By the age of 16, Tayler Malsam had played football and baseball and found neither appealing.
He was ordered off the couch by his father, who figured Malsam should have some kind of activity to fill up his spare time.
"I kind of sat around and did nothing," Malsam, now 20, said. "My dad told me to find something to do."
Malsam chose racing and found out he enjoyed it, instantly. Maybe that was because he was good at it, too. Four years after sitting in a shifter kart for the first time, Malsam ranks seventh in the points and leads the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings in the Camping World Truck Series heading into Saturday's Toyota Tundra 200 at Nashville Superspeedway.
"My grandpa and uncle had a World of Outlaws team and my uncle still has a sprint car team," Malsam said. "I thought it (racing) might be something I would like. It came easy to me. I have a lot of fun. It's a rush of adrenaline."
Malsam, of Seattle, began driving for uncle Kevin Rudeen's team in 2007. It's a successful and well-established team in the Pacific Northwest whose drivers have included current Sprint Cup driver Kasey Kahne. It competes in a mix of World of Outlaws, West Coast and local events, and Malsam commutes across the country from North Carolina to run with it. He's scheduled for 23 events this season.
Malsam made the move into stock cars last season, finishing ninth in the ARCA RE/MAX Series. He also raced in two NASCAR truck events and signed a deal for the entire 2009 season with Bill Davis Racing. When Davis sold his multi-faceted operation and the new owners didn't continue the race team, Malsam needed to find a new home in a hurry. He signed with Randy Moss Motorsports in February, only a couple of weeks prior to the opening race of the season at Daytona.
"I was ready to quit and go back to sprint cars," Malsam said. "I was frustrated. It was a spur of the moment deal."
Mike Skinner had been with Davis and he decided to join Moss, too. The team switched to Toyota, which Skinner had driven for since 2004. The veteran, with 26 wins in the series, has become a mentor to Malsam.
"He's been a lot of help off the track and on the track," Malsam said.
Malsam's seventh-place finish last week at O'Reilly Raceway Park was his fifth top-ten in the last eight races and sixth of the season, and it came despite an unscheduled pit stop for a flat tire at midrace. Malsam's Toyota was a contender to win a week earlier at Kentucky before contact with Timothy Peters near the end cut a tire and he finished 13th.
"We can run better, but we're happy where we're at," Malsam said. "(Crew chief) Doug Wolcott and the team does a good job of putting good trucks underneath me. We want to finish in the top-five (in points) and we're only 65 out of it."
Malsam's career has moved quickly up the ladder, but he's not in a hurry to make another jump.
"I'll run trucks again next season," Malsam said. "I definitely want to be ready for Nationwide and Sprint Cup."
Ron Hornaday Jr. will be attempting to win his fifth straight race of the season at Nashville. The Kevin Harvick Inc. Chevrolet driver has a 174-point lead over Skinner.
by Tim Tuttle