Climbing back behind the wheel of an NHRA Top Fuel car after taking four years off is nerve-racking enough. However, attempting to return to competition at the inaugural NHRA 4-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway is enough to make even the most seasoned competitor a little wary.
“We were really excited about the prospect of being a part of this historical 4-wide event,” said Rhonda Hartman-Smith. “We have been trying to put something together with Hartley Racing since Pomona, so when this opportunity came along, it just all came together.”
Although Hartman-Smith’s first run of 3.982 et at 307.02 mph put her solidly in the field, merely making the race has never been enough for this female competitor. So, without skipping a beat Hartman-Smith jumped right back in for fourth round and held her own with the big boys and season-regular competitors. So much so, Hartman Smith leaped into the top half of the field with her fourth round qualifying effort of 3.888 et at 313.15 mph placing her in the eighth qualifying position.
“It felt great getting back into the car,” said Hartman-Smith. “I was a little nervous about being rusty and being in a different car, but the Hartley Racing team has been so great. Every round has just been as smooth as can be,” Hartman-Smith said.
Hartman-Smith not only earned a berth in final eliminations, she also reached the second round of eliminations. In the first quartet of four wide racing she advanced alongside of No. 1 qualifier Cory McClenathan.
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