Michigan native Tom Bailey secured his third career Drag Week Unlimited class and overall title Friday at the Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Georgia, sealing the deal with a 6.764-second, 214.62 mph lap at the final stop on the five-day festival of horsepower behind the wheel of his familiar Sick Seconds 1.0 1969 Chevrolet Camaro.
Bailey concluded Drag Week with a 6.85-second average at 202 mph — by no means his best performance at perhaps the sport’s most challenging of acceleration contests — but it was enough to edge out fellow Drag Week vets Bryant Goldstone and David Schroeder, the reigning event champion.
As is often the case at Drag Week where the demands on a machine like that of Bailey’s cross into the extreme, mechanical issues crept in by mid-week, leaving he and engine builder and co-pilot Steve Morris with a of case of deja vu — and lacking in the sleep department. Bailey has been forced to bow out of Drag Week the last two years: in 2016 it was a scalded cylinder sleeve and last year a broken rod and piston and damage to the crankshaft.
[Sick Seconds 1.0 has] always been reliable, so I said let’s just take that. It was kind of a last-minute deal … the car hasn’t been apart in four years, we changed the fluids and went to Drag Week.
During Wednesday’s competition at Concord, North Carolina’s zMax Dragway, Bailey hurt another piston, sending he and Morris into an all-night thrash in the pit area — more than 12 hours after his competitors had departed for Bristol Dragway — to procure parts locally and make the repairs. After completing the work that saw the engine down to virtually the short block at 4 a.m., he and Morris packed up and headed to Bristol, arriving at 9 a.m., bleary-eyed but focused on the task at hand.
“That kind of put us in a weird spot, because we had to wait for a guy to drive to get us a piston — we didn’t have any with us because it wasn’t something we expected to have to do. We started pulling it apart trying to sort out what was wrong and dissecting it. It still had compression on that cylinder, there wasn’t a hole in it, it was just a ring-land issue, so it would just blow oil. We had a guy from Michigan grab some stuff and start bringing it down, because we were thinking we would just run it on seven [cylinders] and drive it to Bristol and fix it first thing in the morning. But by the time we got through it, we had it so far apart that it just made more sense for him to come to Charlotte. He got there at 2 a.m. and we got the new piston in ad had it back together by four.”
Bailey made the decision about a week before departing for Atlanta and the Drag Week opener that he’d run Sick Seconds 1.0 and make a run at another overall crown.
“It hasn’t gotten much love lately — it just sits at home in my garage, other than when we take it out for the Woodward cruise or something. It’s always been reliable, so I said let’s just take that. It was kind of a last-minute deal … the car hasn’t been apart in four years, we changed the fluids and went to Drag Week,” Bailey shares.
This is the car we take to dinner, we do whatever. We drive it all over the place. That’s why I have no problem taking it on Drag Week … I put 1,000 miles on it a year driving around town, so the drive is nothing for that car, because it’s sorted out.
“Bryant [Goldstone] had some transmission issues and Schroeder was having trouble with his tune-up — I really thought 1.0 would be right in the heat of the pack there and I’d have to wick it up and run 6.40s or 50s to run with them, because they’re both capable of running that. When they had issues that kept them from being where they wanted to be, we settled in with the tune-up and never changed it, never made an adjustment or anything.”
Impressively, Bailey says the powerplant— a 615 cubic-inch big-block Chevrolet with twin 88mm Gen1 Precision turbos — hasn’t been out of the car for a freshen-up since 2015, amassing an estimated 3,000 miles of use cruising around his Lake Orion home.
“This is the car we take to dinner, we do whatever. We drive it all over the place. That’s why I have no problem taking it on Drag Week … I put 1,000 miles on it a year driving around town, so the drive is nothing for that car, because it’s sorted out.”