With her 6.96-second pass on the first day of Sick Week, Alex Taylor became the fastest woman on the drag-and-drive circuit and achieved the ultimate goal for her “Quest for the Sixes” ’55 Chevy build. And she doesn’t plan on hitting the brakes or coasting any time soon.
Her high-speed life includes racing, hosting Hot Rod Garage on Motor Trend, creating content for her popular social media channels, and even buying her own shop. We caught up to Alex (barely) following her six-second performance at Sick Week.
OnAllCylinders: Did you have an inkling that Sick Week could be the week that you hit the sixes?
Alex Taylor: So we went down and tested two days on Thursday and Friday before Sick Week. And it was that classic story of thinking everything was ready and then we got there and it wasn’t. We came in and tested and it started off good the first couple passes and then we had so many random issues. We ended up pulling the converter because we put in a new stator. Then, by the end of it, we realized our actual issue was we had a brand new transmission and there was no converter charge pressure and nothing that we did could get the converter charge pressure up.
So we decided to put old trusty (the transmission) back in. If anybody remembers last year, we had so many transmission issues and that’s the one we put back in! We fixed it finally, (but we) went into Sick Week not knowing what to expect. And then on Monday we ran our first pass and I went out…basically I ran like a 13-second pass and the day went so slow and we had an electrical issue.
The car went out and just shut off!
OAC: So how did you go from that to the six-second pass on Monday night?
AT: We only got one more pass and it was like 6:00 o’clock at night. And so I’m like, OK, this pass is either going to make us or break us because it’s what sets the tone for the week. So I go up and make my pass, and I’m like “OK like this thing’s on it, it’s on a (good) pass now,” and it was finally that sigh of relief. I got to the top end and I pulled off and I’m like, “that was a good number.” (Fellow competitor) Steve Morris came in behind me and I (asked), did you see what I ran? And he was like a 6.95–or something like that.
So, not only was it a good pass that put us in competition, but it’s also my first in-competition, six-second pass. And it was like just a killer start to the week for the issues that we had. And I gave Steve Morris a big old bear hug. Once we ran that, I’m like, OK, we can compete. So it was just so rewarding for so many reasons. It was a really big deal!
OAC: What have you learned about yourself during this process?
AT: I have learned that I have to trust myself a little bit more than I do, because I second guess a lot of stuff. I did a lot of my own tuning, and then when we started getting into the ’55, I started to step away from it. I started to doubt myself because I’d never done anything that fast and I never tuned methanol. I just started letting all these outside voices get in my head. Like, it jumbled me up.
And so we went to Ben Strader’s EFI University at the end of last year and (he helped me unlearn) so many wrong things that like it really gave me some confidence to go into this. Getting to be back in the middle of the actual tuning and what’s happening to the car—me and my dad and Nick and all of us just having these conversations have made such a difference because we’re back as a team instead of having outside voices. I still do rely on some outside sources but I’ve got to trust my own gut. I’m more capable than I give myself credit for. With that said, it’s not just me.
OAC: How important is it to have a great team and support system around you?
AT: I’ve got great people to lean on, so it’s making sure your people are taken care of—being a team leader, you know.
And so I realized at some point last year that I had so many people that wanted to run the program—not like my dad or anything, but people on the outside that wanted to call the shots. Somebody told me, “you realize at some point you have to call the shots.” And I’m like, “you’re right.”
Once I started making the decisions…it’s like it got everything back in line. I think it’s just been kind of learning to manage stuff, you know? And I feel like we’re on a much better track this year because of that.
OAC: What was the key factor in getting you from the sevens into that six-second range?
AT: Everybody’s like, “what did you do to go from the sevens to finally hitting sixes back-to-back-to-back?” That’s a good question. It’s not (the car) being really mechanically changed so much. It’s just fine tuning the car. And I think, for me, something that we’ve really learned about it is that I’m really impressed by how it’s built. It’s a shoebox that’s doing 209 miles an hour and it’s still straight as an arrow.
I have a lot of confidence in the car and the chassis and how it’s actually built. So I actually feel in tune with the car now and so I’m really excited for this year.
OAC: Can you give us an overview of your car for those who are not familiar?
AT: So it’s a full tube chassis car, with the engine and transmission that came from my dad’s ’72 Nova. So it’s a pretty small combination for what we’re trying to do. It’s a 509 conventional big block Chevy, so it’s got the AFR 18 degree heads. It’s not a crazy intake or anything. It’s just a very simple motor. It’s got twin 88 millimeter turbos from Precision, just overall pretty simple.
And then it’s got a Turbo 400 behind it; just built one that will be back in the car that’ll have like the new Sonnax Smart-Tech module and stuff, which will be really cool because that helps decrease some of the rotational weight. It’s got the QA1 carbon fiber drive shaft with a Ford fabricated nine inch rear end with a Quick Performance third member. So it doesn’t sound simple necessarily, but once you actually compare it to some of the other stuff that’s out there, it’s actually a very, very simple platform combination.
OAC: What’s planned next for the ’55?
AT: Something that we planned to do since really the car started in 2021 was to eventually give that combination back to Dad, you know, freshened up. We just borrowed it. That was the intention of the initial goal, and just due to parts and timelines and everything like that, I ended up racing it all the last couple of years. So we have gone back and forth with what exactly the combination is going to be that goes into it, whether it be a cast iron block or a billet block.
I don’t know yet, but it’ll have a very similar combination to what’s currently in it as far as compression and, you know, stroke and things like that…that’ll all be very similar to what’s in there. But it’ll be fresher with a little bit bigger cubic inch than a 509. If we do a billet block combination or something like that, we’ll build it a little different. So that way I can grow with it.
So maybe we’ll do another car and that motor will go in it eventually. Honestly, I’m starting to pick up pieces here and there, but I’m waiting on a block. And so that’s the thing that’s going to kind of dictate what we do.
OAC: What is about the drag and drive format that you really like?
AT: So let me walk you through the feeling of this. You go and you’re thrashing at the track all day and it sucks half the time, you know, until you make the pass. And then you’re like, heck yeah. But the actual thrash isn’t necessarily what’s so much fun about a drag and drive. You go and you don’t have the testing like a regular race would have. You’re going to a different track every day, so that could be really stressful.
But what’s really cool about the drag and drive part is that time after you pack up and you hit the road.
For us, we have a Gear Vendor (overdrive), so we’re cruising past people 80 miles an hour, headsets on, listening to music, having a good time drinking a soda pop because we got cup holders in the car. And it’s like, man, we just did 209 miles an hour in this car and now we’re driving it down the road at 80 like a regular passenger vehicle. It’s really putting a build to the test. And then also in addition to that, there’s so much camaraderie on the people side. There’s a lot of great people and there’s so many great spectators. It’s a different atmosphere that’s there, and so that’s one of the things that makes it really, really appealing as well.
OAC: Do you have a favorite event on the schedule?
AT: My favorite event is actually Sick Week. It’s a new one, but it’s one of those that it was built by a racer for racers. You know, Tom (Bailey) created it, so he took everything that he didn’t like about other drag and drive events and made it where it’s better and easier on the racer.
I like the fact that it’s shorter drives. It’s still, you know, 800 miles, and it still proves the point that you have a street car, but it’s more enjoyable drives. The days and the process of it is a lot easier so I enjoy it.
Hot Rod Drag Week will always be the OG. It’s my second choice, but that’s the one where the really, really fast guys come out to Drag Week. And you still have that prestige that comes from Drag Week. That’s the ultimate drag and drive to win, in my opinion. But Sick Week, I think, is coming up alongside Drag Week. It’s going to be interesting to see if Sick Week takes over Drag Week on which is king of like the crowd. It’s not as personal, but Hot Rod is special to me because I started there in 2013 and so that event is one that I’ll also never miss.
OAC: In addition to racing, you bought your own shop, you host Hot Rod Garage, and have a prolific YouTube channel. How do you juggle everything?
AT: Mainly I’ve got good people around me. I’m really lucky to have the family that I do and the partners that I work with. And, you know, my crew at the show is amazing. So I just have good people in my corner, and I think that really is what makes it possible because they pick up slack for me in places that I can’t always carry that weight.
But as far as, like, actually scheduling last year, so much stuff happened that I didn’t plan on.
I went into last year planning on racing the ’55, and I was driving a pro mod, the Pro Mod Bumblebee—the Radial vs. the World Car—a little bit. And then Hot Rod Garage came up and like all this different stuff. I was like “whoa, I don’t even know how to schedule this…there’s not enough time to do this.”
I feel like I’m in a point in my life where I want to take every single opportunity that’s presented to me. Maybe at some point can I pick and choose, like if I’d rather be at the lake for the weekend or doing (something else). But right now it’s not that time….It’s just enjoying the moments that you’re in when you can relax and then hitting it hard when you gotta hit it hard.
I’m having fun with it.