One-on-One with Tom Bailey - Engine Builder Magazine

One-on-One with Tom Bailey

During this first-ever Sick Week, Engine Builder was fortunate to grab some time with the event founder and promoter Tom Bailey to discuss the week in Florida and his thoughts on the exploding drag-and-drive community.

Q: How did Sick Week come about?

A: At Drag Week is when we started talking about having a signature event. We thought maybe we could do that in a year or two. During Drag Week we were talking to people and talking about the ideas we had and they all said we should do it now. I’ve been to lots of these events and figured they’re easy, so we said, “Okay, we’ll do it, and we’ll do it in February, in four months.”

I didn’t realize what it takes to plan an event. Luckily, I’ve got a great team of people who have stepped in. A lot of the Drag Week staff that I’ve known for years has stepped in. Having Keith Turk has been huge, and having Jenny Turk as the event planner. I wouldn’t have been able to even try and race this event without her and I don’t even know if I could have pulled it off because there’s so many little things to take care of.

Q: Where did the Sick Week name come from?

A: The name of everything stems from my car, which is Sick Seconds (now Sick Seconds 1.0 because Tom also has Sick Seconds 2.0). Sick Seconds was going to be the first 6-second street/strip car. When I got the car, I adopted the name. I carried it over to my new car, Sick Seconds 2.0, and everything ended up as Sick.

We started a fundraiser that takes place in August called Sick Day, which has been going on for four years. The Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan is what that is a fundraiser for. It was just natural that when we came up with the magazine, it was Sick the Mag and then the event had to be Sick Week. Who would’ve thought? Now, we’ve got a trademark on the word sick when it’s used in anything car related.

Q: For someone who doesn’t know racing, what is Sick Week?

A: Sick Week is about having a bunch of like-minded people who enjoy getting tortured 24-hours a day for five days, because that’s what this stuff all ends up being. It’s really man and machine. It’s the most primitive form of racing. It goes back to the days of Snake and Mongoose doing grudge races traveling across the country in a truck with a trailer with their car on it. 

Sick Week took it a step further – we got rid of the truck. Therefore, all we have is our race car and a trailer and that’s what we’re surviving on. Basically, you’re trying to make something that’s not designed to live for five days, live for five days. That would probably be the best way to describe it. It’s about the challenge. I think for 95% of people, maybe 99.9% of people, it’s the challenge of trying to do something that shouldn’t be possible.

Q: Describe the journey of Sick Week.

A: We’re covering four tracks in five days – Bradenton, Orlando, Gainesville, South Georgia, and Bradenton again. It’s over 800 miles on your street/strip car. A lot of torture. A lot of cool checkpoints. A lot of friends. That’s probably the best thing you see during a week like this. Almost no car passes you by that’s in the group. If you stop for anything, everybody’s got to give a thumbs up. If not, you’re going to have 30 cars parked on the side of the road behind you seeing if they have anything that can help. That’s probably the best thing about it is the camaraderie – everybody helping everybody. 

Two competitors could be neck and neck and you can be first and second in your class, but you’ll give that guy a part that you might need the next day, so he can keep going to the next track. That’s the coolest thing about it. It’s unlike anything else. I love all forms of drag racing and everybody’s in one big happy family, but this is next level as far as the help somebody will give someone else. 

Q: What kind of cars compete?

A: We’ve got everything. We’ve got a Sick Week Freak class, which basically are the oddballs. Those are the diesels and the six cylinders and the four cylinders and the front-wheel-drive cars. That’s what’s awesome. I wanted to make sure that we catered to those folks. 

Take the four cylinders for example. What they can do with those cars just impresses me. I mean they have 1/5th the cubic inches that we have and they’re running close to the same times, and I just think that’s awesome, so we did a lot to cater to them and get those guys because they’re a big segment of the market. Getting one of those to live on the road, I think might be harder than getting my car to live on the road, because they tear up parts like nobody’s business. You’ve got a 1.3L and you’re trying to run a 7-second pass with it. It’s crazy. 

Q: Explain Sick Week’s quarantine area…

A: The quarantine area is for the top-three fastest cars in each class that run faster than 8.50. They end up in quarantine. The idea there is that they don’t get any outside help. They get themselves and their crew member is all who’s working on the car.

That way, if there’s possibly a slow car, let’s say a 10.50 car that’s along with them as a pseudo support type vehicle, then it keeps them away from the car. It does two things. You get a quick line to the staging lane because quarantine gets their own lane to go up and run when they’re ready. It also gives them a little extra time to spin that car around.

Q: What has been a favorite aspect, moment, run? What was memorable?

A: I don’t want to be biased or whatever, but Aydan, my boy, made his first 8-second pass this week. He did that in testing and then he went 8.60. His goal at the end of the week is to possibly run a 7-second pass. We’ll see. I don’t know if he’s got enough injector for it. (Unfortunately, Aydan ended his week by flipping his car on Day 5. Fortunately, he walked away unscathed). 

Q: What does it mean to you that Sick Week sold out in three minutes? 

A: When we came up with the event, we were trying to get a couple hundred people. If we could get a couple hundred people this would be cool. We can test it, see how it works. There’s probably that many people that might like to go to Florida.

As everything started moving forward, there was a lot of interest in it. We weren’t even done with rules before we had to put the event on sale because these people have to plan vacations or “Sick Weeks.” We put it on sale without rules, without anything, just saying here’s what we’re doing and here’s the dates. It sold out in three minutes. That just shows the crazy support that everybody has for it. It’s just mind blowing. 

Then, we created the Sick Ward for the VIP experience. That sold out in an hour. It’s just crazy. Then, add to the mix all of the fans we pulled in and the amount of people who watched the livestream, it’s very humbling to say the least.

Q: What would you change next year?

A: I think as far as changes, we’ll do a recap on the whole thing and then just see what we can do to improve it and make it a better experience for everyone. I don’t know if I’ve been sheltered from it, but I’ve not heard a negative thing about anything so far. Our goal for this event was to bring the best track prep to the event that any of these guys had ever seen. Usually, with one of these events, the complaint is the track prep. I wanted to get that out the window.

Q: As you take time to reflect, what does the immediate future of Sick Week look like?

A: The future’s unknown. It’s growing so quick and everything’s changing so fast. We do have shootouts coming up. We’re doing three shootouts with NMCA this year. The qualifier for those shootouts is the car has to have completed a drag-and-drive event – it could be Sick Week, Drag Week, Rocky Mountain Race Week, or Midwest Drags – it doesn’t matter. EB

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