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Rickie Smith Set To Drive Scott Palmer’s Top Fuel Dragster Friday Before PDRA ProStars Event At Virginia Motorsports Park

Rickie Smith is about to make history as he marks his 50th year as a drag racer. Smith is set to drive Scott Palmer’s Top Fuel dragster before the PDRA ProStars race at Virginia Motorsports Park. The highly anticipated event will take place Friday night, prior to the PDRA race.

Rickie Smith, widely regarded as one of the greatest doorslammer racers of all time, boasts an impressive career spanning over five decades. This will add to his career that includes the title of the winningest NHRA Pro Mod driver of all time.

The inception of the idea started last winter, prior to the World Series of Pro Mod, when Smith was helping Palmer with his suspensions on this ’63 Corvette. Palmer wanted to pull a wheeler, as strange as that sounds, at the WSOPM.

“I started helping Scott last winter when we got invited to go to the [World Series of Pro Mod] $100,000-to-win race,” shared Rickie Smith. “We’ve become friends, and then he asked me if I wanted to make a hit in the Top Fuel car. I thought, man, yeah, that’d be awesome because I’ve done a lot of stuff, drove a lot of cars, but I’ve never done that.”

Scott Palmer is often referred to as the “People’s Champion”for a good reason. When he’s not making waves in the NHRA Camping World Series behind the wheel of his Top Fuel Dragster, Palmer is renowned for his captivating drag racing entertainment, including the popular Scott Palmer’s Nitro Side Show. Known for his unwavering passion and commitment to the sport, Palmer is once again raising the bar by offering this unique opportunity to Rickie Smith.

“It’s going to be the coolest thing ever. I tell everyone there’s no way he’s going to hit the gas one time. He’s gonna get addicted,” said Palmer. “He’s a real racer. He’s the realest racer probably with a license right now. He is as hardcore as they come.”

The two developed a fast friendship and leaned on one another for their expertise in the world of drag racing.

“I felt like I wasted a week of Rickie’s life over the winter with him helping me,” Palmer said. “But in casual conversation, we’re talking and he was like, ‘Man, it’d be cool to see what that feels like in one of them Nitro cars.’ I said, ‘Well, you Pro Stock guys, y’all don’t even like Nitro cars.’ He said, ’Let me tell you something, anybody who had the chance to stab the gas on one of them cars, they would jump at the chance no matter what they say about Nitro cars. Everybody would like to see what that feels like.’ I said, ‘Does that mean you would like to see what that feels like?’” 

“Rickie said, ‘I’d love to,’ and I said, ‘Ok, I’m going to make that happen,” Palmer finished explaining. 

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Known for his generosity and unwavering passion for the sport, Palmer has once again demonstrated his dedication to elevating the drag racing experience by extending this unique opportunity to Smith. Last year he, by way of Alex Laughlin, who also collaborated with Palmer on a Top Fuel ride, offered the experience to adrenaline junkie Travis Pastrana. 

Palmer is confident that Smith will handle the 11,000 horsepower of the Top Fuel Dragster with unrivaled finesse. “He’s Ricky Smith; nothing’s going to rattle him. I tell everyone there’s no way he’s going to hit the gas one time. He’s gonna get addicted,” Palmer added. “He’s a real racer. He’s the realest racer, probably with a license right now. He is as hardcore as they come.”

The plan is for Smith to launch the machine and then drive to about 300-400 feet per Smith’s comfortability in the run. Furthermore, Palmer has prepared Smith with the staging procedure but has left out the sensation of the “hit” that is experienced when standing on the throttle of one of these machines. 

Palmer’s response to the preparation of the launch was, ”Not really – we’re just going to let him go in kind of blind, but he’s Ricky Smith – nothing’s going to rattle him.”

However, there has been some preparation in the works. Smith sat in the dragster in Charlotte, North Carolina, to familiarize himself with the car, but he’s not doing anything specific to prepare for the exhibition. 

“I drove heavy equipment. I drove bulldozers when I was young,” explained Smith. “Then I got into racing and I drove, modified cars, stock cars, Pro Mod cars, my [Pro Stock] car. So the only thing left for me to really do is make a hit in a fuel car. 

“I think it’s just awesome that Scott has the trust to let me get in this car and just do that. I’m really grateful for Scott for giving me this opportunity.”

This story was originally published on July 18, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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Since 2005, DI has informed, inspired and educated drag racers from every walk of the racing life - weekend warrior and street/strip enthusiasts to pro-level doorslammer and Top Fuel racers. From award-winning writing and photography to binge-worthy videos to electric live events, DI meets hundreds of thousands of racers where they live, creating the moments that create conversations.