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Ferns stands on the gas in her No. 55 sprint car at Anderson Speedway. - DAVID SINK PHOTO

Taylor Ferns

On a hot Midwestern July afternoon, a young driver stares intently ahead while preparing to qualify a USAC Silver Crown car at Indiana’s Winchester Speedway.

The driver appears oblivious to crew members and officials as they scurry about doing their work. The determination is clear. What could this driver be contemplating? Surely the sheer danger of competing at Winchester could put the fear of God into the bravest of drivers.

But not 26-year-old Taylor Ferns, who has proven her versatility over the years after having dabbled in a variety of racing disciples. She’s just as competitive and fearless as any of her competitors. She’s finally found her niche in racing, competing in USAC Silver Crown and 500 Sprint Car Tour pavement events.

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Ferns aboard her pavement sprint car earlier this season. – DAVID SINK PHOTO

On this evening, she spun early in the feature and raced from the tail of the field to finish third. It was her second USAC Silver Crown podium finish of the year — something no other female driver has accomplished.

Like many young drivers, Ferns aspired to compete in the NASCAR ranks. And for a while it looked like that could be a possibility. But she soon realized it takes a lot of money to climb that mountain. She ultimately decided on a future in law. She is attending law school and racing when time permits.

After a successful quarter-midget and micro sprint career that began at the age of 6, the Ferns family purchased a USAC Kenyon Midget prior to the 2008 season. Although Ferns was only 12, the Kenyon series provided her an opportunity to run on larger tracks.

Ferns didn’t disappoint in her first year in the series. She finished fifth in her first start and became the first female winner in the series when she topped the season finale to finish eighth in the standings.

Due to her age and the uncertainty of what she would be allowed to compete in, she explored a lot of different types of race cars over the next 5 years.

“At that time, I was kind of in an awkward faze as far as my age goes,” Ferns explained. “When I turned 13 my dad and I were flying out to California a lot because I was racing the Junior Ford Focus Midget division for Cory Kruseman. I was also running UMARA Focus midget events at Grundy County Speedway. That was an awkward year for me because of my age. Toward the end of that season Kokomo Speedway let me run a full-size midget in the Kokomo Klash. So I got to run a full-size midget that year.”

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Ferns pilots a midget during Indiana Midget Week in 2013. – DAVE NEARPASS PHOTO

When Spartan Speedway in Lansing, Mich., started a non-winged sprint car class in 2010, Ferns, who was 14, was among the first to sign up.

“In 2010, I went full time regional midget racing,” Ferns said. “I ran pavement midgets with UMARA and dirt midgets with POWRi. I also started running a sprint car at Spartan Speedway. We started running the pavement sprint car because of the trajectory of my career at that time. I just wanted to race forever at that time.

“I knew if I wanted to go to IndyCar or NASCAR, I would be racing pavement. Spartan was the only place I could race a full-size sprint car at 14. By the same token, I was still primarily a dirt racer, even though I bounced around between dirt and pavement a lot, up to that point.”

The Spartan experience proved invaluable. In addition, it brought national attention as Ferns became the youngest female driver to win a pavement sprint car feature at the age of 14.

“I won my first sprint car race in my first start,” Ferns said. “I won four races that year and another five the following year at Spartan. I basically won half of the features. It was either me or Tommy Fedewa that won. I was also the Spartan Speedway Rookie of the Year in 2010.”

Ferns also claimed the 2011 USAC D1 Midget championship.

The pavement success landed her a few stock car opportunities starting in 2012.

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