Taylor Atchison has taken giant strides in his year and a half in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series presented by GEICO.
That's a little play on words because at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds Atchison can't take anything except giant strides. But it also sums up the career arc of the 25-year-old resident of Corona, California.
Last season, as a rookie in the Pro Buggy class, Atchison finished third once, in the top five four times and in the top 10 in 13 of the 15 points races en route to a sixth-place finish in the standings. Then he went home for the winter, and when he returned he had the Pro Buggy and a Pro Lite truck that are both sponsored by Tonka Off-Road, BILSTEIN Shocks, Mickey Thompson Tires and others.
Atchison said the conversations with Tonka began in the fall at the SEMA show in Las Vegas, where he talked about playing with Tonka trucks as a child and then pointed out that he would be the only driver competing in both Pro Lite and Pro Buggy and sponsoring him would give Tonka a vehicle in every pro class.
“It's a dream come true,” Atchison said of the association. “I'm still playing with Tonka trucks. I'm just a couple of feet taller and they're a little bit more expensive. There's no better brand in my eyes.”
The association was a bit of a surprise, too, considering that last year was Atchison's “first year of racing anything. I’ve always just gone to the desert or gone to Glamis and just played around. My dad raced sprint cars back in the day so I’ve always been around racing, but never raced.
“It was a really good rookie year, a good year to start. I couldn’t have asked for a better year. I got on the podium one time last year and once you get a little feel of that you want more, no doubt about that.
“I feel like with doing both (Pro Buggy and Pro Lite) I'm trying to juggle two totally different driving styles. They’re just very, very different. Going from two gears (in the buggy) to having a clutch throws me off a little bit.”
It doesn't help, either, that the Pro Lite and Pro Buggy races are back-to-back on the schedule. Atchison said that gives him about five minutes to change his helmet and shift gears mentally.
“My goals for this year with the buggy are to get on the podium as much as I can,” he said. “I want at least top 5s every race, if not top 3s. For the Pro Lite, at least early on, it will be to make the A main. “
Atchison has accomplished that and is 17th in the Pro Lite point standings but still looking for his first top 10 as he prepares for the iON Cameras Golden State Off Road Nationals presented by LoanMart July 18-19 at Glen Helen Raceway in Devore, California.
In Pro Buggy he has two top 5s and eight top 10s in as many races and is tied for fourth in the standings, just 29 points behind leader Garrett George.
“Where we kind of lagged last year was the suspension on this Pro Buggy,” Atchison said. “We didn’t know anything about it. We didn’t change anything all year. It’s the one thing we really didn’t know anything about. So this year to come on with BILSTEIN and have them here, have factory support at the track, is huge. After every practice, every qualifying, every race they all come over and we talk about what we can make better. That’s a huge weight off our shoulders.”
It also gives Atchison more time to get comfortable in the Pro Lite entry.
“We were almost thinking Pro 2, but that was just too big a jump right now,” he said. “We were looking for a nice used truck; we didn’t want to build a new one, we weren’t ready for that. But me being 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, there’s no truck I would have been able to buy that I would have fit right into. It would have taken 10 grand plus of cutting and chopping to make me fit.
“This is (midwest racer) Keegan Kincaid’s truck and he’s my same height and weight so I fit right in. He was moving up to Pro 2 and sold us his truck with everything on it, all the suspension and all his little secrets and everything.
“We’re really excited; it’s a great truck, a really well-built truck. He just gave us everything, which is awesome.”
TAYLOR ATCHISON AT A GLANCE
Age: 25 (5 February 1990)
Lives in: Corona, California
Marital status: Single
Occupation: Quality Engineer, AMA Plastics Injection Molding
Car number: 30 Pro Lite; 30 Pro Buggy
Type of chassis: Kincaid Nissan Pro Lite; AlumiCraft Pro Buggy
Engine: Ford (Pro Lite); Redline Eco-Tech Chevrolet (Pro Buggy)
Crew Chief: Kevin Heart
Sponsors: Tonka Off-Road, BILSTEIN Shocks, Mickey Thompson Tires, iON Cameras, OMS Wheels, AMA Plastics
Years in racing: 2
Divisions raced: Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series Pro Buggy, Pro Lite
Series points standings: 6 Pro Buggy (2014)