Drag Week Star Tom Bailey Plotting Return with New ’55 Chevy Nomad
As far as true outlaws in drag racing go, the machines of Hot Rod Magazine‘s Drag Week have to be up there. It’s all about pushing the definition of “street legal” as far as possible.
Tom Bailey was one of those racers determined to see how far a tag and insurance would blend into a Pro Mod. To some people, it was the coolest thing you could ever have on the road, to others it was sacrilege – a violation of the spirit of a street car.
Drag Week-style racing first caught Bailey’s attention for a number of reasons. The most important was how much use he could get from a car.
“You’ll hear someone say they have a drag car, and then it is sitting in a garage or barn, and they haven’t had time to race it,” Bailey begins. “The vehicle has no other use. With Drag Week builds, you can use it from time to time as a daily driver or take it to the track.
“The other thing is that with events like Drag Week or Midwest Drags or Rocky Mountain Race Week, you are able to visit more tracks in a week than most people do in a year. When my kids were younger, there’s all the sport practice and all the other events that come with it, you don’t get much time for yourself. So if you can take a week for yourself and dedicate that as your time to go racing, it gets you by for another year. That seems like a good alternative, as well as being able to drive it on the street, of course.”
For all of the Internet comments featuring personal opinions about what a street car is, the fact of the matter remains. Bailey has to complete around a thousand miles of street driving for each Drag Week. It drives on the streets, and it’s a car. Street car.
“When you take a vehicle that can do all that and drive it to the track, you race as hard as you can, and you drive to the next track,” Bailey says. “There’s no contingency plan; you don’t have a truck and trailer following you. If it breaks, you have to figure out how to get it home just like if your daily driver breaks.”
While Bailey had a fairly tame Camaro for Drag Week initially, he came to prominence when he built “Sick Seconds 1.0,” the copper-colored Camaro that took him to the 2013 Drag Week win. It was the first car to run sixes on every day of Drag Week.
Wanting to step up his performances even further, Bailey created “Sick Seconds 2.0.” This was a Pro Mod in virtually every aspect, with the exception of small street touches like side mirrors, lights and a horn – oh, and an extensive cooling system. This was the car that made the historic 5.99-second pass – the first five in Drag Week history.
While Sick Seconds 2.0 might strike many people as an outlaw-style car, it’s actually legal for Pro Mod. It’s heavier than most so it carries a few more cubes, and was once again designed so the car could see maximum use.
“At the events outside of Drag Week I go to, usually I enter Pro Mod to get the best track prep and the best opportunities to run,” Bailey says. “I did have the desire at one point in time to enter an NHRA race in legal Pro Mod trim, but since then I have been able to drive at NHRA events as an exhibition car, so that isn’t calling me so much anymore. Plus, the more I have learned about the boost limitations and how a Hemi-ported engine makes boost compared to a big-block Chevy style, it takes away a lot of the ability to be competitive.”
Sick Seconds 2.0 unfortunately copped some damage from a fire at the Gatornationals earlier this year; repairs have already begun to see it back in action later this year. In the meantime, there is a new project on the way that is set to be an outlaw in the true sense of the word – far more so than most so-called “outlaws” that still run under a tight set of rules. It’s a Chevy Nomad that has been purposely designed to break as many rules as possible, and to upset purists everywhere.
“I looked at things I have been able to witness or see or dream about over the years and came up with a concept that if somehow you had the knowledge of now, but were stuck in the ‘60s, what would you build? The idea behind it is about how many things can we do wrong and still make something work.”
So get this – it’s a classic Nomad (street legal of course), running a screw blower on top of an SMX from Steve Morris Engines, with a seven-speed (eight if you include the Gear Vendors overdrive), manually shifted Liberty transmission, on radial tires, and the option of three fuels (pump gas, methanol and nitromethane). Oh – and it’s a gasser! Well, it has a straight front axle and the stance – gasser diehards should perhaps avert their eyes.
“How much power can you put to it that it might not need? Then how do you take that times ten? The big gasser stance, nitro, zoomies and screw blower all contribute to something that is so radically wrong that it seems like it should just be there for a Cacklefest,” Bailey says. “If we can get it to halfway decent go down the track that would be amazing.”
Bailey visualizes a particular moment where he can create a drag strip impact unlike any other.
“I look at the grudge races and different stuff like that where everyone crowds the start line and think, how cool it would be to have everyone standing there and then clear them out with a nitromethane burnout? It is hard to get everyone to move to even get to the start line sometimes, so what if you had something that moved people for you?”
Bailey recently launched the build on his YouTube channel (just search Tom Bailey on YouTube) with an Oscar-worthy poker game featuring car builder Dennis Taylor. The pair raise their bets to create the extreme Nomad now being created. Bailey is one of a growing number of racers showcasing their builds via YouTube.
“There’s a lot of people interested in what we do, and by we I mean all racers,” he says. “YouTube is a way to let people into our workshops and maybe show everyone that behind the perfect pass is a whole lot of hours, and sometimes a whole lot of stuff going wrong before it goes right!”