With a nickname like Mad Man, it’s easy to mistake Frankie Taylor as a cutthroat racer. In actuality, the Texan is quiet, humble and exudes a friendliness that stands in stark contrast to the competitive and sometimes dog-eat-dog nature that can be found at the track.
Frankie “Mad Man” Taylor earned his title by virtue of his audacious approach to the eighth and quarter-miles. At a consequential event in the mid ‘90s, Taylor shook the doors right off his car, busting a window. With no time to replace the window, they taped it up with cardboard. Someone scrawled “Mad Man” across the entire door. Taylor went back out and ran 199 mph on the next pass before officials found the “fixed” window. Mad Man has stuck ever since.
There are few things he won’t do or hasn’t already tried. He set the world on fire in 2014 with his record-setting 5.47 quarter-mile run. And while he admits he’d like to hold the record again and shoot for a 5.40, he’s well aware of the dangers that come with racing at that speed. But although Mad Man isn’t currently trying to be the quickest doorslammer in the world, he certainly isn’t sitting idly by. He’s keeping a full plate these days, running Pro Extreme across different series, fielding his son’s Junior Dragster, helping the Gas Monkey team with appearances on Discovery Channel’s Fast N Loud and, very soon, debuting his own no-prep car.
From high-profile appearances to the fan favorite radial events, Taylor has his hand in it all. Still, he says, in his southern drawl, that his favorite is “Probably the PDRA stuff, just going as fast as we can in the eighth-mile. I wouldn’t mind if it was a thousand foot or something, but the eighth-mile is pretty good. I’ve grown up doing that stuff. I remember doing that back when we were early 20s. We’ve been doing it for so long and we can’t really afford to do no Nitro Funny Car racing and I really never had the desire to do Alcohol Funny Car or something like that. The door car’s always been it for me.”
There’s 13 cars showed up at the first two races. Hopefully the class [Pro Extreme] will be strong at the PDRA.
Although his heart lies with Pro Extreme contested across different series, Taylor doesn’t gloss over the fact that Pro Extreme participation isn’t what it needs to be. Yet he retains hope for the class.
“It’s actually got more people than we thought were going to come [this year],” Taylor explained. “There’s 13 cars showed up at [each of] the first two races. Hopefully the class will be strong at the PDRA. It’s a hard class to run because it’s unique — a screw-blown car trying to go as fast as it can go. And it’s so expensive to race these things. Then when you get to the race track, you got to pay to get in. That’s the only downside I see of Pro Extreme. It’s just an expensive class to race. It’s not no more expensive than Pro Nitrous, though. Even Pro Boost is getting expensive.”
The competition of Pro Extreme is still stout, however, requiring low to mid .50s to have a chance at turning on a “W”. At the PDRA East Coast Nationals, Taylor qualified second and went to the semis. At the ADRL event a week later, he qualified number one and went to the final where he lost to Brandon Pesz.
“We qualified number two with a 3.54 and we didn’t have lane choice in the semis with a 3.552,” Taylor said of his latest PDRA appearance. “It’s a tough class. That’s the reason we like it. They give us great tracks to race on and we can try to go as fast as we want to. That’s the good part of the class, but that might also hurt some of the car counts because they see us out there going .55 and not getting lane choice and they’re like ‘Well, I ain’t going to bring my .60 car out.’ So the competition of the class might also be a drawback for some.”
Taylor at the Texas Motorplex helping the Gas Monkey Garage team with their screw-blown Dodge Challenger driven by Alex Laughlin during preparations for the Discovery Channels’ Mega Race. Photo credit: Gas Monkey Garage
Taylor’s success throughout his career is a team effort and he’s quick to point out those who have helped him along the way. “I want to thank my wife, Cindy, for letting me do this; my brother, Paul, who goes with me all the time; also, Jeremy Parsley, and Benji Lapp with Snap-On Tools, and then Renegade Oil & Fuel and Hot Rod Processing, Andrew Aleppo for all the help he gives us, too, and Davis Traction Control for keeping us hooked up.”
TV stuff is a little bit different, though. Not exactly my cup of tea. You’ve got to do stuff, then undo stuff, then redo it again so that can get it on TV.
Although sanctioned eighth-mile racing is home for Taylor, lately he’s been getting more notoriety from his work with the Laughlin family Gas Monkey team who have made appearances on Discovery Channel’s Fast N Loud.
“I was talking with the Laughlins about helping with the tune up and getting it closer,” Taylor storied of how it all came to be. “So me and my brother went over to help. I wired in the Davis box for them, helped them finish up the loose ends. It was a good experience. We got to meet Richard Rawlings. We seen Leah Pritchett over there and Dom Lagana. TV stuff is a little bit different, though. Not exactly my cup of tea. You’ve got to do stuff, then undo stuff, then redo it again so that can get it on TV. When we get it done, we like to be done with it. We did get some exposure out of it, so that’s good. I had a whole bunch of people tell me at the PDRA race, ‘I seen you on TV’. That’s pretty cool.
The no-prep is just different. More of a tuning game. You’ve gotta’ use your head a little bit more. It’s not all about the horsepower; it’s about getting the horsepower to the track and getting it to the other end.
“I talked to Kenny [Laughlin] a few weeks ago about doing some more stuff with them. We’re supposed to be doing some updates on the car. They’re putting in their own motor program, which is a Noonan motor. So that’ll be good for ’em. We’re supposed to help them fine tune it and get it running right. I think they’re going to try to match race Big Chief again. I’m not sure where at, but I think we’ll have a bit more understanding of the circumstances next time around. We got drawed into it first time. It was supposed to be non-prep and then when we get there it was all prepped up and we didn’t bring the right stuff. We should have had a better showing than we did, but we did take what we had and made it run with ’em.”
As if all this weren’t enough, Mad Man has decided to step into the no-prep game with a ride of his own. He purchased Kenny Hubbard’s Radial vs. The World car and converted it to a screw-blown Hemi with plans to run it in the Texas-based no-prep series, Redemption, as well as other local events.
Taylors’ new-to-him No Prep Camaro that he’ll be campaigning in 2017
The car could be ready as soon as the end of April. “We got the rear hung up under it,” Taylor explained. “We took it all apart and had the chassis painted, cleaned it up some, made it a pretty nice car. Now if somebody comes along and wants to buy it? That’ll be the end of no-prep for us. We took a Pro Mod to a no-prep race. We ain’t gonna’ do that no more.
“The no-prep is just different. More of a tuning game. You’ve gotta’ use your head a little bit more. It’s not all about the horsepower; it’s about getting the horsepower to the track and getting it to the other end. It kinda’ reminds you of how we started running Pro Mod. The tracks weren’t that great and you just kinda’ had to figure out how to make it go to the other end. No-prep is good like that. We can have a bit of fun with that stuff. Plus, it should be a little easier on parts other than body panels, I guess,” Mad Man said laughing.
Despite his reference to the wall-to-wall racing found in no-prep, Taylor isn’t convinced this segment of the sport is as dangerous as it’s played up to be. “It’s like street racing back in the day. That’s where most of us came from, building fast street cars and now we’re at least doing it on the race track, so that’s a lot safer than on the street. I’m not sure how unsafe it is yet. The one we went to so far was pretty sketchy. They stripped it down to bare concrete, but it still wasn’t horrible. You’ve got to have the right setup in it. There’s a smarter way. Plus we’ve got the Davis stuff, so hopefully it’ll keep us going in a straight line and make us do good.
“We want to build it to be competitive with people,” he asserted. “We don’t want to go out and be a slouch. I’d like to be able to catch up to those guys and have a chance. I got a call-out from Doc [Street Outlaws James Love] first time we were ever at the same race together. So me and Doc’s gonna’ run first round if he accepts it.
“I’m not going to say we’re good at it yet. We may suck at it and decide this ain’t for us, but we’ll give it a whirl for a little while.”
I like everybody so I don’t ever get mad at nobody. I root for everybody.
With a solid nickname, an unforgettable racing style, and a champion reputation, Mad Man has all the right makings to fit in with the biggest names in no-prep. There’s one part of that scene he’s not about, however. His gentle nature doesn’t play into the sweeping rivalry scene.
“These guys act like they fight a lot and there’s a bunch of conflict. Some of the people over here [in professional eighth-mile racing] want us to act like that, but I just never have wanted to. Whenever Mike Recchia beat me I was a big fan of his then. Then he actually won the race, so that was cool. He’s a good guy and so is Terry Leggett. The guys from Sweden come over and they’re playing with us now, so it’s a fun deal. I like everybody so I don’t ever get mad at nobody. I root for everybody.”