Women in Motorsports: Tricia Musi - Engine Builder Magazine

Women in Motorsports: Tricia Musi

Despite the life-long education given to her by her dad Pat and others in the sport, Tricia isn’t one to think she knows it all and can’t learn more. In fact, she’s always seeking to learn more and become better at what she does.

We all recognize the Musi name, which is synonymous with engines and fast cars. Pat Musi is one of the legends of our engine building industry and his daughter Lizzy has gained national recognition thanks to her appearances on Discovery’s No Prep Kings (NPK) series. Less in the national limelight, but certainly no less talented or passionate about the sport of drag racing is Pat’s other daughter Tricia Musi.

Tricia is an engine builder and drag racer who’s carving her own path in this competitive sport. Her family certainly provided her start in this industry and a platform to go racing, but Tricia has been doing things her way.

“I’ve been at the track ever since I was a baby,” Tricia Musi says. “I grew up in racing, so it’s always been in the blood. It’s always been something that I’ve always wanted to do. At one point I did get scared off and I went and tried hair dressing, but that wasn’t for me. I’m not one to be on my feet all those hours and just doing people’s hair. I always got drawn back to racing and my roots.”

Naturally, Tricia’s dad Pat was her biggest influence. The Pro Stock drag racer and PDRA champion not only was a fierce driver, but also built some incredible engines, and still does at Pat Musi Racing Engines. Tricia has been fortunate to learn from one of the best.

“I always looked up to my dad and always wanted to be an engine builder like him someday,” she says. “I started driving racecars at seven, and before then we drove go karts and little scooters and stuff like that. It never left me. It stuck with me.”

Back in 2015, Tricia ran PDRA Top Sportsman and competed for half the season before a sponsor pulled out, cutting her race season short.

“At that time, I was at the top of the ranks,” she says. “I was number one in points. I was the number one qualifier four out of five events. I went to the semifinals. I was doing really good. I also made my fastest pass, which was 3.90 at 193 mph.”

From there, in 2018, she went to NMCA racing and did so in a very special car – Popeye – which had been sitting in the Musi shop for almost 20 years untouched.

“Nobody touched it since my dad drove it last,” Musi says. “It had the same motor, same everything. We took it out with the same motor and the only difference was we put a different transmission in it. We went out there and finished third in points with that. The following year, we went out and got the new 632 deal from my dad. We got a good motor program and went out there and won the points championship. That was just awesome. It was like living a dream. It was something I’ve always wanted to do was to get back in that car and claim a championship, which is something that my dad did 20 years ago.”

Today, Tricia is getting comfortable with a new racecar dubbed Double Trouble. Contrary to what many believe, Double Trouble is not the green car re-outfitted – it’s a whole new car that features a Musi-built 959.

“The whole plan with that car was to take this year to test it and get it running,” she says. “Everybody has new car blues. Once you get a new car, you’ve always got to go out there and test and test and test, so we’ve been running this SNRA deal and running in Pro Mod just trying to get our feet wet and get the car running and make passes.

“We actually made some good passes. We know it’s definitely going to be a competitor for the [No Prep Kings] NPK deal, which is what we’re gearing towards. We’re going to try to either make Houston or one of the other close ones for the end of the year for NPK. That’s what we’ve been doing so far.”

As mentioned, Tricia’s cars Popeye and Double Trouble are different setups. They share the same transmission – a Turbo 400 – but Double Trouble features a 959 engine with six kits of nitrous versus Popeye’s 632 and three kits of nitrous. The cars run the same size tires and both feature a steel roof and quarters. Double Trouble is a Jerry Bickel chassis whereas Popeye is a Willie Rells chassis.

“It’s hard to pick favorites when it comes to Popeye,” Tricia admits. “I love Double Trouble, but when it comes to Popeye, I mean that’s just my baby. It’s always going to be number one.”

As for life outside of the car, Tricia has spent a ton of time in engine shops over the years. She’s been able to learn from her father and was also a crew chief for Ricky Smith for a long time. She’s learned a lot of valuable engine lessons.

“It’s hard now because we live in Mississippi, but when we were at the shop, I was pulling motors apart, cleaning parts and watching him put motors together, and watching him dyno motors,” she says. “I helped a lot of his customers too. When I was up in North Carolina, I actually worked for Ricky Smith and I was crew chief on his car. He’s a tough cookie to work for, but man, he’ll teach you some things.

“Always leak your motors down. If you make a full pass, always check your valves and your springs. People make that mistake all the time. They don’t check lash in the valves and you run into big trouble because you end up breaking rockers, a spring, or something you could have prevented in the long run just by doing that simple process of checking your stuff. I’ve seen so many guys out there who don’t do it and I harp on them to do it.”

Tricia has been racing for a long time, and the reason being is her passion for it. There are many aspects of racing she truly loves, but there’s one that keeps her coming back to the track more than any other.

“Burnouts,” Tricia says. “That’s my little secret. I love burnouts. I get yelled at because I do too long of burnouts. Every time I go to a new track, there’s always that first initial pass you make where you have nerves. Then, you finally make that burnout, and as soon as you make that burnout, it’s like a whole new you again. You’re just back one with the car. Burnouts are one of those things for me.

“I also like to service and maintain my car. That’s something I look forward to, as well as my fans. My fans always keep me going. I always love to entertain them and spend time with fans.”

Despite the life-long education given to her by her dad Pat and others in the sport, Tricia isn’t one to think she knows it all and can’t learn more. In fact, she’s always seeking to learn more and become better at what she does. For Tricia, honing her tuning skills is at the top of her to-do list.

“Definitely the tuning aspect and working more with computers,” she says. “I want to learn the tips and tricks, which way to go, which way not to go, when to pull timing, and when to put timing in – those are things you’ve really got to pay attention to and you’ve really got to know what you’re doing. If you do one thing wrong, you could just throw everything off course or you could blow something up. You’ve really got to pay attention and you’ve got to make sure you have the right people under your belt too, so you’re not taking information from people who don’t even know what they’re doing themselves. It’s a really tricky mess, but it’s something I’m willing to put a lot of effort into and hopefully one day I’ll get to a point where I can do it to the aspect of running fast.”

All that knowledge and continuous learning could one day come in very handy. It’s no secret that Pat Musi can’t do this forever, so the Musi Racing Engines shop is going to have to be taken over by someone someday.

“There’s really no plan at this time,” Tricia admits. “But, I assume, knowing me and knowing my sister, we’re definitely going to do whatever we can to keep it going. We’re never going to want to close the doors to that place. I’m trying as hard as I can, and I know she’s doing the same to grow as much knowledge as we possibly can to be able to pick up where he left off. That’s the ultimate goal for me.”

Her drive in this industry and in the sport of drag racing is what will ultimately continue to make her successful and competitive. Despite her family’s rich history in drag racing, being a female in a male-dominated sport means she’s had to face extra adversity.

“Growing up in this sport, I’ve seen it all my life,” she says. “There’s always going to be that one who thinks they can beat you because you’re a woman or you’re not better than them because you’re a woman. Then, you go out there and you end up taking them out, then they really feel sorry. It’s something you’ve got to let roll off your shoulder. You’ve got to have thick skin if you’re going to play this sport. That’s one thing that comes with it and you’ve got to be willing to roll with the punches.”

Those punches will certainly continue to come Tricia’s way as she looks to move from SNRA drag racing to NPK later this year and into the future.

“SNRA is a Pro Mod class and they run NHRA rules,” Tricia says. “Then, you go to NPK and in NPK you’re running with the tree, but the ambers are gone. You’ve only got the instant green. There’s a lot more I think you can get away with in NPK as opposed to the NHRA rules.

“I want to beat Kye. I want to beat my sister. I’d like to beat Ryan. I’d like to beat Justin Swanstrom. They’re all high on the playing field. That’s pretty much where my goal is to be able to take those names out, then I’d feel like I actually did something. Those are people who you can’t take anything away from. They’re running good, so you take somebody out like that, you really feel like you’ve accomplished something.”

Winning on the track is one thing, but where Tricia really feels accomplished is off the track when she can influence the younger generation to have an interest in cars, engines and racing.

“I’m really for the youth coming into the sport,” she says. “That’s one thing about me. I like to take younger kids under my wing and show them what they should be doing and teach them little tricks and tips here and there. Whenever I get a chance to do that at the tracks, I always do.”

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