brooks’ fabled AFT race clutch emporium, building pedal and nitro clutches.
In 2006, Justin was in charge of the bottom end on Gary Messenger’s Future Flash nostalgia nitro F/C, which Bob Brooks tuned and dad Dennis drove.
Fast forward to Justin’s current racing endeavor, the War Horse Nostalgia Flopper. Tocco and Garten campaigned the original NHRA Division 7 winning Funny Car of that name from 1973-75 with Roger driving. They remained friends and never lost the urge to race. Several years ago they decided to faithfully recreate their original Mustang for Nostalgia Nitro Funny Car competition, with Roger again at the controls. Upon its completion in 2010, they chose Justin as crew chief.
He’s been instrumental in organizing the team personnel and streamlining operations. He also assists Roger in making the tuning decisions and then implements the call. It wasn’t until this year they had computer-generated information, and it’s still limited to driveshaft rpm, oil pressure and cylinder temperature. So tuning has been and continues to be very traditional: Roger provides “seat of the pants” input from the run, and he and Justin “read the tea leaves” of plugs and engine bearings, to come up with a tune for the next run. Justin still insists upon doing the bottom end because of all the information that can be gleaned from the engine’s heart. He’s an integral part of the organization, knowing every nut, bolt and fastener on War Horse, making sure Roger always has a safe ride.
The team got off to a very auspicious start. At Sacramento’s NHRA Heritage Series race, their third outing, the boys defeated multi-event winner John Hale and both of Steve Plueger’s cars, who at the time were THE heavy hitters, for the win. Since then they’ve been competitive at all races entered. At the recently contested Bakersfield March Meet, they qualified into the incredibly tough 16-car field that saw many big names missing the cut. Justin and War Horse will be very active this season, with plans to compete in 15 races.
In addition to his relationship with War Horse, Justin was responsible for bottom-end maintenance on Randy Goodwin & Keeter Ray’s TA/FC in 2012 and upon occasion Sean Bellemeur’s TA/FC.
His “day job” is with Taylor Motorsports Products, a complete source of safety equipment. His connection to the racing community, in addition to the safety business, provides him with unique insight into and ability to share knowledge with both worlds.
Justin would like to acknowledge his gratitude to Roger and Carlene Garten and Mike Tocco for the opportunity they’ve provided, and also his dad Dennis Taylor.
And a special “thank you” to his very patient wife Stacey.
Sly and the Family Stone Sang It Best, “It’s a Family Affair”
Danny Rowe and Steve Matusek, “brothers” in the Agave Underground Tequila-backed Pro Mod team, bumped heads during eliminations at the recently contested NHRA Gatornats. The pair met in the second round, with Rowe reigning victorious in a close contest, 5.85/ 250.33 to 5.904/246.26. Check out Agaveunderground.com to keep track of the duo.
The Ultimate Father’s Day Gift!
Tickets for the 12th annual Holley National Hot Rod Reunion presented by AAA Insurance are available. The festival of American automotive enthusiasm is on Father’s Day weekend, June 12-14, at Beech Bend Raceway Park, Bowling Green, Kentucky. It features a wide variety of activities, including Hot Heads Research & Racing quarter-mile nostalgia drag racing with famous historic cars and drivers racing in Nostalgia Top Fuel, Funny Car, Fuel Altereds, Blown Gassers, Super Stocks and Hot Rods. Fans can also experience the Cacklefest, a unique sensory overload of roaring, nitro-burning engines powering dozens of historic, front-engine dragsters and classic race cars push-started and fired up on the drag strip just like in the ’50s and ’60s. Also visit the Axalta Coating Systems show-n-shine featuring hundreds of classics, hot rods and muscle cars. The amusement and water parks make this an adventure for the entire family. The Reunion honors some of the top hot rodding pioneers. Grand marshal is Bonneville racer George Poteet. Joining him are honorees Gary Dyer, Don Grotheer, Ray Motes, Jack Ostrander and Jim Wangers. Fans can meet these legends at the Dynamat Dynamic Legends Lounge and Hospitality Center. Purchase tickets early to receive extra savings and a goody bag filled with an official event program and collectible hard card. AAA members, show your card and save. Purchase tickets by phone 800.884.NHRA (6472) or visit Museum.nhra.com or www.nhratix.com.
Paul Lee, owner of McLeod Racing, at the helm of Chuck Worsham’s F/C took out World Champ John Force in the first round of NHRA’s recently contested Vegas event. This marks the third time he’d done so and the first time Force has lost in the first round since Seattle of last year, at the hands of, yes fans, Paul Lee. Worsham’s first class crew including Cory Lee and Jimbo Ermolovich performed flawlessly throughout the race.
Drag racing artist and Fuel Coupe Magazine Publisher Kenny Youngblood was inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame recently. Don Garlits presented Kenny with the prestigious Founder’s Award in recognition of Youngblood’s artistic contributions to the sport.
Tall, angular, shaggy-haired James Drew was hard to miss in the photographers’ area and pits at races throughout the West. His photos graced the pages of numerous drag racing magazines and websites throughout the years. Sadly, James passed away shortly after this year’s March Meet. Our sport is the lesser for his passing.
Text and Photos by Justin Taylor