The 1969 USAC Championship Car season stands as one of the most multifaceted season schedules in all of motorsports. A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, the Unser brothers, and many other open-wheel heroes had to be adept at turning left and right, driving on pavement and in the dirt. In one four-week stretch, teams battled in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, zipped around the 2.8-miles of paved road course at Continental Divide Raceway (Dan Gurney won that one), kicked up dirt around the 1-mile oval at Nazareth Speedway, and, finally, negotiated the odd dogleg at the paved Trenton Speedway.
In 1971, USAC Championship Car series was spun off into separate season points schedules. Today, after five decades of evolution, IndyCar contains traces of USAC’s on-pavement schedule—most notably the Indy 500—while the legacy dirt races belong to USAC’s current Silver Crown Series.
Silver Crown is now the series keeping the varied-surface flame burning. The season schedule flips from pavement to dirt to pavement like an Indiana backroad. Its driver roster is equally varied—a mix of full-timers, weekend warriors, and multiple women racers.
Taylor Ferns is the embodiment of that sundry spirit. She had a diehard motorsport upbringing that was genuinely eclectic, inside the car and out. We caught up with the 27-year-old Michigan native ahead of her busiest season yet, as she attempts to complete the entire Silver Crown schedule—remember, dirt and pavement—as well as the 500 Sprint Car tour. All this while she also pursues a law degree.
“I come from a motorsports family,” says Ferns. “My Uncles race late models and ARCA in Michigan in the early 1980s and ’90s.”
When Ferns was six years old, her family took her to check out quarter midget racing in Lansing.
“The first time I sat in a quarter midget, they had to pull me out,” she says. “Instant butterflies.”
Once she got her start in the tiny five-horsepower midgets, Ferns never looked back, racing “a little bit of everything under the sun.” By the age of 13, she was racing full-size midgets.
A year later she entered her first sprint car race. “Spartan Speedway was the only track that would let me race a 410 (cubic-inch) sprint car,” says Ferns.
She won there.
At 15 she tested her first Silver Crown car. The V-8 powered, open-wheel machine is basically a sprint car with a 10-inch-longer wheelbase. Strip the roll cage off and it looks wildly similar to the front-engine roadsters that Foyt and his cohort tossed around mile-long horse tracks back in the day.
Ferns was rolling, and even dabbled in some late-model and stock car divisions. Her goal was to eventually compete in a series like NASCAR.
Then, in 2015, at the suggestion of her father, Ferns decided to shift her focus from motorsports to education. Putting a pause on racing, she set to work on her academics and eventually earned a degree in finance and economics at Grand Valley State in Michigan. Taylor took to school with ease, and she followed up her undergrad work with a Masters in Business Administration at Detroit’s Wayne State University.
“I was infatuated with my business law class as an undergrad,” says Ferns. “As I did more research on it, I thought a law degree would be a good pairing with my business background, and even racing.”
Ferns started working for the Michigan-based Sam Bernstein Law Firm, whose ads frequently run on local network television. “I realized, then, that the legal field was definitely something I wanted to pursue.”
After a week she was promoted to operations, eventually climbing to Operations Director. “I learned a lot about the behind the scenes work and what goes into running a law firm.” Ferns enrolled in Wayne State’s Law School.
“It’s funny. When I stated college, I never had any intentions of pursuing additional degrees. Now I have a BBA, MBA, and a soon-to-be JD.”
Still, the driver’s seat beckoned.
“I didn’t feel like I was done yet.”
In 2019 she returned to the track in the same sprint car that she drove when she was 14. After a handful of races, Ferns went full-tilt in 2021, competing in Silver Crown and sprint cars. Those in the sport were stunned that she was battling with division leaders after taking off four years.
That same year, her father handed her the keys to the family race shop in Michigan. “He said ‘It’s your time to shine, kid. It’s all yours.’”
In one of her first big moves as team owner this past off-season, Ferns moved her shop from northern Detroit to central Indiana so that her Hoosier State crew could spend more time with her cars. Ferns splits her weeks in half, spending the weekdays in Michigan and the weekends down at the shop. “I typically run errands, mount and dismount tires, and pick up parts for the team, though I have completely disassembled and assembled cars.”
In 2022 she podiumed twice in the Silver Crown series. This year, the highest-finishing female in Silver Crown history expects to contend for wins during her most ambitious schedule yet. All the while, her bar exam looms at the end of the year. “I live by my calendar,” Ferns explains.
What might 2024 (and beyond) hold for the young law student/racing driver/business owner? “I would like to make some IndyCar starts, including the 500,” she says. “I would love to showcase my skills on a higher level. I’d also like to run a high-profile team or become director of a sanctioning body, because I have the capabilities, experience, and instincts.
“When I took that time off, and I wasn’t racing, I thought ‘Wow, I literally can’t live without motorsports in my life.’”
Thanks to her hard-earned skills behind the seat and the desk, on pavement and dirt, she’ll never have to.