Saturday, December 7, 2013
OXFORD - He was the sentimental favorite, which got Jeff Taylor extra hugs and handshakes after Sunday's TD Bank 250. That wishful, feel-good emotion couldn't get him the victory.
"If I never win, maybe 20 years from now sitting in my rocking chair I'll think this is a big hole in my career. I don't think that now."
Taylor said that an hour or so before the start of the race that creates folk heroes in this sport. He didn't go back on his words after he finished second to Joey Polewarczyk Jr. of Hudson, N.H.
"I'm tickled with second. I really couldn't ask for much more even if I would have liked more."
He was in the press box at Oxford Plains Speedway for the postrace interviews. Polewarczyk and the third-place finisher, Austin Theriault of Fort Kent, sat next to him.
It was Polewarczyk's first TD Bank 250 victory in five tries.
Taylor first qualifed for the race 20 years ago. His business is building fast race cars for others. Usually he builds one for himself. He has won tour races; he has won the Oxford Plains Speedway track championship many times.
He has never won the TD Bank 250. His name is not listed with winners who include Dave Dion or Dick McCabe or Geoff Bodine or Mike and Ben Rowe or Kyle Busch, who won last year.
"It's been 17 years since the last (runner-up finish to this race)," said Taylor. "That's a long time. These guys were 4 or 5 years old."
Actually, Theriault was an infant.
Taylor is 45 years old, a Farmington native, and it seems he's been around Maine's stock car tracks and especially Oxford Plains Speedway forever. He isn't flash and dash. He's neither a joker nor an angry man. He doesn't rub opponents the wrong way on the race track.
He came from the rear of the first 15-lap qualifying heat to nearly beat Ricky Rolfe for the heat win, which would have put him on the pole for the start of the TD Bank 250.
"When you come through the gates for the 250 I've learned you gotta go. A good heat race can make your day. You can't wait. You can't hold anything back.
"With every other race, there's always next week. We run this race once a year. You gotta go."
Taylor was the race leader for much of last year's TD Bank 250. He took two new tires on his pit stop instead of four and later couldn't hold onto the lead. He finished sixth. It was a good race.
But he didn't win.
Sunday, he raced consistently in fourth or fifth place for most of the first 175 laps. He simply kept coming, slowly and doggedly. He slipped into third place. He took second place and with five laps to go, there were no lapped cars between him and Polewarczyk.
"Oh yeah, I had Joey covered," said Taylor with a laugh. No, his race car simply didn't have enough speed or handling to overtake the leader.
Taylor has been able to make only one other race this season. His reputation building race cars for others keeps him busy. Too busy.
"This is the toy business and people have to have their toys."
He's changed over the years, he says. As a kid, he dreamed of making it in the big time, which means NASCAR and its Sprint Cup or Nationwide series. Now he's just happy to load his race car on the hauler, and pick and choose which races he will run.
"I like talking to the younger drivers. I don't have children. I've got all these things I know and I like to pass them on if the right person wants to listen."
Some do. His customers simply have to ask. Truth be told, he'll share what he knows with anyone who comes to his race shop.
Jeff Taylor finished second in Sunday's big race. He didn't win.
"It's easy to say no, it doesn't matter, when in reality it does."
He'll be back next year.
Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at: