While that may be true, Taylor is a standard bearer - at least at Portsmouth Raceway Park. On May 27, Taylor became the first woman to win a feature race in the raceway's 16-year history, taking the modified division race. The only woman to race at the track this year, the win followed two disappointing races prior, including blowing an engine during hot laps on the first race of the year, and being spun out in the second.
“I still don't think it has sunk in yet,” said Taylor prior to Saturday's race. “I always pictured that if I ever won a race, I would be crying and I wouldn't be able to talk to any one, and it wasn't like that. I even drove slowly around the track after the race so that I wouldn't cry, but it didn't happen.”
What did happen, though, was a hug for her mother, a handshake and a prayer from a female fan, and the adoration of other drivers and fans alike. That's all the 32-year-old from Oak Hill has been looking for since she began racing seven years ago.
Brought into the sport by her boyfriend, Rick Hensley, Taylor began racing her own bomber car - cars with stock frames and bodies, but a few modifications to the engine - soon after. Two years later, Hensley built Taylor her first modified racer, then bought her one, with Taylor racing across southern Ohio. Both Taylor and Hensley race for the same team.
“Rick warned me that it was going to be a bit different racing modifieds than it was bombers,” said Taylor. “I was OK on the way down to Portsmouth, but as soon as he told me that, I got nervous and I couldn't push the gas because my leg was shaking so bad. Fortunately when I got on the track, it was a little better. I definitely like it a lot better than driving the bomber car, because it just drove smoother.”
Once moving up to the modified division, Taylor began to experience some success. Finishing eighth in the points last season, Taylor is currently in the top 10 this season, thanks to her win in the May 27 race and wins in qualifying heats. She doesn't plan on missing too many winner's circles the rest of the season, either.
In fact, the win has made her more determined to repeat the feat.
“Now that I am up there with some of the other drivers, I expect a lot more out of myself,” said Taylor. “I beat myself up and think ‘Why can't I get up there? Why can't I get up to the front?' Because on the night that I won, it just felt so easy. I didn't race hard like I had before, but I had raced harder in earlier races and finished further in the pack. The car was just awesome that night.”
And just because she is a woman doesn't mean that she will take it easy on her competitors - or wants it in return. Taylor's philosophy is to be competitive, and considers herself one of the guys on the race track, enjoying the opportunity to “rub paint” with her fellow racers, including Hensley.
“Most of the time, I don't get into an uproar with anybody,” she said. “If I get taken out and it is an accident, I get mad, not at the person but at the fact that I was taken out of the race. What I really look forward to is beating Rick. There are several guys down here that are really fast that I feel good whenever I am able to stay right behind, pass them or even beat them. However, I really like it when he is running good and I can outrun him, because he taught me everything about racing.”
Taylor had a chance to for a second feature win on Saturday, but ran into some early trouble on her way to the final race. Finishing sixth in the fourth heat on Saturday, Taylor had to qualify in the ‘B' main feature in order to move on to the ‘A' main. She did just that finishing second in the second ‘B' main race.
An ‘A' main feature win was not to be, though, as Taylor finished eighth, just two spots behind Hensley. She did, however, pick up the “Hard Charger” award in the race, given to the driver that made up the most spots. Taylor started at the back of the pack in 20th position, moving up twelve spots in 20 laps.
South Shore's Andy French won the modified feature, leading the entire race and holding off the charge of Doug Adkins, who finished second. Bud Frazier, Eddie Harmon and Tim Tribby rounded out the top five, respectively. French had to wait for his win, though, as a wreck on lap 19 brought out the red flag and held drivers at bay until the debris was cleared.
In the late model race, Paul Harris passed Aaron Bapst near the midway point and didn't look back on his way to the win. Bapst, Jackie Boggs, Nick Bocook and Josh McGuire would finish second through fifth, respectively.
JOSH HICKLE can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 241.