In an era of multi-million dollar sponsors and computer simulations, third-generation driver Taylor Stricklin is building his racing career the old-fashioned way: working a full-time job during the day and on race cars at night.
Stricklin – the grandson of Indianapolis 500 rookie and former NASCAR driver Donnie Allison and the son of former NASCAR driver Hut Stricklin – spends his days working at his father’s business and devotes his nights to his race cars.
This year, the younger Stricklin and a few friends have been hanging bodies on NASCAR K&N Series cars as a means to gain funding for his racing operation. His nights at the race shop end before 10 p.m., but during the season on a Friday they can last until 1 a.m.
“Sometimes it’s just me at the shop, and sometimes two or three different guys will stop by, ol’ farmers in the community,” Taylor Stricklin said. “It’s old-school racing.”
The 25-year-old Stricklin was nearly 19 when he started racing in Hickory Motor Speedway’s street stock division. He competed in that division for three years, but ran the full season only once. That year, he won six races and placed second in the standings.
When Stricklin decided to move up to late models, “Dad told me I had to go find all my own sponsors and build my own cars.”
“That’s where we’ve been at ever since. It’s really hard at this level,” said Stricklin, who still lives with his parents in Mount Ulla in Rowan County, because “that’s the only way I can afford to race.”
“You’re competing against guys who have full-time hired help,” he said. “We can still compete against those guys. It just takes a little bit of extra work and a little bit of extra time to figure it out.
“I feel like we’ve gotten a good handle on it over the past year to move forward, especially for this year, and try to really put ourselves in position to win some races.”
This year, Stricklin plans to race as much as possible in NASCAR’s Whelen All-American Series, and he hopes to find someone who wants to move up to NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series. He may begin his season at Caraway Speedway near Asheboro, but there’s a possibility he could race at Hickory.
“I kinda take it day by day and never really know for sure where I’m going to go racing or when I’m going until I’m loaded up on the truck and I’m headed there,” Stricklin said. “I like to venture around and try to get as much experience as I can at other tracks.”
Besides Hickory and Caraway, Stricklin has raced at Tri-County Motor Speedway in Caldwell County, Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C., and at Richmond International Raceway in the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown.
He hasn’t yet competed in Martinsville (Va.) Speedway’s major late model event, but he would like to make an appearance there this year as well as at Motor Mile Speedway near Radford, Va.
Stricklin picks his races according to the posted winnings.
“A set of tires for us is $600,” Stricklin explained. “If I go to a bigger race and finish in the top 10, I’ll pay for a set of tires. If I don’t finish where I need to finish, then I’ll have to pay back the people I borrowed from at a later date.”
Stricklin competed primarily on the UARA STARS late-model tour last year. Even though he likes the sanctioning body’s races, he said he would like to try and stick with NASCAR this year.
“All we can do is work hard, play the hand that’s dealt us and hope for the best, and hope we’re in the right place at the right time to get there,” Stricklin said.
Bill McAnally expands
Five-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion Bill McAnally Racing is expanding into the K&N Pro Series East with a multi-car effort in 2014.
The new program will feature rookie driver Nick Drake running a full schedule in the No. 15 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota. Second-year driver Cole Custer will enter nine K&N Pro races in the No. 00 Haas Automation entry.
Matt Goslant, who served as crew chief for Custer in his 2013 rookie season, will head BMR’s new K&N East program as its general manager.
Goslant also will serve as the crew chief on Custer’s car, while veteran crew chief Dave McCarty will call the shots on Drake’s entry.
The East operation’s cars will be housed at Ken Schrader Racing’s facility in Concord.