"Many people see this car go out and run low fours but what they don't realize is we still run a standard configuration (non-setback blower) on this car."
After a successful two weekends of tuning, John "Bodie" Smith is stepping back behind the wheel of his father's Nitro Funny Car this weekend for the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals Presented By Pennzoil at Maple Grove Raceway. John's last outing in the Rock Batteries Funny Car entry was earlier this year at the 50th Gatornationals where the team qualified 14th with a 4.11 run. Paul recently took his Funny Car to the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis with Phil Burkart Jr. driving. Despite setting a career best, for both Burkart and Paul Smith Racing, at 4.02 e.t., the team missed out on the quickest Funny Car field in NHRA history.
The reason John was not in the car was his prior commitment as Crew Chief on the Justin Schriefer Racing Funny Car where he tuned Justin Schriefer to a career-best 4.00 e.t. that put the team 16th in the quick field. John then traveled to England to the Euro Finals at Santa Pod Raceway. There John shares his tuning skills with both the West Ten and the Thermoreg Funny Car Teams, owned and driven by Kevin Kent and Kevin Chapman respectfully. The race ended with Kevin Kent taking the event win but the European Funny Car Series Championship going home to Kevin Chapman. Both teams were very pleased with their seasons as John comes back to America with the number one and two Funny Cars in Europe under his helm. John now looks to take what he's learned with these Funny Cars and apply them to his father's. Along with driving duties, John will be helping his father with tuning duties as well this weekend.
Paul decided to take his car to Maple Grove for a couple of reasons. One being his close relationship with Mike Lewis, who from 2012 to 2015 drove the Brand-X Nostalgia Funny Car owned by the late Henry Gutierrez and tuned by Paul. With the Lewis's family selling the track, this will be the last NHRA National event held at Maple Grove under their tenure and that is something Paul did not want to miss out on. The second reason is due to mother nature as Hurricane Dorian recently hit the east coast of Florida. Paul did not want is operation, which would be coming back from Indy to West Palm Beach, to be caught in the hurricane's path, so the truck and trailer stayed up north.
John is excited to return to Maple Grove, where he has had success before. He won a DRO Nostalgia Nitro Challenge at the track in 2013; he was driving Henry Gutierrez's "Jungle Jim" Nostalgia Funny Car, which was also owned by Henry. Paul's success in Reading came in 1996 when his "School Car" won the NHRA Keystone Nationals Funny Car title with driver Jeff Arend. John also shares history with his wife, Top Fuel pilot Rhonda Hartman-Smith, at the Grove as they were the first husband and wife to race each other in NHRA Eliminations back in 2002.
This weekend, the team will have the backing from long-time supporters Steve Earwood with Rock Batteries and Joe Magin with The Original Discount Furniture. John would also like to thank E3 Spark Plugs and Hartman Enterprises for their support. Paul, John, and team are looking for a successful weekend full of setting new personal bests and getting the family car into the three-second zone. "Many people see this car go out and run low fours but what they don't realize is we still run a standard configuration (non-setback blower) on this car. Dad won't change it but with the success he has had at getting this car down the track, I don't blame him." John continues to say, "I'm just trying to add what I know from the other cars I tune to get this Rock Batteries Funny Car into the threes."