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Taylor Cook in the Cook Racing Team shop in Stanley, North Carolina.

When Taylor Cook isn’t at work, he goes racing. And when he isn’t racing, he goes to work – on race cars. On the days that Cook isn’t behind the wheel of a Dirt Modified, he’s working full-time in the electrical room in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series shop at Joe Gibbs Racing. He and his colleagues build the wiring harnesses for the cars, as well as maintain all electronic control unit (ECU) wiring and the cars’ digital dashes, along with working on any special projects that arise.

It’s a world far removed from the Saturday night short tracks, but Cook, 23, is clearly passionate about both.

“I’ve always wanted to have a job in racing,” he says. “It’s what I love doing, that’s what our family is [about]. That’s all we do is race.”

Like so many others, Cook comes from a long line of racers, starting with his grandfather, Harold. Cook’s uncle Terry is perhaps the best known racer of his family, starring on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for a number of years. His brother and Taylor’s dad, Jerry, currently serves as the car chief for the No. 14 driven by Clint Bowyer at Stewart-Haas Racing.

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Cook built his own wiring harness for his Spek Pro gauges, allowing him to remove them from the car.

When Taylor was 10 years old his family moved from Sylvania, Ohio, to the Charlotte area and he soon began competing in Go-karts. He eventually moved into the Dirt Modified ranks and is now in his seventh season in those vehicles, some of the most popular dirt race cars nationwide.

Cook and his family-run team have competed on the Southeast Dirt Modified Series for the past two seasons, primarily due to the race’s proximity to their North Carolina home, but also hit some of the biggest Modified shows in the country with the DIRTcar UMP sanction, the American Modified Racing Association and others.

“For the most part, we just bounce around and go to the races that we want to go to that pay well or tracks that we like, that kind of thing,” he says.

Cook is humble and polite, but clearly a fierce competitor on track, with wins coming often. The Cook Racing team shop at his parents’ house in Stanley, North Carolina, is filled with trophies and oversized checks.

“2017 has been our best year so far,” he says.

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Cook’s MSD ignition is mounted in the center of the car to take wait off the nose.

This season alone he’s won multiple races on the Southeast Dirt Modified Series, claimed victories at the Modified Mega at Tyler County Speedway in West Virginia and the DIRTcar Modified Nationals at Oakshade Speedway in Ohio, among others, and turned in some very respectable performances during the DIRTcar UMP Gatornationals at Volusia Speedway Park during February Speedweeks.

Yet despite the team’s success, which often includes just his mom, Lee, and girlfriend, Chelsea, on the road, Cook says most of their R&D is done at the track. They simply don’t have the resources to figure out much more than what can be accomplished on a calculator at the shop. There are some machines on hand, which the team can use to turn bushings and spacers and lighten components, but Cook says the greatest technological advancement for the Cook Racing Team in the last few years has been air conditioning to deal with the hot North Carolina summers.

“That was our biggest step in Cook Racing’s development in six years,” he jokes.

He admits the low-tech approach as compared to the unlimited resources of a Cup team can be frustrating at times, but he takes pride in his electrical work – in many ways a secret weapon.

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Taylor Cook’s Dirt Modified on scale pads in the Cook Racing Team shop.

“A lot of people in the short track world aren’t very familiar with electrical work, because short track cars generally are pretty simple,” Cook says. “But there are a lot of things that a lot of people do wrong and don’t even realize they’re doing wrong because they haven’t had the experience that I have at the Cup shop. So I take pride in my electrical work on my car and like to think it’s as nice as the Cup cars.”

His Dirt Modified includes some unique electrical features.

He runs aftermarket gauges from Spek which have built-in warning sensors for oil pressure and oil and water temperatures. While anyone can buy these aftermarket gauges, Cook explains he built his own wiring harness with one connector so he can take the entire panel out when he cleans the car. The setup also uses a minimal amount of wire, whereas many drivers will simply wad up the extra wire under the dash.

His car also features an MSD ignition mounted in the cockpit to the right of the drivers’ seat instead of on top of the pedals as is most common. Cook’s electrical and wiring knowledge allowed him to mount the components where he wanted them.

“Those coils are super heavy, they’re incredibly dense and we always struggle for nose weight in the Modifieds,” explains Cook about his custom electrical work. “So I tried to get all the ignition stuff as close to the center of the car as I could to try to get the weight off the nose.”

The Cook team also builds their own bodies and can do light chassis repair, but they get their chassis from Harris Auto Racing in Boone, Iowa, and engines from SPEC Racing Engines in Huntingburg, Indiana. The car also can utilize two different aero setups and has two noses, dependent upon whether or not rules allow for a spoiler.

Cook first got involved in the electrical room at Joe Gibbs Racing when his father, also a longtime racer and part of the NASCAR world, worked for the team. Taylor toured the facility as a teenager, looking for a place he might find a foothold as an intern. He gravitated towards the electrical room and is mostly self-taught. He’s been working there full-time now for three years.

He wouldn’t mind doing some engineering someday, but enjoys the hands-on approach he gets to be part of on the electrical side.

“Obviously they don’t let you have the keys to the castle the first day, but just [by] doing simple stuff and working your way up – being around it long enough you just kind of learn,” Cook explains. “A lot of the greats in racing started by sweeping the floor.”


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