Michigan-based racer Alex “The Calypso Kid” Hays is no stranger to adrenaline and excitement. By day, the 27-year-old works as a registered nurse in an emergency department. Between delivering babies and performing life-saving CPR on the side of the road, he acts as a role model to other up-and-coming racers while he tears it up on the drag strip.
Hays’s father, Pat, is the man responsible for Hays’s love of racing and his mother, Robin, has been supportive every step of the way. Hays started racing dirt bikes and go karts when he was twelve years old, and looked up to famed Mustang racer Don Walsh, Jr. At the age of fifteen, he purchased a ’92 Ford Mustang that is still with him today and has since transformed into his fierce, feared Ultra Street entry.
In its current state and having received chassis updates from Skinny Kid Race Cars, Hays’s Mustang is powered by a 588 ci Uratchko Racing Engines big block topped with Slick Rick Racing Heads and a single billet Book Racing Engines carburetor, flanked by matching Marcella manifolds. A Turbo 400 transmission is bolted to a converter from Neal Chance, while the suspension setup consists of Team Z Motorsports components with Santhuff shocks.
Despite being in a class surrounded by boost and nitrous-gulping machines, Hays chooses to stick with a naturally aspirated big block setup. “I like the challenge of running an N/A car. I like to think about things and maximize everything to its potential,” he explained of why he enjoys the challenge of running all motor. “Anyone can build power with a boosted combination – you still have to work at it, of course – but the N/A stuff has to be perfect from the front to the back. You almost have to work twice as hard to be competitive with someone working half as hard.”
Working hard comes naturally to Hays, whose ethic is inspiring. On his own dime, he rose to the top of the Ultra Street ranks in just a few short years. In 2014, his first heads-up season, he was named Milan Dragway’s “Most Improved Driver” and finished third in points for their all-motor series. In 2015, Hays racked up more honors including two semifinal all-motor finishes at Milan. Running on radials for the first time, Hays scored the overall win in Ultra Street in August that same year while racing at Kilkare International Dragway’s Xtreme Outlaw Series. The following month, Hays took the number one qualifier spot with a 4.913 at 141.80 mph pass in a massive field of 51 Ultra 275 cars at the YellowBullet Nationals. “I was given the ‘phuck sticks make it happen award’ for having the fastest all-motor car on the property on radials,” he added. Next, while racing at Summit Motorsports Park’s Shakedown at the Summit, Hays topped the qualifying sheet once again. In addition to his multiple number one qualifiers, Hays has a quickly growing list of round wins at extremely prestigious events.
Hays also enjoys the distinction of having the quickest big block-powered naturally aspirated combination on radials in the country, and set both the elapsed time and mile per hour record for a naturally aspirated Ultra Street car at Cecil County Dragway when he ran a personal best of 4.77 at 146.05 mph at the 2016 YellowBullet Nationals.
The biggest challenge Hays has faced, though, hasn’t been on the track – it’s been around it. “I don’t think there’s enough respect for young racers. We need to be supportive and make them feel welcome, to show them that if they work hard, they can get where they want to be,” he noted. It’s a valuable lesson not just for racing, but for life in general, and Hays is committed to paying it forward as much as possible. “I like helping the community and want to be a positive example for kids, to give them goal to shoot for.” Hays knows he might not be the most approachable-looking guy out there, but in reality, he’s always happy to talk shop and share his knowledge with fellow racers, fans, and the next generation of record-setters like himself.