Tuesday, August 19, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Taylor tears up Topless

Leader sports editor

The biggest late model race in Arkansas saw a local driver shine last weekend at the Topless 100 at Batesville Motor Speedway. Stacy Taylor, who lives in Cabot, works in Jacksonville and has his garage in Austin, won the inside pole position in qualifying on Friday.

He then won his heat race and finished seventh out of 63 drivers from all over the south in the feature race on Sunday.

While he did have the fastest qualifying time, Taylor said getting inside pole position also requires a little luck.

“You draw numbers to see what order you qualify, then the heat winners draw numbers to see who gets the pole,” said Taylor. “To draw 1 twice is pretty fortunate.”

Track conditions begin to deteriorate after several qualifying laps, meaning the later drivers are at a disadvantage, but Taylor didn’t think that was a major part of it.

“You’re only going two laps in qualifying, so it probably takes half the field before you start seeing any effect on the drivers,” Taylor said. “We had a good car and we ran a good time.”

Taylor was one of only a handful of part-time drivers in the event that was dominated by full-time circuit drivers. The Topless 100 was only his fifth race this season, and he has only one more definite race on his schedule in Mississippi in October.

Taylor felt good about his team’s chances after qualifying, but the good luck turned bad during the race. He lost a left-rear shock absorber but wasn’t exactly sure when it happened, though he did offer a guess.

“Right when everybody started passing me,” Taylor joked. “No really, the car still ran pretty good. It got a little tight and more difficult to maneuver.”

In a race with several cautions, that tightness made things even more difficult for a limping car.

“The restarts were killing us,” Taylor said. “We were all just too bunched up and it was hard to maneuver and get around people. There just wasn’t enough space and the car got harder and harder to drive.”

After falling back as far as 11th, Taylor worked his way back up to third place a little more than halfway through the race before more cautions allowed more nimble cars to get around him in the final laps.

Jimmy Owns of Newport, Tenn. won the race with Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., taking second place. Drivers from North Carolina, Tennessee, Indiana and West Virginia were third through sixth with Taylor leading the pack of eight Arkansas drivers in the Comp Cam race.

Owens won $40,000 for his win while Taylor earned a $4,000 paycheck for his seventh-place finish.

“That’s pretty good for guys like us,” Taylor said of himself and his team. “Those full-time drivers have sponsors and all kinds of help. We part-time guys spend a lot of money and the ones that finished lower lost a lot for that race.

“We do it because it’s fun. We’ve got jobs and families and just don’t have the time. The week of a race we work every night on the car and we hit the track and just have fun.”