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At 17, Alex Taylor started a quest to achieve 8-second 1/4-mile passes. Just after her 18th birthday, she ran an 8.99, but that satisfaction was short-lived. Like any racer, Alex wanted to go faster – a lot faster! However, for the next five years, Alex couldn’t escape the 8-second pass. Lower ETs weren’t coming her way, so she needed a change.
Alex, along with her dad Dennis, her mom Debbie and her sister Megan, make up Alex Taylor Racing. Recently, they vowed to up the ante and changed their quest for the 8s to go after 7-second passes. In fact, they didn’t want to stop there. In 2021, they set their sights on 6-second passes. In order to do it, Alex needed a whole new set up!
Last year, Alex ditched her SS Camaro named Badmaro and picked up a 1955 Chevy 210, while also robbing the drivetrain and engine out of her dad’s Retro Nova race car. Over the course of several months, Alex and her dad Dennis built a new race car from the ground up, which you can watch on Alex’s YouTube channel, if you haven’t already seen it.
The key to Alex’s success hasn’t just been upgrading her ride with a new cage and a big block Chevy engine. That’s obviously helped, but over the years, Alex has put in the work as a driver as well in order to achieve the goals she has set for herself.
We caught up with her during the first day of competition at Sick Week in Bradenton, FL at Bradenton Motorsports Park to get the run down on her 1955 Chevy 210 and its engine set up for 2022.
Alex’s big block Chevy engine is based on a cast iron Dart block that has 512 cubic inches of displacement. At 512 cubic inches, it’s on the smaller side compared to many of Alex’s usual competition. The engine features 9.75:1 compression, twin 88mm Precision turbos and three sets of injectors, which makes it a unique set up.
“The injectors are two sets of 2200 DeatschWerks injectors and a set of 800-lb. per hour AFIS injectors,” Taylor told us. “We actually found out when we were on the dyno before Sick Week that we were running out of injector, so we switched things up and have a good combination going on now.”
Internally, Alex is running a custom crank with billet rods, a Crower valvetrain and an Isky solid roller cam and Isky lifters. For cylinder heads, she utilizes AFR’s 18-degree Magnum cylinder heads.
“It’s still a Siamese port, it’s not a spread port deal or anything like that,” Taylor says. “It’s actually pretty conventional for what we’re trying to do. It’s a smaller motor, so it’s kind of unique for what everyone else brings to these kinds of events.”
The engine also features an AFR intake and is controlled by Holley Dominator EFI. The Taylors have a dry sump oiling setup and for fuel they run on methanol at the track and pump gas on the street.
In the past year, the Alex Taylor Racing team has seen some solid success at events like Drag Week and Rocky Mountain Race Week 2.0, having won that event in particular. However, Alex isn’t satisfied and is pushing to get even better.
“We know we’re making more horsepower than we did last year when we were running 7.30s,” she says. “We have had some success, but it needs to get better. We have the top end covered. [At Sick Week] we ran a 7.318 at 195 mph. The mile per hour in the back half of the track is there, but we’re still slow on the first half. We’re going to try and drop the 60-foot down to the low 1.10s or high 1.00s. If we can get that knocked down and get the 330’ knocked down, I think we’ve got the back half covered.”
Alex told us that her team was continuing to work on that for their time at Sick Week, as well as working on traction, on suspension, and adding more power.
“The motor is capable of the power that we think we need to see, it’s just working it into the tune and doing it in a safe manner to where it’s going to last all week and continue to make that power,” she says. “We have five days of this and we need to see it all the way through.
“When we built the car, we actually built it as a quest for the 6s. We knew we weren’t just going to go out and run a 6 immediately. As a driver, I knew I’d have to progress on that side as well. I think we’re ready to do it now, but we’re driving a shoebox out there and trying to go 6s. It’s been done and people do it, but we need to work our way into it. It’s a quest for the 6s, and we’ll get there hopefully this week.”
Of course, if you follow Alex or tuned into Sick Week’s livestream, you already know Alex and her team didn’t have the week they had hoped for. Her best pass was the first day 7.318 at 195 mph. She ran a 7.95 at 146 mph during Day 3 at Gainesville Raceway, but that was also the run that did her in. Alex broke down what happened on her Facebook page.
“We got back from Sick Week and have since been able to do some inspecting. We basically had a comedy of errors on the last pass that left us lost on where to start. Here’s how it happened:
Last year, when freshening the trans, Jake’s Performance came up with an innovative “dump” valve that worked great! But, we didn’t really use it last year when racing. This year, we started using it. With a lack of understanding on how it works in combination with another dump valve and lack of data on this, we ended up chasing an issue that ended up not actually being the issue.
“Some of you saw in my in car video (and of course noted) that it sounded like the car was ‘falling on its face’ at the top end of the track. We could see the rpm drop in the data, but the engine still looked happy, and we thought that maybe the added power with the new motor this year was making the convertor not happy with the new combination. In the middle of the haste of Sick Week, we had to dismiss this and just monitor what we could until later. With that said, we were hitting the tune a little harder (fuel and timing wise) to try to compensate for this issue. A few cylinders were running a little hotter. In combination with a hotter tune and way better air, cylinder 1 got upset first, melted a plug, and tuliped a valve.
“Now, what the real culprit of all of this turns out to be is that we were actually pumping the convertor dry, because it didn’t have enough time to fill (back to the new dump valve) and it was causing it to act loose. In conclusion, lesson learned, the combination of the dumps will work great now that we actually have data on what’s happening and can tune accordingly, and we can back the tune down to a safer spot (with added fuel to a couple cylinders) and we should be good to go. No, we couldn’t figure this out during Sick Week.”
In summary, that’s racing for you! Given Alex’s drive to continue to get better and faster, we have no doubt we will see her at plenty of future drag and drive events this year looking for a 6-second pass, as well as an overall win! In her own words, “Be Happy. Go Fast. Stay Pretty.”
Engine of the Week is sponsored by PennGrade Motor Oil, Elring – Das Original, Scat Crankshafts and Engine & Performance Warehouse Inc./NPW Companies. If you have an engine you’d like to highlight in this series, please email Engine Builder Editor Greg Jones at [email protected].