It wasn’t exactly a sequence of events that brought them closer together, but both Rickie Smith and Pat Musi were involved in horrific crashes last year racing in NHRA Pro Modified.
On Friday at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, they were teammates, fully recovered from their respective incidents and enjoying life at Lucas Oil Raceway.
Both have rebounded well from their 2011 crashes and already experienced plenty of success in 2012, but Friday provided an exciting dynamic by having two racing legends paired together.
It certainly brought a grin to Musi’s face when discussing a relationship with Smith that has grown significantly in recent seasons.
“We’ve known each other a long time, but in these past three years, we’ve kind of gotten mutual respect,” Musi said. “It takes a lot for me to trust somebody, but whatever he turns on that car, I have total confidence in it.”
That’s a big statement from Musi, who raced in the ¼-mile for the first time on Friday in Pro Mod since his crash last May in Atlanta.
Musi crashed hard into the guardwall at Atlanta Dragway’s shutdown area, and an MRI soon after revealed a fractured vertebrae.
He underwent surgery to insert titanium pins into his lower back, but always a fighter, Musi was quickly back behind the wheel.
Musi has performed well in the ADRL Pro Mod class, while his return to the NHRA Pro Mod scene as Smith’s teammate yielded terrific results on Friday.
Musi, who was the Pro Stock No. 1 qualifier in Indy at the U.S. Nationals in 1981, is currently fifth after one session with a 6.004 at 230.10 mph in a 2009 nitrous-powered Stratus.
He’s also content leaving the car in Smith’s hands.
“He knows these cars front to back, I guarantee it,” Musi said.
Smith is relying on Musi these days as well, dipping into Musi’s EFI-powered racing engines.
A month after Musi crashed into the guardwall last year, Smith had his own nasty crash, this one coming at Bristol Dragway last June.
Smith suffered a serious knee injury that resulted in surgery, but he’s been back in full force in 2012, winning twice in NHRA Pro Mod and also running well in the ADRL.
He went 6.04 at 242.89 mph, good enough for eighth on Friday, and Musi notices a similar trust with Smith.
“He’s getting that way with the engine stuff with me. He’s a serious racer. There’s nobody more serious than him,” Musi said. “He races full-time and he’s serious. He lives and breathes this stuff, but I understand it.
As far as being teammates for the weekend, Smith saw plenty of benefits to teaming up with his friend.
Most of them, though, led back to racing and his performance at the U.S. Nationals.
“It gives us data on two different things. I run the Goodyears on his car and Hoosiers on mine. I’ll be back with the Goodyears because we shook and I had to pedal,” Smith said. “But that’s one reason to run two cars. You get double information.”
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