More than a year in the making, Tom Bailey and Rod Tschiggfrie, two of the best street car racers on the planet, will finally go head-to-head in the highly anticipated NHRA Street Car Showdown in Gainesville. The dynamic duo will stage a special grudge match during the 52nd annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals. Bailey will take his “Beast Mode” ’69 Camaro up against Tschiggfrie’s radical Sorceress ’84 Hurst Olds Cutlass, driven by veteran chassis builder Don Speer. Both vehicles are licensed, registered, and legal for street use.
Bailey, of Lake Orion, Mich., made headlines in 2019 during Hot Rod magazine’s Drag Week when he uncorked a 5.99 run on the final day of the event at Virginia Motorsports Park. Since then, he has since improved upon his career best with a 5.77 during testing at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida. Bailey also topped 250 mph during Drag Week, an annual event that requires competitors to make runs at five dragstrips over five days and complete a drive of nearly 1,000 highway miles between tracks without the use of a trailer or other support equipment. Bailey won the Unlimited class at Drag Week for the fourth time in 2019 with a five-day average of 6.299 seconds at 228.81 mph. NHRA fans who attended the 2019 NHRA U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis also got a glimpse of Bailey’s Pro Mod-style Camaro when he made exhibition runs alongside fellow Drag Week competitors.
The long-awaited match was originally scheduled for last year’s Gainesville event but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, Bailey shared his thoughts on the match.
“We had such a good time doing the [2019 exhibition race] in Indy, I’m happy that we were able to put something together with NHRA for Gainesville,” said Bailey. “This is the big show, and it’s cool to be able to match race against Rod’s car. I’ve never raced against Rod, but I’ve met him a couple of times, and his car is impressive. His car is tuned by [fuel injection expert] Shane Techlenburg, who certainly knows what he’s doing.”
Having achieved his longstanding goal of a five-second elapsed time more than a year ago, Bailey is hoping to run similar numbers for the fans at Gainesville Raceway.
“We debuted a new engine combination for Drag Week, so we were a little cautious to try and sneak up on it,” said Bailey. “We worked on it every day and finally got it to run a 5.99 on the last day. Then, we went testing and got it to run 5.77. It had that number in it the whole time, but we just needed to sneak up on it. Now, we’ve got 526 cubic inches, and I can turn it to 9,500 rpm, and that has made all the difference in the world.”
When asked about his chances of winning the Gainesville match against Tschiggfrie’s car, Bailey was respectful but firm in his expectations.
“I’m not much of a trash talker,” said Bailey. “I like to let the car do all the talking but if you want to get credibility [as a street legal racer], take your car to Drag Week. That’s what they need to do. There is the league he’s in, and then there is the big leagues.”
Tschiggfrie, of Dubuque, Iowa, built his innovative Hurst Olds as a dual-purpose street/strip car, and so far, it has lived up to that billing, including a stunning 260-mph performance at the Street Car Supernationals in Las Vegas in late 2019. The Oldsmobile is the first car that Tschiggfrie owned, and it retains its original VIN number and taillights. However, nearly everything else has been replaced, including a carbon fiber body and chrome moly steel chassis. The car is powered by a 640-cid engine fitted with a pair of 98-mm turbochargers.
“I always wanted a really cool car, so I took this Olds and made it fit that dream,” Tschiggfrie said. “I grew up with a Hot Rod magazine in my hand, so to have a car like this is a lifelong dream of mine. I bought this car off the showroom floor and couldn’t wait to start modifying it. It’s my own engine design, my own body design, and my own chassis design, and my goal was to make it as badass as possible. A couple of years ago, we went to the Street Machine Nationals and drove it around in 96-degree temperatures. As for our 260-mph run last year, it had the potential to be a lot better. We’ve worked hard to develop reliability as much as horsepower, but we could ultimately run 270 mph.”
Tschiggfrie enlisted a number of drag racing’s sharpest minds to help make his dream car a reality, including former NHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car world champion Fred Mandoline, who assisted in engine development, Mike Spitzer, who built the all-carbon-fiber body, driver Don Speer, tuner Shane Tecklenburg, and crewmembers Rick Schmitt, Rick Schmitt Jr., Brian Furne, and Mike Heeren.
Last March, Tschiggfrie also had a chance to share his thoughts about battling Bailey during a NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series event.
“This deal in Gainesville is a dream come true,” said Tschiggfrie. “We’ve never really been able to race in front of a big crowd like this. It’s the big stage, and to run against Tom Bailey, the king of [street legal racing] is really awesome. I respect him a lot as a person, and it’s truly an honor to line up next to him. I’ll be honest; we are the underdog. He’s more decorated than I am, but I do think we have a fighting chance. Not to demean anyone, but Tom has a Steve Morris engine, and a proven chassis, and he’s been at this thing for 15 years. He truly is a master at what he does.”
The schedule for the NHRA Street Car Showdown calls for both competitors to make one time trial run at 3:50 p.m. on Friday, March 12 with their epic grudge battle scheduled for two rounds on Saturday, March 13 at 11:55 a.m. and 3:55 p.m.