Car Features

Q&A: Alex Taylor Prepares for Hot Rod Drag Week 2017

Hot Rod Drag Week is just around the corner and everyone is working around the clock trying to finish up getting ready for the most challenging 5 days of the year. Drag Week is a competition where street legal cars run quarter-mile time trials at 4 different tracks over a five-day span. During the competition, drivers must make it to each track, unassisted by support vehicles and are required to drive on public roads between four different drag strips for a road trip of 1,000-plus miles. This is the ultimate test of a street/strip car, with trophies awarded in multiple classes for vehicles with various levels of modifications. The car with the lowest average elapsed time over the week of racing is named HOT ROD’s Fastest Street Car in America. 

One of the most talked about racers competing for her 5th year in a row is 20-year-old Alex Taylor. Alex competed in her first Drag Week at the age of 16-years-old, making her the youngest competitor ever in the history of Drag Week. This will be her 4th year competing in the small block power adder class with a few more upgrades from last year. Feeling prepared and ready, Street/Race Magazine caught up with Alex recently and had a chance to ask her about her passion for racing, her 8-second Badmaro, and this year’s Hot Rod Drag Week Competition. 

 We assume Hot Rod Drag Week is one of your favorite events. What made you decide to build a car for Drag Week and where does your passion for racing come from?

In 2008, My dad traded Denny Terzich for his car that was the 2007 Drag Week winner, which was the first car to run in the 7’s on Drag Week. I absolutely loved this car and when I heard about what Drag Week was (I was 11 at the time), I knew that I wanted to be a part of it one day. I just didn’t know that that day would be on my own with my mom and the age of 16.

I served as “crew chief” for my dad when he raced this car and I always wanted to be a part of it. When he sold it a few years later, it literally broke my heart.

When I was 14, I got my hardship driver’s license so I could drive myself to school and to school events. I was involved at the shop and I always wanted to be a part of everything. Knowing that I would be needing a car soon, my mom and dad offered to give me my mom’s Camaro (which is mine today) with the stipulations that I would help rebuild it and be 100% involved. We always had an agreement that if I kept straight A’s in school and got scholarships for college they would buy me a car. The car ended up coming first, but I kept up my end of the deal.

From day 1, I was involved in every part of it. It consumed all my time and still does. My daily driver street Camaro, snowballed however when my dad said, “Hey, you could do Drag Week in that”. So, all of my 15-year-old summer we worked every day to get the car ready for my first Drag Week. With that statement, the car snowballed, and since then it has really snowballed, and the rest, as they say, is history.

What was the original setup on the Camaro, and what changes have you made since then?

Where do I start??

The original set-up was an LS1 naturally aspirated motor with a small cam, small injectors, and a home-made throttle body. The car ran 11.70’s with this setup.

I loved it, and I was hooked after that so that December I went to the PRI show because we were trying to decide on what we wanted to do to speed the car up just a little (famous last words). Unexpectedly, while looking through the show, BorgWarner, TiAL, and AFR showed interest in me and what I was doing. So, we ended up building a new 6.0L LS motor with twin turbos and brought it out the next year. I ran low 10’s and got into the 9’s with it the next year.

I continued running that motor for the next 2 years. Countless modifications were made over that time. For suspension, we upgraded to new leaf springs and switched to PRS double-adjustable rear shocks. Previously we still had hydraulic roller valvetrain, but after talking to Crower at a race, we ended up working with them and switched to solid roller valvetrain and upgraded the springs. We swapped the original 66mm turbos for 69mm turbos. We switched to a D3 Jake’s transbrake and a ProTorque converter. After all of this, I finally broke into the 8’s with the car and eventually ran an 8.58 on my last Drag Week.

This year, we basically started over. We just recently finished my new LSX motor for my 67 Nova that we are getting ready to start on. But, since that’s some ways off, we decided to put it in the Camaro until were ready for it. We didn’t change anything else, not even the turbos, and it still only has an 8.50 cage, but my other motor was getting tiered after hundreds of passes and thousands of street miles. I bought a tall deck LSX block and sent it to KPE Racing Engines for the machine work which included ½” head studs, .904 lifters, decking, boreing, o-ringing, honing, etc. It has custom BME pistons, Crower billet connecting rods, Crower crank, rockers, cam, and lifters, new AFR LS3 cylinder heads, Manton 7/16” pushrods, Cloyes double roller timing chain, and Innovators West harmonic balancer. Dad and I built a new sheet metal and billet intake manifold that uses the Holley Hi-Ram top to work with all of my throttle body and cold side plumbing from the old motor. While apart ProTorque built me a billet bolt-together x275 torque convertor just for the new combo. With a few modifications to the headers and down pipes it bolted in place of the stock 6.0L and it made 1300hp to the tire through the 4l80 transmission which would be about 1600hp at the flywheel.

What are your expectations for this year’s drag week, what do you hope to accomplish and what are you most looking forward to?

As mentioned earlier, this is my 4th year in the Street Race Small Block Power Adder class. For myself personally, I feel as though it is time for me to perform in this class and keep up with everyone else. I plan to run 8.50’s every day, and hopefully win or at least place in my class. While this is by no means the most important thing for me, I have worked very hard every year, just like everyone else, and I hope to see that work finally pay off. As they say though, just finishing is winning, so that’s priority #1, second priority is to have fun, and if I was able to win my class, that would be icing on the cake.

Never before have I truly felt this is possible. But, with the new motor, I believe I have a chance to make it happen.

Honestly, I’m most looking forward to the drive and the people! I love making passes and putting my car to the test. But, this year we will be traveling with a great group of people with some really cool cars. In years past, someone in our group has always had trouble and we end up driving at 5 in the morning rather than getting to enjoy the drive with everyone else. This year, we’re making enjoying the trip a priority. Drag Week is always like a reunion!

What are your most memorable moments from past drag week competitions?

 Ironically enough, my most memorable moments from Drag Week are the ones where someone in the travel group is broken down on the side of the road and we’re stuck there for hours. Even though at the moment it might suck, the people that help and the comradery that takes place at those times makes those moments the stories that I tell every time Drag Week is brought up.

Any final comments?

Drag Week is such a unique event. We prep for it all year, torture ourselves all week, get sad when it’s over, and then start the countdown for next year again as soon as we leave.

When people ask why I don’t race more, I always answer, “I would love to, but somehow Drag Week takes all my time.” It’s such a hard event to explain to people that usually I do my best to explain it then say,” you’ll just have to experience it for yourself sometime.”

I had someone tell me the other day that I need to just “go out and win Drag Week”. It honestly baffled me because I didn’t know how to respond. One thing I love about the event is that it’s not just about winning. Winning is hard, and all the power to those who do. I love what the event stands for. It’s not a race against anyone else. Just a true test of man and machine. I get to take my 3,800-pound true street car, one with A/C, power windows, full interior, radio, and all the other amenities and prove that 1. Yes, it is a street car, and 2. It can perform.

It’s the true test of the cars and the people in the event. For me, it’s all about setting personal records and enjoying the company of the people I get to spend the week with. I love getting to meet all the spectators, on-lookers, and other competitors during the week, and experience all the areas that Drag Week takes us through.

Here is a preview of the new setup on the Badmaro in action. Video by NXGonzo Video

Photo Gallery

Photos by: Dennis Taylor, Alex Taylor, and NXGonzo Video

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