Jeff Gordon & Wayne Taylor Racing Win the 2017 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona

Jeff Gordon & Wayne Taylor Racing Win the 2017 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona

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Photo Credits: Brian Cleary

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THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by our Prototype and overall winners in the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona, co‑drivers of the No. 10 Konica Minolta DPi‑V.R, Ricky Taylor, Jordan Taylor, Max Angelelli and Jeff Gordon. This is the first ever Rolex 24 victory for Cadillac, first Rolex 24 victory for Jordan, Ricky and Jeff. This is the second Rolex 24 victory for Max, last time was 2005. This was also Max’s final race, which we will get into in a moment.

Jeff’s only previous Rolex 24 start came with the same team in 2007 and they finished third with Wayne, Max and Jan Magnussen as co‑drivers that day. It’s the 15th major U.S. sports car victory for Jordan and Ricky, eighth in the WeatherTech Championship, the other seven came in GRAND‑AM; 28th career U.S. sports car win for Max. The margin of victory was .671 seconds. As a note, the closest margin of victory in Rolex 24 history was .167 seconds in 2009, so not a record but obviously very, very close.

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Wayne, why don’t you take the first word if you could. There was a lot of talk about unfinished business throughout this entire run up to the Rolex 24. Looks like you’ve finished that business. Just tell us what this one means to you.

WAYNE TAYLOR: Yeah, first, I’ve got to thank everybody certainly for being here. You know, Cadillac, Max and I drove back in early 2000, part of our career, and the program ended shortly, but I always believed and wanted to come back with Cadillac and have this unfinished business, and I think today with Ricky, Jordan, Max and Jeff, they gave it to me.

You know, it’s just been such an honor to have Jeff on board. He came in 2007 with us, we finished third when I was still driving, and another special thing is that Max and I were teammates for so many years, and it’s not anything that I’ve ever hidden before today. He was always the worst teammate I’ve ever had.

But we won the 24‑hour together in 2005, and we won the championship together, and now he wins the 24‑hour with my kids, which is really, really special. I just have to thank my boys and Jeff and Max and Konica Minolta and Cadillac and my friends Mike Matay and everybody that has supported me over these years.

As I said to Jeff, in sports car racing, it’s not like NASCAR. We race for the love of the sport. We actually pay to race, and so we lose money every single year, and Jeff makes the money.

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JEFF GORDON: That’s why I raced for free.

WAYNE TAYLOR: I’ve got to tell you something, I got him for free. In fact, I made him pay for the paint on the car, so of course he sold it to his sponsor.

Anyway, I’ve got to tell you, I don’t know how anybody could top this. I really don’t. Thank you.

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THE MODERATOR: Jeff, let’s move over to you. You’ve won races here certainly at Daytona International Speedway. You’ve won the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup a few times in your career. How special is this one?

JEFF GORDON: Well, and you know, hearing Wayne talk about this experience and what this means to him, I don’t limit that to just here in this moment. I think about starting that out in 2007 when we spoke and I was able to be a part of the team then. I saw it then, and I followed it very closely ever since. I’ve become a big fan of this team by being a part of it, a big fan of the series, this race especially, and I was so thankful when I got that call from Wayne earlier this year or in 2016, and he asked me if I wanted to be a part of this, and then of course told me about the Cadillac program that they were working on.

I just couldn’t believe it. It was like a dream come true for me because I’ve always dreamt about driving a car, a beautiful, amazing car that could handle like this, that had the technology like this and could compete in a race like this.

This is very surreal to me, this whole experience and moment, to have this on my résumé, it’s a very elite group that’s won the Daytona 500 and the Rolex 24 together. That’s something I’m very, very proud of.

But I think more than anything is this experience for me of ‑‑ not to take anything away from 2007, Max, and I realize in 2007 what an amazing race car driver both of these guys are and how difficult this race is, but these two over here, you know, this experience to me was about building this bond and this friendship that I didn’t expect to happen because of the way they welcomed me in, and we had a lot of fun along the way. They answered all my questions because I had a lot of them, and they helped me adapt, and that’s what helped us as a group, I think, to go out there and win.

And then I was able to learn just how talented they are. I mean, I was so impressed over watching all night. I was glued to the TV every second, every lap. I couldn’t sleep because I wanted to watch these guys do what they did in the rain, in the cold, in the most treacherous conditions, and they did it at a level, that I’ll be honest, I’m not capable of doing, and I was so impressed.

Then you go to the last stint in this final race of a 24‑hour race and you see it come down to that, and it was a thrill of a lifetime, and I’m just so honored to be sitting here and be a part of this experience.

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THE MODERATOR: We’ll keep going with our questions. Jordan, why don’t we move over to you if we could. Obviously clearly a long time coming for the team, and you guys have been on the podium here quite frequently at the Rolex 24, but first time today you get to stand on the top of it. How does that make you feel?

JORDAN TAYLOR: Yeah, the past four years, and now five with this year, we’ve had flawless runs. We’ve never gone to the garage. We’ve never lost a lap. It’s always just been tires, fuel and driver, and thankfully we had another one of those days today. One of our guys wasn’t actually with us who was with us every one of those races, Adam Banet. He actually left Thursday morning because he had his first child Thursday morning, and he was watching the race on TV, and it was kind of scary for all of us because he’s the guy who wired the entire car. Any little glitch with anything, he was our guy.

So lots of people came together for us from other partners that Max can probably explain, but I know I was scared going into it with him not being here, knowing how much he does. He designed the entire wiring for the Cadillacs, all the Cadillacs, from our team. It was a big deal, and it’s kind of sad that he wasn’t here with us for this victory. But he was definitely a big part of it.

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THE MODERATOR: Max, let’s move over to you. As we talked about last race, go out on top. I would imagine that’s probably a pretty good feeling.

MAX ANGELELLI: Oh, it’s just wonderful. I’m just speechless. I could not believe it. What better than this? I’m very happy. Happy for what I did and what I’ve achieved with the boys and Jeff today, to finish my career with a win, a big win like this one in the Rolex 24, it’s great. You know, I’m thankful to the Taylors, the family. I don’t know how to say in English, but like Wayne said, I was the worst teammate; he really means this, right? It’s the same for the second saying. He really believes. So thanks, Wayne.

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THE MODERATOR: Ricky, let’s move over to you. Clearly the question on everybody’s mind is give us your thoughts on the way the race finished, obviously you’re very, very happy to get out the winner.

RICKY TAYLOR: Yeah, it’s unbelievable. I’m still shaking. But like all the other guys said, it’s so special to ‑‑ there’s so many different storylines. You’ve got Cadillac’s unfinished business from the LMP program which Max and my dad were both a part of the first go around, and then wrapping that up with ‑‑ starting off with a win here in Daytona, and then you’ve got Max’s last race, and we’ve been family for 20 years now, and he’s taught us everything we know.

We used to have classes with Max. He used to be the Professor X, and he’d come over to our house, and we’d have a pen and paper, and he’d teach us about downforce and he’d teach us about overtaking. Today was a good example of one of those lessons, I think. That was an Ax move. (Laughter.)

And then to finish ‑‑ I mean, it was an emotional day, regardless if we won the race, to have our last race with Max. But to win was really cool.

And obviously we’ve got Jeff, as well. I mean, to add to his amazing career is ‑‑ it’s a surreal experience. Just happy to be able to contribute to that.

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Q. Jeff, you’re a bit of a talent spotter. Do the Taylor brothers have the kind of talent you think that should extend beyond sports cars, and if so, where would you like to see them?

JEFF GORDON: All I’ve been thinking about the whole time I’ve been together with these guys is how do I get them in some ovals in a bigger, heavier car? But I mean, to me the way you recognize talent is to know what equipment that they’re in, so when you’re a teammate to them and you’re in the same equipment and you go out there in conditions that are very, very challenging and you know your own capabilities, and then you see them excel the way that they did, I’ve got to say, to me one of the highlight moments for me that I thought was a crucial moment for this race was when Jordan was on slicks and it started raining, and they stayed out. And when he was out there on slicks and it started getting really wet, just the fact to get that car back to pit road without wrecking, to get the wets I thought was an amazing moment. And then watching these guys just do what they did throughout the night in crazy conditions.

I had the experience of being in the wet, and I couldn’t see anything. It was a hard ‑‑ it was very hard to feel the car, let alone push it, and they were in much more difficult conditions than I was in, and they were overtaking, building gaps. It’s impressive.

So there’s no doubt that that transfers over to other series, other cars. I’ve built enough of a bond with this group that I would love to see them get whatever opportunities were available to them out there. I mean, they’ve got the personality as well as the talent, and that’s what you’re always looking for.

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Q. Ricky, before you guys came in, the No. 5 Action Express team was in here. Filipe Albuquerque recounted the incident, had a bit of an interesting take where he said he closed the door and got hit. Those things tend not to work. You usually get hit to open up the door. Can you just tell me how you saw that take place?

RICKY TAYLOR: Yeah. I don’t 100 percent understand ‑‑ I mean, closing the door and getting hit. I think that explains it. But I’ve obviously been working on it for a while and looking at where we were strong and where we weren’t strong, and it’s the 24 hours, so you’re going to ‑‑ I mean, everybody is going to take a risk.

The way I saw it, we came through GT traffic. I was closer than I had been. He’d been struggling in Turn 1. Their car didn’t look very good there, and we were really strong on the brakes, and so I have thought about doing this for years and years, and this has always been something ‑‑ people always open up after that little kink in Turn 1, they open their hands a little bit, and it’s just so easy to release the brake there and pop in there. If you get enough alongside, you can make it work, and I think he saw me coming, he saw me committing, and like he said, I guess, he closed the door. But I think Beaux always talked about shared responsibility, and if he knew I was committing, why would you close the door and make us crash?

But the way ‑‑ from my perspective, it’s Max’s last race. There’s a lot of emotions going on. I wanted to win terribly. We were either going to make a move and do something and win or sit there in second and wait for ‑‑ wait until next year, basically. I didn’t want to do that.

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Q. Wayne, if you could just speak about, you’ve mentioned and we know there’s like storylines with everybody on the team and with yourself, but you’ve come so close to winning this. Does it kind of make up a little bit to be able to do it having Jeff on the team and Max’s last race, having both your sons do it, having such an incredible finish to the race?

WAYNE TAYLOR: Yeah, it really does. It might sound a little ‑‑ I don’t think I’ve cried this much since I was a baby. But I have to say, you know, that you have to surround yourself with good people, and I remember in 2007 having the opportunity to have Jeff come on board with us, and Max and I were driving with Jan Magnussen and we finished third.

At that stage I never, ever thought I was going to come back here one day and have Jeff drive with my kids. But Jeff forgot to tell you something, which was in 2007, he said to me at the end of the race, he goes, when I retire, I’d like to come back. So I made the call, and the first thing he said to me, well, I need to check with my wife, and I said, okay. The next day he called me, and he goes, I’m all in here. I want this, I’m doing everything.

As I said to Jamie Little, who I met for the first time this weekend, we’ve had a short period of time now, six months, seven, eight months now, getting us all together and seeing the way Jeff has worked with my kids and Max has been something more special to me than anything I did in my racing career. To have a guy as humble and nice as him on board with us, the sad part for me is what happens after this? Is he going to go away and never talk to me again? He’s like a girlfriend; what am I going to do now?

Anyway, it’s been a special weekend, and of course Max, you know, we’ve been together for so long. I saw something that Jordan posted, and it was pictures of him and Ricky in Cadillac Racing suits when they looked like the two little geeks, and here they are today winning the race with Jeff Gordon and Max Angelelli at the 24‑hour. It’s great.

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Q. Jeff, here you are, you’ve come back, you’ve won this now. That’s another crown jewel in a long and wonderful career. Question is now that you feel the way you do, and you’re obviously happy about it, are you going to come back and defend this thing next year?

JEFF GORDON: I’m kind of like Max. I mean, I think retiring and going out on top is a pretty good thing.

In all seriousness, I love driving this car. I love working with this group. They have an amazing team, and they put a lot of hard work, sweat, blood, tears and preparation into getting here, and I felt pretty early on there was something special about it, and it’s great to see how it’s turned out, especially that great move that Ricky made at the end.

But you know, for me, every time I get laps in the car, I get more comfortable, and so I want to get more laps. Wayne will tell you ‑‑ the reason why I told Wayne at that time is when I retire, I didn’t mean I’m retiring from racing, it’s just I knew that the Cup car took so much of my time and that I wanted to give them ‑‑ I felt like in 2007 I just wasn’t able to fully commit, and this time I was able to, and it made a difference.

And Wayne, please back me up and tell the truth. It hurt my feelings a little bit at first, but he was so right that it made me work really hard. My driver changes in 2007 were really pathetic.

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WAYNE TAYLOR: And his helmet was even more pathetic, with flames.

JEFF GORDON: This time I came back with this awesome helmet with all the sponsors’ names and colors on it and carbon fiber, and I went to the shop and I pit practiced ‑‑ driver changed practices with these guys. I mean, I was so proud of my driver changes. Every driver change I had was like, YES! It went so good.

I was pathetic in the rain the last time. This time, it went pretty good.

You know, I felt more prepared, and it was a better experience than I even had in 2007, which was a good one. So who knows, maybe there’s the chance of one being even smoother and better. I’m a competitor. I want to be full pace, and I want to contribute and add and make sure that it’s something that helps this team win. I feel proud to be a part of it, but these are the real winners. I did my part, and I’m proud of that, but these guys, the job they did was amazing.

I will not be at Sebring. I can fully commit to that.

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Q. Now that you do this, now that you don’t have the Cup car obligations anymore, you’ve got Le Mans; is that something you could now consider?

JEFF GORDON: Well, see, this is where I got myself in trouble. I said, let’s see how this goes. Listen, I have a busy schedule, a lot going on with my FOX commitments and my commitments to Hendrick. I am going to stay in close contact with Wayne and Ricky and Jordan and Max and see what potential opportunities there may be out there. I’ve got a great relationship with Cadillac and GM. But I have no plans at this time.

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Q. Ricky, when you think about your journey in sports car racing, driving for your dad’s team when you started, going off for another year, kind of having a number of missed opportunities, how important was this week, just the fact you qualified, you started, you ran most of the night stint, you did the pass at the Bus Stop, which is going to get overlooked now because of the last lap, to actually get this win, what does this mean for your journey? Where does this one fit in your career?

RICKY TAYLOR: This is the top one for sure. There is nothing close. I mean, for me and Jordan, for Rahal and Andretti, I feel like we’re all kind of in the same boat. We just want to prove ourselves that we can do the job, and although I believe we are in the best equipment, I think we have to take advantage of it, and we’ve been so strong here for so many years, and to get the opportunity to finish was very scary.

You know, there was a lot of pressure, and I put a lot of pressure on myself with ‑‑ Jeff Gordon is on our team. There’s just so many things. I see how hard my dad works to raise the money, and we’ve got about a million Konica Minolta people here this weekend, Cadillac people, and there’s so much riding on this program, and to be a part of kind of validating what everybody does and making hopefully my dad’s life a little bit easier and in the meantime kind of proving what me and Jordan can hopefully do behind the wheel, that’s important, because one day, I know my dad already probably thinks he’s too old to do this, but I hope he can do it a little longer because we’re enjoying driving for him.

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Q. I have a question for Wayne and then I have a follow‑up. Wayne, we know that you’re a fairly intense guy, especially at the end of races.

WAYNE TAYLOR: Really?

Q. What can you tell us about what you were thinking when Ricky made the Ax move down in turn one?

WAYNE TAYLOR: You know, I was waiting for that to happen because there was no way I was going to leave this track today unless we won. Ricky’s move at the Bus Stop early on, I thought, okay, we’re going to be okay. And then somehow every time we come to this event and we’ve finished second so many times, it’s been because of something else that’s happened that we weren’t in control of, and what happened today was somebody crashed and the 5 got into the pit before us, and I thought, okay, here we go again.

And then it sort of played into our hand, and then there was another caution.

It’s funny, I was telling somebody outside that the weirdest thing is as a father, people always ask me what’s it like to have your kids racing because most mothers worry about the fear factor, which I never do, and the great part I am proud of is that when they’re in the car, I’m actually very relaxed because I do believe they know what they’re doing, and I had no question in my mind that Ricky was not going to come home second today. There was no way he was going to do it.

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Q. Jeff, in 2001 when Dale Earnhardt was driving the Corvette here, Senior, he raced in the rain for the first time, and he had Andy Pilgrim, his co‑driver in the pits was watching Speedvision and was on the radio with him and giving him some help with the lines and so forth. Did either Ricky or Jordan communicate to you or were you on your own?

JEFF GORDON: No, this is one of the classic moments of this 24‑hour race. So Jordan is in the rain, okay. If you didn’t hear this, this is unbelievable, and I don’t know what your lap time was. I would love to know. I’m going to go back and find out. So I’m talking to Brian Pillar, lead engineer, and he says, hey, plug into the radio. Jordan is going to describe to you what the conditions are like out there. Now, he’s in the car. I said, okay.

So I plug in, and I’m like, that sounds great. He pushed the talk button the entire lap and walked me through every braking zone, every turn‑in, the acceleration. He was like, okay, right here the back is going to break loose. Right here the visibility is a little challenging. Right here I’m braking at this point. It was unbelievable.

And I don’t think I heard a single thing he said because I was so amazed that he was doing this in these kinds of conditions that all I said afterwards was ‑‑ he couldn’t hear me because I was just talking to Brian. I said, well, that was impressive.

But in all honesty, it was impressive, and it was also very, very helpful.

But that’s the kind of relationship ‑‑ I mean, these two as brothers have an incredible relationship with one another, but that’s the kind of relationship this team has in how bad they want to win and how open they are with information to help the other teammate excel, and it helped me a lot.

Hold on, there was one more ‑‑ I love this part about this. He’s on the lap, and he comes up on some GT traffic. I don’t know if it was in the Bus Stop or whatever. He goes, hang on one second, whoa, whoa, whoa! I was like, you can stop talking to me right now. I really, I don’t want to be blamed for him describing what the conditions are like and him crashing and saying, well, yeah, he was talking to Jeff on the radio to get ready for the driver change.

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Q. Wayne, Jeff said a lot of good things about the race, compliments about your car, et cetera, et cetera, about the team. He also said that he’s busy with the FOX commitment. Nevertheless, I think you should talk him out of retirement to replace Max. Do you think that’s a realistic chance? Especially you don’t have to pay for him?

JEFF GORDON: This one was free, the next one I’m going to charge him.

WAYNE TAYLOR: I’ve got to tell you, this is fantastic, no doubt. I don’t want Max back in the car (laughter), because he only has these special weekends every now and again because I drove with him before, you know. But he’s just been ‑‑ he was a good teammate. We won championships together, but he was a bad teammate. I’d have Jeff in the car before him right now because he needs to do a lot of work and make this company do something.

Q. Jeff being part of your winning team, I was informed correctly the Cadillac engines are built by Childress company, who is a successful NASCAR team owner. With this important NASCAR connection, can we see your team one day move into NASCAR racing?

WAYNE TAYLOR: Truthfully, probably not. I can only do things that I know ‑‑ and I don’t know much, but I’ve driven sports cars my whole life, and it’s about all I know how to do and find money and keep these guys racing. NASCAR is just a whole different world, and I’m too old to be dealing with that.

I don’t know, to be honest, what I’d like. I think I’d like to have this kind of relationship, to continue with Jeff and Max and the boys and somehow keep it together. Sometimes I question myself, I’m like, is this a bad thing that I keep running my kids, because maybe nobody else wants to approach them, because quite honestly I’d like them to be awarded for their success and for their talent rather than dad is doing it.

The answer to that question is no, I will not go into NASCAR.

Q. A question for Jordan and then a question for Max: Jordan, what did you learn from Max, and Max, your parting thoughts about walking away from the track today?

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JORDAN TAYLOR: Well, I mean, we grew up around Max. I was seven, I think, when I met him and he was driving with my dad back then, and we just kind of grew up with him kind of as an uncle and then he kind of grew into a brother and we were doing pranks on people, but once we kind of started getting interested in driving, he got very serious with us on making sure we’re focused and learning not just the driving side but the technical side, as well. Like Ricky was saying, he bought like big sheets of paper and he would bring them to our house and draw rear wings and explain how the air works over the rear wing and how downforce works and suspension stuff. He taught us to not just focus on the driving side but work with an engineer, work with the team and extract as much as you can from a practice session, don’t just work on yourself, maximize the car. That’s what we did this weekend. Ricky did most of practice to maximize the car. Jeff, Max and I only drove the night practice, and Ricky was able to set up the car all through practice, get it as good as possible, and then we just had to work on our driving.

Max is very goal oriented, and the goal was to win, and thankfully he’s taught us well.

MAX ANGELELLI: Relief. I don’t have to race with Wayne’s team anymore. You have no idea the stress that you get doing this. I’m going to be happy, very happy.

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