Taylor Florio on a roll in 2019
By Phil Whipple
RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer. Photo by: Rachel Plant
COPPERAS COVE, Texas — Among the talent-filled fields in the ever-popular Sport Mod class in Texas, there is a young lady who stands above the competition in her own right. In a world filled with testosterone, manly grunts and dirty clothes, this girl jumps right in every week and goes racing.
For 20-year-old Taylor Florio, Saturday nights were meant for racing. Not fighting (like the song), not dating or even hanging out with her girlfriends. No sir, this young athlete loves to race – and she wins.
In 34 starts already this season (she races twice a week), Florio has four wins to her credit (one at Cotton Bowl and three at 281 Speedway) and has recorded an impressive 12 top-five finishes.
“This is my fourth year behind the wheel of a Sport Mod,” Florio said. “My father (Chris) and I race together, and we're finally getting the setup to what suits my driving style the best. We're also learning what we need to be working on each week to find more speed.”
Florio got her start at the age of 8 in Karts, the learning environment that produces so many of today's rising stars. With 12 years of experience under her belt, it should come as no surprise to learn she was the IMCA Southern Sport Mod Rookie-of-the-Year in 2015 and was the Texas State Champion in 2018.
“It's a very competitive class,” Florio explains. “With the rules package the way it is, there's a crossover from across almost the entire state of Texas. So when you race in a Sport Mod, you're going up against the best there is every week. When you go out to race, you really have to be on top of your game.”
You might think of 100 ways a 20-year-old girl could spend her weekends. Yet the dedication to her sport is what sets Florio apart from not only other female racers, but a large number of racers, period.
“There are some tough competitors out there every time we unload,” she said. “But I love to race and this is what I love doing every Friday and Saturday night. I can't think of anywhere else I'd want to be.”
It hasn't been all fame and glory in 2019 for the Florio racing squad. Yet they know better days are ahead. The speed and consistency will come together soon, and when it does – it's light's out.
“It's been a good season for us overall this year, but like most teams, we've had some bad luck and some good luck,” Florio explained as she reflected on her season to date. “I'm just going to keep my head down and stay focused every week, like I've done for 12 years. I've always raced for points.”
For Chris Florio, racing all over the deep south with his daughter is about as rewarding as it gets. While most father-daughter relationships are strained at best, theirs is an exception. On race days, they enjoy the time spent together working towards a common goal. Chris also owns Florio Racing Chassis.
“Taylor actually started out in Barrel Horse racing,” the father said of his young driver. “Her mother used to do that, and she got into it, as well. She would go with me to the big track on Friday and Saturday nights to watch me race, and eventually she asked for a Kart to drive.
“After a while, she had to make a choice. She chose the Kart, and we've been moving up in classes and competition ever since. Racing is all she thinks about. She can't get enough, and would race every night of the week if we could. In the last two years, she's really stepped it up and competes up front now. We're just so very proud of how well she does and how serious she takes the sport. I'm a proud father.”
Next year may be different than 2019, or most of the last decade for Florio and her racing program.
“I'm going to be applying for the Nursing program, so I may not be able to race as much in 2020,” she said. “That will be tough, but my career has to come first. I'll race whenever my schedule allows.”
Along with a ample amount of raw natural talent, Florio has a dedicated family working behind the scenes to keep her program moving forward.
“My mother and father, Chris and Traci, are a huge part of my team,” Florio explained. “They sacrifice for me so I can go after wins and points. I truly appreciate all they do for me every season. We have a couple of friends who help out a lot, Chad Kipp and Dustin Mooney. I sure appreciate them, as well.”
Along with a supportive family, it takes a handful of marketing partners to keep these cars on track.
“We blessed with a great group of partners who collectively make this race team so competitive,” Florio said. “I have to thank Phil's Motorsports, D&D Custom Cabinets, Fat Daddy's Designs, MidTex Paint & Body, CT Custom Transmissions and Swenson Racing Shocks. I appreciate each and every one.”
As the 2019 season really heats up, Florio has one goal in mind. She's a racer, through and through.
“I'm currently leading the Southern Sport Mod National points, but there's still three months of racing ahead of us,” she said. “Anything can happen, but we're just going to continue on, working hard each week to do our best. We'll see how it all plays out, and no matter what – we'll have given it our best.”