Georgia woman, truck champion set for PLM debut at Five Flags

(Photo: Special to the News Journal)

Taylor Jorgensen had to wing it.

She was at Five Flags Speedway’s awards banquet back in early January, and the Georgia driver was uncharacteristically unprepared.

Like all the other track champions. Jorgensen was expected to give an acceptance speech and hers was one many attentive ears wanted to hear after she took Five Flags Speedway by storm last year.

In her debut season in a full-bodied vehicle, the Legends car wunderkind won three Pro Truck features en route to her Pro Trucks track championship.

“I talked about how blessed I was for an incredible season,” Jorgensen said, “and how my plans for this year were still up in the air, but that I wanted to come back to Five Flags Speedway and continue to showcase my talents. It was a speech from the heart, and wasn’t written down.”

Taylor Jorgenson outside her No. 89 car. The 21-year-old Stockbridge, Georgia resident will make her debut in a Pro Late Model car Friday at Five Flags Speedway, after winning Pro Trucks points championship at the track last year.

(Photo: Special to the News Journal)

Little did she know that as she spoke her humble words that she had an audience of one in Bobby Reuse, the Alabama short-tracker who owns a Pro Late Model.

“He had no idea who I was that night and I didn’t know who he was,” Jorgensen said. “He said my speech touched him. He wrote his phone number on napkin and we went from there. It’s a cool story, just something so pure in the connection between the two of us.”

It will be more than a cool story Friday at Five Flags Speedway when Jorgensen makes her PLM debut against a stout field of Allen Turner Pro Late Models. It marks the series’ second 100-lap race of the season.

The Outlaw Stocks, Sportsmen and Pure Stocks all highlight Friday’s undercard, which will also include the track’s annual fireworks display ahead of the Fourth of July.

Up until this week, the message for Jorgensen has been patience. She has done little racing this season besides her old faithful, Legends car races at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

For a driver who had no qualms about driving aggressively if it meant wins, Jorgensen hates biding her time. That’s why she initially struggled with the layoff in the days, weeks, month’s leading up to Friday’s much-anticipated race.

Taylor Jorgenson outside her No. 89 car. The 21-year-old Stockbridge, Georgia resident will make her debut in a Pro Late Model car Friday at Five Flags Speedway, after winning Pro Trucks points championship at the track last year.

(Photo: Special to the News Journal)

“It’s definitely been frustrating so far, knowing I’m not entered in any late model races,” Jorgensen said. “Coming off the championship last year, I was hoping to step into late models and build up a lotta experience. That path wasn’t taking.

“It has been a lotta preparing mentally. You can’t rush through racing. Sometimes, it’s better to be prepared than enter and don’t perform well. Now, it’s finally here, I can focus toward it. Hopefully this race will lead to more Pro Late Model races.”

She’ll drive the Reuse blue-and-yellow No 89, the same PLM Pensacola’s Jeremy Pate drove for much of last season when he finished fourth overall in the final points standings.

Jorgensen has great respect and high praise for some of the names that are expected to enter Friday’s field. Drivers such as Casey Roderick, who won the PLM opener at the famed half-mile asphalt oval in March, along with Jeff Choquette and Ryan Paul.

But never one to be counted out, Jorgensen remains cautiously optimistic that she can shine in her PLM debut just as she did in her Pro Trucks debut last March when she won by overpowering the competition.

“I’d love to podium,” Jorgensen said, setting her own bar. “The goal always is to win the race, but I need to be realistic because there’s so much that goes into this experience. It’s the longest race I’ve ever run. Ultimately, I want to keep the car in one piece.”

But she’s ecstatic to race again at Pensacola’s high banks. It became the Jorgensen family’s home away from home last year, as the fans and community embraced another female driver making waves like local she-ro Johanna (Long) Robbins years before.

Taylor Jorgenson driving her No. 89 reace car. The 21-year-old Stockbridge, Georgia woman will make her debut in a Pro Late Model car Friday at Five Flags Speedway, after winning Pro Trucks points championship at the track last year.

(Photo: Special to the News Journal)

“It makes me a little nervous to know I have a buncha people who are excited to see me make my debut,” Jorgensen said. “But it’s awesome to have that support. I feel like I’ve never been more ready to be in the position I’m in. Being 21, I took a slower path than some of the kids coming up right now.

“I’m not nervous for the start at all. Last week in Montgomery, (crew chief Josh Hamner) said, ‘Are you sure this your first time in a Pro Late Model?’ I finally have a chance to prove myself in a series where names can be made.”

Want To Go?

What: Allen Turner Pro Late Model Series

Who: Pro Late Models, Outlaw Stock, Pure Stock, Sportsman

When: Friday, Qualifying at 7 p.m., racing starts at 8.

Where: Five Flags Speedway.

Tickets: Admission is $15 for adults; $12 for seniors, military and students; $5 for children ages 6 to 11; and free for kids 5-and-under.

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