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Rich Taylor talks about his 4 years in the racing business.  And what a 4 years it was!

Rich Taylor has been involved in racing since an early age when his father was a NARC (Northern Auto Racing Club) racer.  His father soon got out of racing and got down to the business of providing for and raising a family.  Over the years Rich and his dad would see a few races here and there but that was about it.  Then in 1976 at the age of 18 Rich started going to a few races at West Capital Speedway in Sacramento.  Watching great racers on the track it didn’t take much to get the spirit going and Rich made a decision right there in the stands that he would get into racing!  All he needed was a car.


The first race car bought in 1977 from Mike Twine aka “Hash Brown”.

In early 1977 the first race car was purchased from a good friend by the name of Mike Twine, affectionately known as “Hash brown”.  Mike was a super-modified racer at the time.  The race car was an early “spring over the front” super-modified car.  “It wasn’t a bad old hot rod.  It ran pretty good” explains Rich.  He ran several of the shows that year missing only 4 or 5 due to work.  Rich finished in a respectable 5th place in the Championships that year.  Not a bad first year!

Rich and wife Sheila receiving the 5th place championship trophy in 1977
Trophy presentation in 1977

If you know Rich Taylor then you know he’s in the trucking business and just as passionate about it.  In 1978 that passion took over and he ended up working more than racing only making it to a few races that year.  This only fueled the desire to race the following year.

Fron left to right, John boy, Doug Hayes and Rich Taylor in front of the car they built that would win it all.

Then 1979 rolls around.  With a handful of good friends to support him like Larry Harper who was pit crewing at the time and Phil Hicks who owned Outlaw Performance decided to give it all they had and make 1979 a year to remember.  Money was made and saved to buy parts to build a car that would compete and win.  Bill Stamerjon who was known for building custom machines at the time signed on to help build Rich’s first  motor, “and away we went”.  Sponsors were far and few but one of the first was Alamo Radiator who supplied a bran new radiator for the car which was a big help.  Then Don Tognotti gave a thousand dollars of parts right off the shelf from his shop.   Jim Herbert of Herbert’s Speed Machine Shops donated 4 new tires and some racing wheels which was a huge help at the time.  Rich must have been doing something right at the time because people believed in what he was doing and were willing to help including his wife’s uncle at Marshals Excavating who gave $5000.  “We thought we hit the lottery”.

Racing a main event at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, Ca

So 1979 started with full term racing every Friday night at the Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, Saturday nights at West Capital Speedway in Sacramento and every anywhere else they could find a racetrack weather it be Placerville, Grass Valley, San Jose or Fremont Speedway.  Anytime they weren’t racing they were out tracking one down.

Racing just about full time now they decided to build a sprint car with Kenny Woodruff and John Boy from JB Enterprises.  John Boy was instrumental in finding the resources and sponsors to build the new Trostle sprint car.  This is when Doug Hayes came into the scene from Hayes Racing Engines. who was known as the Einstein of racing engines.  “We used to call them Arms back then” referring to the engines Doug would build.  Soon the crew would have a few spare high horsepower engines to go with the sprint car.  This car was only raced about 10 times but set a new track record at Cedro Wooley in Vancouver at the Dirt Cup and raced against the outlaws at West Capital in Sacramento, Santa Maria and out in Pheonix.  Rich and the crew ended up winning the Championship that year in both Chico and Sacramento with the super modified car.  Between these two tracks Rich ended up winning 13 features in a row and 21 features in total.

Here’s a quick racing story that shows how competitive things got on the track and how good sportsmanship prevailed in the sport.

During a race at the Silver Dollar Speedway under a green flag a racer named Tommy Herseth ran into Rich’s left rear tire and popped it.  This was back in the day when the Chico track didn’t have guard rails so you could dive right off the track and into the pits so Rich headed to the pits for a quick tire change.  Meanwhile the flagman was holding the race up until Rich could get back out there.  Just as soon as the tire was on and the jack was being let down here came Tommy Herseth over the edge of the track, engine wide open doing full speed and crashed into the front of Rich’s car taking out the front axle, radiator and everything else in the front effectively totaling the car.  Tempers flared and a fight was eminent but heeding the advise of everyone around him including George Pagent, Rich kept his cool.  If he hadn’t, things could have been different and he may have lost his points and we wouldn’t be talking about the champion we are today.  This happened on Friday night and Rich was set to run in the championship race the following night at West Capital.  There was a lot of work that would need to be done to make it happen so the car was loaded up on the trailer and taken back to his shop in Roseville.  The car had to be cut off at the firewall because the frame was so bent and a whole new section  was welded on including front arms, torsion bars and everything else that makes up the front end of a race car.  John boy, Phil Hicks and about 4 other guys were there that night.  All Key mastercrafters with one goal, to get that car ready for the championships in just a few hours.  By 9 am the front was welded on and by early afternoon the car was finished and loaded back onto the trailer and ready to race!  The car however wasn’t perfect like it was and Rich ended up taking 3rd place that night.  He was very happy with that.  It took another week of ironing out the kinks to get the car back to running at optimal performance.  Rich and Tommy were rivals after that which only added to the excitement of watching these great racers go at it on the track.

After having a great year with lots of wins, lots of laughs and a lot of work Rich was at Fremont Speedway running his sprint car with the outlaws when his good friend Mike Murphy wrecked his car beyond repair.  It was about this time that Sheila mentioned to Rich that it might be time to get back to the business of trucking and give up the racing.  She said, you’ve won all the championships now lets make some money so we can pay some bills!  Rich was having a great time but knew his wife was right so he offered his championship winning car to Mike Murphy.  He said “if you show up on my doorstep tomorrow morning with $30,000 cash I’ll sell you the car with the extra chassis and everything else except my spare engines.  He was sure Mike wouldn’t take him up on such a big price tag.  But Mike knew this car was built by the best in the business and he showed up that next morning with a shoe box full of cash.  As Rich puts it “That was the end of my racing career”.  Shortly after that Doug Hayes helped Rich sell the sprint car and the other modified car.  The money went to buy a new Kenworth truck and a lowboy.  Now Rich was making money and paying bills.

Although it was a 4 year span of time that Rich Taylor existed in racing it was really all about that great year of 1979 when he raced over 70 races, won a total of 21 main events and numerous other races.  Rich has a trophy wall that would rival any other racer with a lifetime of accomplishments.  Who know’s how many more championships this great racer would have won.  What he did, most would say, is what every racer would want to do and that’s to go out while he was on top.  Rich left the racing world a champion and never looked back.  He took that competitive edge and applied it to his trucking business, Taylor Heavy Hauling and made it one of the most successful trucking businesses in the country with over 100 trucks and trailers.  Rich Taylor went on to win the rest of the trophies life had to offer and is a champion business owner, husband and family man.

Rich & Sheila attending an NCARA awards ceremony and BBQ in 2019.

The NCARA is proud to have inducted Rich Taylor into the Hall of Fame in 2018.  Our members all agree that he displayed the kind of racing spirit that we all looked up to and is a great example of a champion in this industry.  From the members of the NCARA, Thank you Rich Taylor for being a big part of Northern California Racing History.