DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Born into a racing family, it would be easy to conclude that Taylor Stricklin was destined to be competing at a race track.
With his dad, Hut, a former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver, and Donnie Allison, his granddad and legendary member of the Alabama Gang – driving a race car would only seem logical. But that wasn’t always the case with Taylor.
“I started racing go karts when I was little and I had a bad wreck and my mom said that was the end of it,” said Taylor. “So I took up another sport – basketball.”
Taylor stands 6-foot 7 and was successful at the sport and was content, until he couldn’t play any longer when he reached college and was diagnosed with a cyst on his anterior cruciate ligament. It was after surgery to remove the cyst that the racing bug bit him again.
“I was sitting in class and recovering from surgery and all I could think about was racing as I knew I wouldn’t be able to play competitive basketball again,” Taylor said. “So I went and talked to my dad about it.”
Hut told Taylor he would have to work on the car and pay his own way and he agreed. But one hurdle remained – convincing his mom, Pam, to let him get in a race car.
“I don’t know how dad did it, but I was able to start racing again,” Taylor added.
While working for his family’s salvage business, the 25-year old driver began racing in a Street Stock car and eventually moved up to Late Models.
After realizing he couldn’t afford to race full-time in a Late Model, Taylor and his dad decided to move to the Limited Division and that decision is paying dividends for the Rowan County, N.C. driver.
Stricklin sits 21st in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division II points standings and also leads the Hickory Motor Speedway standings by 22 points with four races remaining.
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division II-V Championship program determines support division national championships. The four national champions will receive a trophy and a trip to the series national awards event. In addition, the top-three dirt and top-three asphalt drivers in each division will be invited to the series awards event.
At season’s end, drivers in Divisions II-V will be ranked by their best 14 NASCAR points race results. The season concludes September 21.
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Championship Division II-V leaders this week include:
• Division II: 1. Jared Umbenhauer, Grandview Speedway, Bechtelsville, Pa.; 2. Jesse Dennis, I-80 Speedway, Greenwood, Neb., Adams County Speedway, Corning, Iowa; 3. Brett Kressley, Grandview; 4. Terry Humphrey Columbus (Ohio) Motor Speedway; 5. Dylan Smith, I-80, Junction Motor Speedway, McCool Junction, Neb.
• Division III: 1. Jon Plowman, I-80, Adams County; 2. Josh Galvin, Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl; 3. Randy Stoudt, Grandview; 4 Jerod Weston, I-80, Adams County; 5. John Ketron, Kingsport (Tenn.) Speedway, Lonesome Pine Raceway, Coeburn, Va.
• Division IV: 1. AJ Sanders Jr., Bowman Gray Stadium, Winston-Salem, N.C., and Caraway, Sophia, N.C.; 2. Corey Kyer, Columbus; 3. Jeremy Menninger, Columbus; 4. Jimmy McElfresh, Columbus; 5. Garrett Denton, Waterford, Thompson.
• Division V: 1. Donovan Beacham, Anderson (S.C.) Motor Speedway, Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway, 2. Brian King, Anderson, Greenville; 3. Jerry Jansen Jr., Kalamazoo (Mich.); 4. Brady Walsh, Salina (Kan.) Speedway; 5. Brian Kosiski, I-80.
The Limited Late Model division is affordable enough for Taylor to compete each week and having his mom and dad there has really been helpful.
“They are my biggest supporters and always willing to help,” Taylor said. “I also talk with my grandpa (Donnie Allison) who offers advice and insight on how I can get better and I always appreciate that.”
Coming from a family that has enjoyed so much success in NASCAR racing could bring a lot of expectations and pressure and Taylor feels that, but not from where you would expect it.
“I don’t feel really any pressure from my family because we have always tried our best and given everything we have to racing,” said Taylor. “I hear it from other competitors and people who just expect us to run up front because of my family name and what we have accomplished. Many people don’t realize that we don’t have the money a lot of other teams have and we just work hard as we can to be competitive. I feel we have done a pretty good job.”
Taylor has recorded two wins with 13 top fives and 14 top-10s in 15 starts at the .363-mile short track. While he is proud of his family’s accomplishments in the sport, winning a division title at the historic short track would also mean a lot to him and his family.
“When you look back and see who all has won titles at Hickory that is really saying something when you think of champions like Earnhardt and Gant,” Taylor said. “I remember going to the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony when my great uncle Bobby (Allison) got inducted and Kyle Petty was speaking on stage. He said that his family always tried not to beat yourself when they were on the track and that is what we are doing.”
While Taylor has his eye on the track title, he is watching the national Division II points as well.
“We want to finish strong these last four races and hopefully move up some more in the national standings,” he added. “We want to finish as high as we can at the end of the season.”
Under the NASCAR point structure in Divisions I-V, drivers receive two points for every car they finish ahead of in an event, up to 18 cars. Three bonus points will be awarded to a race winner with a single-digit starting position and five bonus points will be awarded to a race winner with a double-digit starting position.
Drivers must be NASCAR-licensed and cars will be verified for display of required series sponsor decals to be eligible for NASCAR points and awards.
Established in 1982, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is NASCAR’s national championship program for weekly short track auto racing. In all, 58 paved and dirt tracks throughout the United States and Canada participate.
Connecticut-based Whelen Engineering is the series’ title sponsor. Whelen Engineering is a leading manufacturer of automotive, aviation, industrial and emergency vehicle lighting. NASCAR tracks and pace cars across North America are among the many showcases for Whelen products.
NASCAR IMC PR – Sherri Stearns Photography