Aydan Bailey Starts His Drag Racing Career in the Spotlight

10 min read

Aydan Bailey Starts His Drag Racing Career in the Spotlight

10 min read

Aydan Bailey graduated high school and immediately dove right back into his studies. Unlike most recent grads, Aydan’s training wasn’t a summer college prep course, unless Drag Race 101 has become a core requirement since we were last on campus. (Note to educators: it should be.) Build it, drive it, get a license in it. All in a two-week time frame. Zero to 150 mph in nine seconds. Now that’s accelerated learning.

You might recognize Aydan’s car as the S__tbox of Doom (SBoD) that NHRA racers Richie Crampton and Jonnie Lindberg built a few years ago for HOT ROD Magazine’s street-to-strip Drag Week event. The ’57 Chevy got a lot of attention for its just-pulled-from-the-weeds patina and wild engine combinations...including, at one point, a Top Alcohol mill from a funny car. In 2020, Crampton needed to pare down his projects, and made an online post about selling the wagon. Aydan, whose father Tom Bailey is a multi-time Drag Week champ, and a good friend of Crampton, was quick to lay claim to the SBoD. “I fell in love with that car the second I saw it,” he says. “I’ve always kinda had a thing for cars that look like s__t on the outside, but are clean with lots of power on the inside.”

Aydan wanted the car, but he wasn’t alone. Another big Drag Week name, Joe Barry, had also mentioned to Crampton that he wouldn’t mind taking over the SBoD legacy. It could have been a bidding war, but as both Baileys, Barry, and Crampton will tell you, it wasn’t really about claiming the wagon, so much as finding a good home for it, and eventually everyone agreed that it would be the perfect vehicle for Aydan to learn how to race in.

Now you might be saying, “The kid never raced? With Tom ‘Sick Seconds’ Bailey as his dad?” But see, when your pop’s stable is mostly five and six-second cars, it can be hard to get comfortable behind the wheel. There’s not a lot of room for beginner’s mistakes in a street-legal pro-mod. “The wagon was just right for learning,” says Tom. “Built well, big, heavy, long. Should be pretty controllable.”

There was just one more problem. Soon after the deal was done, the SBoD lived up to its name, and was involved in an accident that caused several injuries, and almost resulted in the car being scrapped. A more superstitious racer might have moved on, but Tom and Aydan felt like the mechanical damage was fixable, and the car was worth saving, so they convinced Crampton to tear it down and get it ready for a rebuild with a nice, tame, twin-turbo, iron-block LS engine. Y’know, a beginner’s spec, only around 1000 horsepower or so.

Ayden Bailey 1957 Chevy at Bandimere Speedway

By the time all the details of what to build were worked out, there were only a few weeks to assemble it before Aydan’s self-imposed deadline of Rocky Mountain Race Week (RMRW) 1.0. RMRW, like Drag Week, is a multi-day event in which competitors must drive from track to track in their race vehicles. No trailers unless the drag car tows it, no support trucks, just the crew and tools you can haul yourself. It’s a challenge for experienced racers, and Aydan had only driven the SBoD a few miles on the road, and never on the dragstrip. To get his license he’d have to make a series of short passes to demonstrate car control and track awareness and then three full passes at or around the speeds he planned to license for. Sure, he could have built a car and gone to the local track on an open grudge night and made some cautious half-track passes to work up to the 9s. But that is not the Bailey way. No, Aydan was entered in competition, and he was going to drive that car more than 1200 miles up and over the Rocky Mountains, across Nebraska in a heat wave, and in front of every who’s-who name in drag-n-drive street-car racing. If he could handle that, his dad figured he’d have truly earned his place in the drag racing community. Oh right, but first he had to finish the car.

Aydan spent a week down at Crampton’s shop, made a quick return home to don a cap and gown and get his diploma, and then went right back to work. The last few days before RMRW were long ones. “The scramble definitely taught me that you can stay up for three days to get stuff done,” says Aydan. “It was more fun looking back at it then it was at the time. At one point I had six energy drinks in 24 hours. I thought I was having a heart attack at 6:00 am Thursday morning. On Friday I fell asleep in the car while trying to put the windshield in.” Crampton made him take a nap. “When I woke up, Richie had already taken the car for a drive and was on the phone with Holley getting the tune sorted.”

Ayden Bailey 1957 Chevy driving through Colorado

The Baileys loaded up the mostly finished car on Friday and drove straight to S.R.C.A. Drag Strip in Great Bend KS, where they unloaded the car, finished the last of the wiring and hoses, and lined Aydan up for his first-ever pass. Oh, don’t worry parents, Tom made a shake-down run first. Convinced nothing crucial would fall off the ’57, the Baileys switched seat inserts, and Aydan suited up. Most folks would be pretty nervous making their fast run in a brand-new car, and Aydan admits to a few jitters as he pulled the SBoD into the water box. “I was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to drive down the track straight,” he says, but you never would have known it. Each day he took the car a little further, and a little faster. His burnouts got smokier. His staging went from the tentative jabs of the newbie to the confident bumps of an experienced racer. By mid-week at Bandimere Speedway in Denver Colorado, Aydan was eagerly downloading his data after each pass, and adjusting the tune. His passes started in the high 10s, dropped to the high 9s and by the time the group sweated its way back to Great Bend, Aydan had a best E.T. of 9.123 at 147 MPH, and plenty of time slips to qualify him for his license.

They say the best way to learn is by doing, and Aydan agrees. “Learning from my dad was pretty easy but I liked getting multiple points of view from Richie, Joe, and Joey (Joe Barry’s son). Everyone has been through the learning process and had their own tips to make it easier but in the end, you kinda have to do it for yourself. I’d maybe suggest leaving a little more time for the next one.”

The S__tbox of Doom is currently powered by a 6.0L LS with GM Performance CNC ported heads. Manley valves and springs work with a Comp hydraulic roller and Manley pistons and rods swing on a Callies crank. Heavy breathing is handled by twin Precision 68/70 turbos and precision wastegates. Fuel gets metered out via Holley Dominator EFI and 160-lb Holley injectors. Two Aeromotive in-tank pumps do the work on the backend. Aydan shifts a reverse pattern T400 in a Reid case, with a bolt-together converter. 15x14 Sander wheels spin the slicks and knowing the Baileys, all the specs will be upgraded by the next time we see the car.

Ayden Bailey 1957 Chevy night pass


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