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The NMRA/NMCA Official Starter, A look at the Man Behind the Switch, T.J. Bailey

February 24, 2015 by Bridgett Davis


In less than two weeks thousands of Ford fans will celebrate the 21st Annual Nitto Tire NMRA Spring Break Shootout, presented by Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords in Bradenton, Florida from March 5th to the 8th. A coming together for some of the sickest wheels up all-Ford drag racing action on the quarter-mile while racers are teching in and spectators are unpacking coolers the staff of the NMRA is hard at work ensuring throughout this exciting event that the safety of the racers, pit crews, and spectators is always the number one priority.
Blending in with the masses, the amazing efforts put in by the NMRA staff often goes unnoticed and receives little to no recognition in the spotlight for all they do to ensure the six races of the NMRA Keystone Automotive Ford Nationals drag racing season are successful. No one understanding better the importance of safety than the Starter and Track Preparation Specialist Ford Racing Nation shining the spotlight into the shadows talked with T.J. Bailey of the NMRA/NMCA in a recent interview of just what goes into the safety of each and every pass made during the four day event.

The Starter/Track Preparation Specialist is one of the most if not the most important roles of the NMRA/NMCA. From making the proper judgment calls on cars that are questionable, whether it be various mechanical issues from leaks to loose hoses to SFI safety infractions to carburetor fires the job of the Starter/Track Preparation Specialist is critical in ensuring the safety of all in attendance.

Whole heartedly dedicated to his job responsibilities as Starter/Track Preparation Specialist Bailey credits legends and veterans such as Trey Capps, Olan Gotcher, Gene Berstrom, and Rollie Miller for taking him under their wing in providing invaluable training and mentoring that now enables him to perform his duties so well. Having experienced many hairy situations there is not much Bailey has not seen in his nine and half years of service. From fires, to pulling drivers out of their wrecked cars Bailey shared with the ugly also comes the outstanding. Taking part in the joy of every racers win or championship Bailey feels in some small way he was part of that success in helping someone achieve the dream.

Working his way up the track ladder, Bailey began his career to provide a better life for his now nine year old son Kobe. Starting off working the water box often tired, wet, dehydrated, and sore he wanted to quit in the beginning. The other track crew at the time taking bets on how long he would last, Bailey could have never imagined so many years later he would have achieved a career that has included positions in both the NMRA/NMCA and the NHRA.
Having the opportunity to travel and meet so many different people Bailey shared “I’m just thankful for places like NMRA/NMCA offering the experience of life time to a guy like myself that otherwise wouldn't be able to see these things and be a part of these moments in history and thank you to the racers for making the last 9 ½ years so amazing, I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the 2015 season”!!! With that said hats off to T.J. Bailey and thanks for all you do. We'll see you in the beams.