Drag Illustrated Issue 173, December 2021 - Page 28

Dirt From Banked Ovals to Beaver Springs

Graham Taylor , ARCA ’ s oldest Rookie of the Year , keeps racing career going strong at Beaver Springs Dragway By Van Abernethy

Decades before Graham Taylor became the oldest racer at Beaver Springs Dragway at 81 years of age , the Pennsylvania native was an accomplished oval track racer more than a halfcentury ago and once even made a serious run at NASCAR in the 1980s .

For Taylor , the allure of speed has always been pretty close to home ... within walking distance , in fact . “ Port Royal Speedway was located probably six blocks from my house !” he recalls .
Taylor made a name for himself racing in the Late Model division on dirt , even winning the championship in 1984 and 1985 , but after Port Royal discontinued the Late Model division , Graham transitioned his car to asphalt and began racing at other area facilities . “ In 1987 , I bought four Winston Cup cars , truck and trailer , pit equipment and eight motors in an effort to show my wife how to make a small fortune in racing by starting with a big fortune ... it gets small quick !” he laughs .
The whole racing thing didn ’ t sit well with Betty to begin with , and in fact , racing was one of the forbidden activities that Graham must never do . “ We ’ ve been married for 64 years and she told me early on that there were two things I was not allowed to do : Driving a truck and driving race cars ! I think I ’ ve proved her wrong , especially since I drove a truck for 18 years , in addition to driving race cars for 66 years and counting ,” he says .
As for his NASCAR stint , Taylor discovered that competing against 38 fully-funded teams was a tall order , so someone suggested he take his operation over to the ARCA series and continue gaining experience . “ I contacted ARCA and told them I was interested in running their series , so they told me to send in my entry fee for the first race and I could start at Daytona . I started the race in the 39th position and finished 14th on the
lead lap for my debut in ARCA ,” he remembers .
In 1989 , Taylor won Rookie of the Year at age 50 . “ I was the oldest racer to ever win Rookie of the Year in ARCA ,” he says . “ I beat out three other racers whose ages ranged from 19-21 , and finished fifth in points that year .”
After years of success on the ARCA circuit , Graham eventually became interested in drag racing while in his mid-50s , and ended up buying a 1972 Chevy Vega , thus beginning a new chapter of racing at Beaver Springs Dragway in 1995 .
After decades of banging doors in oval racing , Taylor had plenty of experience in the department of thrills and spills so to speak , and ideally “ spills ” aren ’ t supposed to happen very often in drag racing , although things did go awry one night when Taylor was experimenting with nitrous oxide and his Vega stood up violently , bent the wheelie bars and began to roll when the Vega got off in the grass . “ Ironically , this all happened on Friday
13th !” he vividly remembers .
Taylor was uninjured , but the car was totaled . Since he was in the points chase he needed a replacement race car quick , so he called fellow gearhead , Mike McCracken , and asked him if he ’ d be interested in selling his 1965 Nova SS . McCracken revealed that he was actually saving the car for his son , but realizing the predicament Taylor was in having crashed the Vega , he invited Taylor to his house the following day and told him that he would indeed sell the Nova to him , but Mike made it clear that if Graham ever sold the car , he wanted to buy it back . That ’ s been the arrangement ever since .
Amazingly , McCracken went on to buy the fabled Beaver Springs Dragway four years ago and promptly hired Taylor to perform all sorts of tasks , including tech , fuel and mowing the majority of the 66 acres . At 81 years of age , Mc- Cracken marvels at Taylor ’ s energy and work ethic . “ I don ’ t think I could get 10 kids to work as hard as Graham does !” McCracken laughs .
Graham ’ s wife , Betty , even warmed up to the whole racing scene and she runs the gate at Beaver Springs each and every time the track is open . “ I ’ d be lost without Graham and Betty ,” McCracken says .
All these years later , Graham Taylor still loves racing to the core . Among his favorite dragstrip memories is winning the Brian Boyle Memorial race at Beaver Springs in 2014 . Oh sure , he relishes his distinction as the oldest driver at Beaver Springs and looks forward to mixing it up with the younger generation every week . “ As long as I ’ m doing good and not endangering myself or anybody else , I ’ ll probably continue racing as long as I can ,” he smiles . DI
PHOTOGRAPHS BY VAN ABERNETHY
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