Jeff Taylor has seen a lot in his drag racing career. But there is one thing he never saw happening on Saturday evening at the NHRA Division 4 event at Thunder Valley Motorsports Park outside of Oklahoma City, OK. This event also served as the first race of the $750,000 Rooftec Competition Eliminator Bonus Fund series. 

Taylor didn't see any way he would get past the first round of Sunday's eliminations, much less win the event. 

It's not as if Taylor isn't capable of winning, considering he has won 50 NHRA national event titles and countless divisional events. But on this weekend, Taylor believed he was as far away from being the iconic drag racer he's proven to be. 

Taylor rolled through the gates at the Noble, OK.-based dragstrip with a BB/Altered combination he was racing for the first time. He ended the event by stopping Rick Brown's truck in the final round. 

"If somebody would've told us yesterday [that we would end up winning], you guys can make it to the semifinals if you just want to load up, we'd loaded it up and left because we looked terrible," Taylor said with a smile. "But Me and David [Nickens] put our heads together and figured out that we needed to make some changes, we did, and it worked."

Taylor's 2024 combination is unlike any he's raced before in his storied career. His 2008 Dodge Stratus is powered by a 330-inch, LS-based engine equipped with a Magnuson supercharger. It's essentially a Factory Stock Showdown engine in a Pro Stock-style car. 

Taylor wasn't speedy in qualifying, landing in the No. 18 spot, but was efficient enough to knock off No. 4 qualifier Jarrod Granier in the opening round by running -.572 under, 7.327. He then took out Greg Kamplain's dragster in round two before stopping Arizona-based Joseph Mozeris. At this point Taylor has managed to beat three higher-qualified cars but none compared to his semi-final win. 

Taylor needed only -.546, 7.284, to take out No. 2 qualifier Taylor Chomiski, who fell off the pace with an 8.206, -.515 under the C/Super Modified standard. 



On the other side of the ladder, Brown, the No. 10 qualifier, had beaten Johnny Treadwell, Allen Wilson, Steve Basgall, and defending Rooftec Competition Eliminator Bonus Fund champion Chase Williams. 

In the final round, Brown grabbed .008 on the starting line but didn't have the performance (-.511) to hold off Taylor's 7.258, -.532.

Needless to say, Taylor's question mark headed into Sunday's eliminations straightened somewhat into an exclamation mark. 

"I'm pretty optimistic now," Taylor said. "I said yesterday, I don't know who hates this son of a b**** the worst, me or David. But we figured out what we were doing wrong and cleaned it up. And just started babying it a little bit and it came right around."

One race down and nine more to go, Taylor is sitting in the catbird seat as No. 1 in points. 

"Can we call it over right now and go ahead and give me the $250,000?" Taylor asked, smiling ear-to-ear. "It's going to get tougher. All year long it's going to be a dogfight. But to get a win first race, that's huge. That's huge."

Taylor understands the next monumental challenge he faces. In the three seasons of the Rooftec Competition Eliminator Bonus fund, no driver has won more than one event in the same season. 

"The competition's so stout," Taylor said. "I mean, everybody's here for their share of the $750,000. You got to have a lot of luck. It's got to go your way. We had luck and a decent car, so it worked."