Day Motor Sports Driver Profile: Ethan Bailes stands tall with Limited Mod crown

ELIZABETH, Louisiana — As a general rule, drivers with less than five years of experience in this sport don’t win state championships. They don’t win over a half dozen races in one year, and they don’t finish inside the top five of any National point standings. It usually takes years to get there – for most.

Just don’t tell that to 33-year-old Limited Modified racer Ethan Bailes, who defied the odds this year. In only his fourth year of racing, Bailes earned seven wins, 25 top-five and 34 top-10 finishes in 46 starts, highlighted by the Bayou Dirt Life Championship and a top-five finish in USRA National points.

“We didn’t plan on running at eight different tracks this year,” Bailes said of his success this season. “But when Thunder Valley closed down, that was my home track. So to keep racing, we had to saddle up and go get them. We hit the road, and kept at it all season.

“I didn’t plan on racing every single weekend. But as we hit the halfway mark, we were in the top five in USRA National points. I knew they take your best 20 races, so I figured we’d run as many as we could and hope for 20 decent finishes. We were able to finish fifth, and I’m proud of that achievement.”

With only four years of racing under his belt, Bailes’ background story is short yet still very interesting.

“I’m fortunate that I live about 10 minutes down the road from Adam and Talan Willis,” he explained. “Adam is a veteran driver with lots of experience and big skills; and everybody knows how his son Talan has taken the Limited Modified world by storm this year. His talent is off the charts.

“Adam has been a big mentor for me in getting into this business. I used to help him a little when he raced, and was just an avid fan who never thought I’d have a chance to race myself. When I bought my first car, Adam helped me get started in the learning process. I’m very lucky to call him a good friend.”

Willis has his hands full these days with his son’s career, but says Bailes is very talented.

“I’ve been impressed with how hard he worked this year and the success he’s had,” Willis said. “He’s turned into a close friend. It’s amazing how far he has progressed in just four years. But he works hard at it, and it paid off for him this year. I hope he savors the success and has a great 2024, as well.”

No matter where Bailes unloads his machine, the level of competition he faces is stiff.

“Whether I’m at Sabine in Many, at Boothill in Greenwood, or up in Vivian at Ark-La-Tex, there are tons of veteran teams with skilled drivers. It takes a good setup, heads-up driving and maybe even a little good luck to beat those guys. Competition in this class in Louisiana is about as tough as it gets.”

When Bailes puts on his safety suit and gets ready to race, he climbs into a very well-crafted machine.

“I have a 2020 IRP chassis that I bought from Ricky Elliott,” he explained. “It’s an excellent piece, and is powered by a motor from Stacy at All American Racing Engines (AARE). That’s who builds the motors for Mr. Robert Metz in his No. 955 car that Talan drives. That’s why we went that direction.”

Along with some great people to guide him and a solid car, Bailes also has ample support in his corner.

“I want to thank my great sponsors, including Brighton Bridge Hospice, Joel’s Auto Sales, Richard’s Tire, L. Fontenot’s Trucking, Backwoods Audio of Tennessee, Fontenot’s Diesel Enterprises, Vaughn Ford, Hudson Motorsports, Pro Touch Detail Shop, Doyle’s AC/Electrical, and Geaux 24/7 Safety.

“I also need to thank Grooms by Rae, Racing for Tanner, Cutting Edge Logging, L&J Lawn & Lane Services, Benoit Ford, FAFO Motorsports, IRP by TD15, Club 20 Suspension, Baldwin Performance Carburetors and AARE. I couldn’t do this without them.”

It takes a ton of financial support to run 46 races at eight different tracks, but it also takes good people.

“I owe a Special Thanks to a lot of people for all of their help this year, including Ledger Bailes (crew chief); Ellie Funderburk (mud scraper); my Dad, Troy Bailes; my Mom, Missy Bailes, my brother, Jarod; Carey Eason, Charlie Jones, Dwayne & Connie Brown, Evan Olivier, Tracy Denby Jr., Adam Willis, Aaron McDaniel and Zachary Doyle. Tracy really helped me get this IRP dialed in this year. I truly appreciate what they all did for me in 2023.”

With 2023 now in the books and plans being made for 2024, Bailes says he’ll back it down a little.

“I don’t think I’ll be running 46 races or anywhere near that number next year,” he concluded. “I’m absolutely wore out from this year, and am really going to enjoy the off season. We’ll be back going for more wins and top fives, and Sabine will probably be our home track next season.

“It’s about an hour and 45 minutes from the house, and it isn’t easy to get there on time on a Friday. But we’ll make it work, and hit a few other tracks as time allows. We proved to ourselves we could contend for a top-five in National points this year, now we’ll take it a little easier. We’ll have more fun in 2024.”

By Phil Whipple, Staff Writer
Photo by Scott Burson