Driver Jeff Taylor’s crew works on the No. 88 car in the pits at Oxford Plains Speedway in Oxford on Saturday. Tony Blasi/Sun Journal

OXFORD — Mention Jeff Taylor’s name at Oxford Plains Speedway and you will see a smile appear first, followed by praise from those who know the veteran driver well.

They will say that the 52-year-old Farmington native does his homework when building a race car — and that he is equally focused behind the wheel in a race. Taylor’s solid reputation in the sport extends far beyond Maine, and Oxford Plains Speedway (OPS) is where just about everybody knows his name.

Taylor worked hard on the No. 88 car in preparation for Sunday’s Oxford 250, but it was not to be as he finished 10th in his heat and did not qualify for the big race.

Driver and car builder Jeff Taylor takes a break after practice runs at Oxford Plains Speedway in Oxford on Saturday. Tony Blasi/Sun Journal

But there were at least 20 cars tagged with the name, “Distance Racing Products,” who participated in Sunday’s Oxford 250. In a roundabout way, Taylor, the owner of DRP, is competing against his own product — and that’s OK with him.

“When you are racing them, they are just another car,” Taylor said. “The one thing it does is gives us as an individual 20 chances to win if we don’t win. In that respect, its is good.

“The downside is they all can’t win. Some will have a good chance, some will be in the middle, some ain’t going to make it.”

Taylor’s skills and expertise are invaluable, former driver Andy Johnson said.

“I have known Jeff Taylor for 15 or 20 years because I used to race, and now my son races,” Johnson, who was working to help his son Jake, said.  “I have always done what everything Jeff Taylor has told me. He keeps me out front. He is a good man.

“A lot of the people don’t like to give him the credit he is due . . . like I said, take the credit themselves, but everybody that’s got a Taylor car is because of Jeff Taylor. I will tell you what: If you treat him right and you are honest with him, he will be honest back with you — not that he wouldn’t be honest with you. … So I have an open door policy with him, and the guy is wonderful to me.”

When asked what he enjoys most — racing or designing and building cars that stand up in any race, Taylor needed to take a moment to consider his answer.

“Oh, that’s changed through the years because we have done it for so long,” Taylor said. “We have built so many. Even the guys that don’t have cars here, a lot of them we built cars for.

“I don’t know. Today’s answer would probably be building them more, I guess, because the racing for me has changed. Generally, there is a customer waiting with a question. My own personal racing, a lot has changed in my world, a lot of my crew and stuff, it is not what used to be.

“So the racing part isn’t what is was 20 years ago or 10 years ago, so it is a tough question to answer, but today’s answer would be building them more.”

Taylor’s business can put together a Pro Stock, Late Model or Modifieds with the speed of a race car barreling down a straightaway.

“A complete car — if all we had to do was that car — because there is only two us, we could probably do it in two to three weeks,” Taylor explained. “But we don’t do a lot of complete cars. We do a lot chassis. I build the chassis. It generally takes four days to build a chassis — everything minus the motor and transmission, we can have done in two weeks — if that’s all we had to do. But generally that’s not the way it works.”

Driver Ben Ashline works on his car during a break in practice runs at Oxford Plains Speedway in Oxford on Saturday. Tony Blasi/Sun Journal

Ben Ashline, who works with Taylor, is proud to work for Distance Racing Products in Fairfield. 

“He’s a race car driver. He’s my boss. One of my best friends,” Ashline said. “That’s all I got for you, I guess.

“We weld (car chassis) together. We both put them together. We work on the cars and make them the best we can, help out all the customers as much as we can. We take a lot pride in everything we do, and I feel like as far as getting stuff done in the shop and what not, and how we handle everything that way, we work well together.

“He’s a nine-time track champion. That says enough right there. As far as I am concerned, he is one of the best in the country, but that is my own opinion.”

Turner driver Ben Rowe also goes way back with Taylor and is a real big fan of his cars and respects him as a driver.

“I’ve known Jeff Taylor, man, when I started racing, I’d run all of his chassis for a long time,” Rowe said. “He’s a smart, smart guy. As far as a chassis builder on the Eastern seaboard, there is probably nobody better than Jeff Taylor around here.

“Oxford, Beech Ridge — he has probably got half the field that he built chassis for, and they are quick. Jeff does his homework and he gets you in and out of his shop and sends you on your way.”

Tom Nason of  TMR Racing has known Taylor for 30 years and also speaks highly of him.

“We raced against (Taylor) up here with Bob Bilodeau. I was with (Bilodeau) for 27 years,” Nason said. “Jeff and him always worked hand-in-hand. The first car Jeff built, the first year out, we won the championship up here.

“I like racing with Jeff because you know how he is going to race you and he races you clean. He is not going to spin you out. He is going to give you a break. And as far as cars, they speak for themselves. Jeff is a good guy.”

DAY AT THE RACES

Taylor is, as Ashline said, a nine-time OPS track champion, and he and his dedicated crew have enjoyed great success at the track for a number of years. But the 250 continues to elude him, and he is not alone. Many familiar drivers at the track have yet to cop a 250 win.

“We have won everything at this race track except the the 250,” Taylor said. “So we have been fortunate in that respect, but it is no different in professional sports.

“This race does that because it is an oddity. The guys don’t pit the cars like we do today or this weekend. You don’t go to a race for three or four days. You don’t buy 20 tires to go racing. It is not like your normal race. There is more to it. There is more ways to goof it up, I guess, in the end, and there are people who win this race, it is just their one off.

“I say it everyday at work: ‘Somebody wins the lottery every week. The guy that bought a ticket every time still loses and it don’t matter.’”

Rowe, who was striving to become the Oxford 250’s first four-time winner Sunday, respect’s Taylor’s driving skills.

“Well, he’s competitive,” Rowe said. “He treats everybody the same. He’s real smooth. You watch him around Oxford, he’s been here for years and he’s won more championships than anybody else. He makes it look easy. It is not that easy.”

Like Rowe, driver Bill Rogers is equally impressed with Taylor as a builder and the way Taylor handles himself behind the wheel.

“A very fair racer. As a builder, very good at what he does,” Rogers said. “Always gives us good cars, very reasonable price-wise.”

Just as he isn’t the driver he was 10 or 20 years ago, he also has evolved as a car builder.

“When we do have a customer win, that is equally fun (as his own car doing well),” Taylor said. “It is just a business sense that everything we are doing is in a good direction, because everything has changed in the game.

“This sport, you have to keep reinventing yourself. Last year, five years ago, isn’t necessarily what you have today. When you can stay on top of it for a long time, especially with a bunch of different people — like Curtis (Gerry) is one — a bunch of guys have won in our cars, so it makes you feel good that at least you were a piece of that.”


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