Featured Fan: Austin Taylor
Todd Taylor grew up hanging out at a friends family drag strip in Wentzville MO called Mid America Raceway but had never been to a National event until 1992. After that he was hooked. He never even imagined a car that could produce such extreme power and make it down the track in four seconds. He became a member of the NHRA and started going to National Events 2 to 4 times a year, every year since 1992. On May 5th, 2001 his son Austin was born. He couldn’t wait to take him to his first NHRA experience. In 2003 he took Austin to his first national event at Gateway International Raceway. He was only 2 years old. After the race, Austin started making his own drag strips with his Hot Wheels cars. Austin even started learning his colors from the colors on the sides of the funny cars and dragsters. The Taylor family attended four national events a year. Todd was a Union carpenter at the time and was making decent money, so hitting a few races a year wasn’t that hard to manage.
Early 2004 Austin was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, a life-shortening disease that causes the human body to produce too much sodium clogging the pours in the pancreas and lungs. Austin takes many medications and has to use a shaker vest to break up the mucus in his lungs. However, that did not stop them from going to local races. In 2007 i had to stop construction because of a spinal fracture in my lower back. In 2009 Todd had post spinal fusion surgery and was put on disability, so money became tighter and making it to the races became much harder. Austin would beg his father to go to the races, but Todd just couldn’t figure out a way to make it like they used to.
In 2011, Austin got a ‘wish’ granted by the Make A Wish Foundation. They sent them to Indy for the US Nationals. While they were there Todd learned that Gateway was opening back up under new ownership and that they were going to have a National event in 2012. “All throughout 2012 Austin would ask me if we were going to Gateway? I knew I had to figure something out so that we could enjoy a moment together at the racetrack. I got on the Gateway Motorsports Park Facebook Page and noticed they were holding a contest to win four tickets to the race, but had over looked the fact that someone had already won the contest. I hoped and prayed that another contest would surface, and sure enough, one did.”
It was a contest that required listing the first four time wins by each of the John Force Race Teams: John Force, Robert Hight, Mike Neff, and Courtney Force. The catch was that the winner also needed to recruit 50 people to ‘Like’ Gateway Motorsports Park on Facebook. Todd won the contest for his son Austin. “After I found out that I had won the contest, that Gateway Motorsports Park was going to award us with four tickets to the race, and that Austin would receive a AAA Insurance collectible die-cast car signed by the entire Force Team and presented by Robert Hight himself, I broke out in tears of joy and happiness for my son. When we got to the racetrack we were greeted by Mark in the marketing department and received parking passes, food vouchers and tickets for all three days. I immediately noticed the difference in the new track owner and staff who were ready to help anyone that needed it. Gateway made sure my family were taken care of entertained by the most amazing track conditions a race fan could ever dream of. We witness some of the fastest times ever in drag racing history,” said Taylor.
“Saturday morning when we got to the track Mark explained that Austin was going to receive his signed die-cast car in the Pit from Robert Hight. When we met Mark in the Pits he surprised us yet again by introducing us to the owner Curtis Francois himself. It was such a shock – I had to gulp a few times before i could talk. He completely made my family feel like they were at home. There was nothing fake about any of it. We got to hang out in the pit with Robert Hight and after Austin received his car we got to talk with Curtis Francis. He was such a down to earth person and was so nice to my family. He asked if there was anything that we did not like about the track and if there was anything we would like to see improved. After going to the races for the last twenty years this was by far the best, most friendly, down-to-earth race I have ever been to. My son actually cried when it was over because he didn’t want it to end. But my son and I know that the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals are returning in 2013. After seeing what a new Owner like Curtis Francois can do to a track in one year I can only dream of what its going to be like in 2013. Curtis Francois has brought a new meaning to Gateway – That the fans come first,” explained Taylor.
“We are thrilled to have fans like Todd and his son Austin. Their passion and love for the sport of drag racing is infectious and we look forward to seeing them again in 2013,” said Francois.