What defines a dynasty — an immutable lineage that defines change? Endless repetition of the normal? Stagnation? In some cases, perhaps it’s some combination of the above. However if we consider one such dynasty a bit further, the reality certainly appears different.
The name “Musi” conjures up all sorts of associations for even the casual fan of drag racing. OG engine builder out of New Jersey, proven in the historical door-car hotbed that is the East Coast. Championship-winning pilot and provider of power to contenders across a broad swath of doorslammer (and dragster) categories, Pat Musi has become, essentially, a legend in his own time. But that’s just Pat. The company he built has become a fixture in the world of nitrous-assisted horsepower, and he continues to captain it’s trajectory, but in his role now he’s behind the car, behind the scenes, and makes his voice heard only when it must be.
The representation of what it means to be a Musi is now shared by the next generation. Pat’s daughters Tricia and Lizzy have themselves become prominent figures in the industry their father helped build, and each in their own right. Tricia, for example, currently campaigns one of the original cars that cemented Pat’s reputation, a quite green fourth-gen Pontiac Firebird, which she runs with the Bankston Boyz Racing Team in the NMCA’s Nitrous Pro Street class.
For her part, Lizzy has perhaps been best known as the driver of the King Kong Dodge Stratus and Dart-bodied Pro Mods that are the latest in a lineage of elite doorslammers owned by Frank Brandao (a longtime customer of Musi Racing Engines). Racing the PDRA’s Pro Nitrous category and even internationally, Lizzy has achieved notable marks such as being the first woman to win in Pro Nitrous and the first woman to take a door car to 200 mph in the 1/8-mile. Currently she owns the Pro Nitrous speed record at 209.23 mph. Indeed, as she has served in a role such as President of Musi Enterprises and has become a prominent face of the Musi family business in high-profile sanctioning bodies like the PDRA, Lizzy would seem poised to continue the family legacy in very much the same mold as her father.
Then along comes no-prep. As a format created by and for street racers — who normally shun the tall gates and walled lanes of race tracks — it has been the first public venue where the street-honed skills of drivers like Chuck Seitsinger, James Love, and Chris Hamilton are truly showcased. Kye Kelley, of Mississippi, is certainly among that group. The pair met when Kye went to a PDRA event to run an exhibition grudge race — and Lizzy had no idea who he was. “To be honest with you, I had never heard of him; I had never watched the show!” she admits. At the time Kye was already a Musi customer, and as Lizzy recalls, “My dad introduced me to him, and we just became friends. He was pretty down-to-earth, seemed pretty cool, and it just started from there.”
Once she and Kye became a couple, it was natural that she got a first-hand look into illegal street racing and the fairly free-form world of no-prep racing, at the track. And of course being a racer, wasn’t satisfied spectating, for long. Yet coming from formal, regulated track events where every to step is taken to ensure clean passes and mark-free walls, one has to ask what made that leap such a simple one for Lizzy. However when you hear her explain her motivations, and what in her personality makes such a big leap easy, it all does begin to make sense: “I love challenge — that’s really a big thing for me. I always want to keep pushing my goals. I really want to race a fuel [nitromethane] car in the future — that’s what I’m really egging towards. But we’ll see where that goes. I just want to expand in what I’m doing. I just keep pushing.”
So naturally she would be the one Musi to bring no-prep into the company’s portfolio.
“Yeah, I’m always bringing something new to my family,” she says with a laugh. Her father, well… “My dad’s more of the old-school kind of type,” she starts, and continues, “There’s nothing wrong with that though. I’ve learned everything I know from him. But my dad wasn’t too… ‘fond’ about the no-prep deal, and obviously a lot of people know that. But he’s finally, I think, coming around. I think he’s really interested in helping me and Kye out, and I’m pretty excited about that.” That includes assistance on both Kye’s car, the infamous Shocker third-gen Camaro, as well Lizzy’s car, a fifth-gen model named Aftershock.
I really want to race a fuel [nitromethane] car in the future — that’s what I’m really egging towards. But we’ll see where that goes. I just want to expand in what I’m doing. I just keep pushing.
Aftershock is a 2012 Camaro with a 737-inch nitrous motor built by, of course, Musi Racing Engines. If you haven’t been following her and Kye’s posts about the car’s development, well… it’s been a bit of a process. As she says with a laugh, “I almost want to call that car the ‘red-headed stepchild’ or something!” The chassis was originally obtained from fellow no-prep racer David Bird Jones, with the intention of it being a new car for Kye himself. But as plans evolved the idea was hatched to have Lizzy drive as part of a two-car team. A good idea certainly, but a massive undertaking in practice.
“I knew, in my head, it was going to be a lot of work. I don’t think he realized, until we started doing it,” she says of her and Kye’s first attempts to field a car for each, simultaneously. “It was kind of a mess,” she admits. After some initial build troubles the car has been seen by at least a handful of chassis shops, from Larry Jeffers Race Cars in Missouri to Bad Habitz Fab in Mississippi, but as she says, “We’re finally getting a handle on it. Everyone’s been working on it! It’s been a little finicky, but I think we’ll make good things happen with it.”
Her driving ability is one thing that hasn’t needed any work, however. Asked about the transition from racing on tracks with world-class levels of grip and prep, she says, “Nothing against anything, but… it does feel a little slower compared to what I’m used to, you know? But, you just have to be more ‘on your toes’ when you’re driving in no-prep, because anything can happen. You gotta’ just feel it in the ‘ass’ of the seat! I don’t know how else to explain it, but you gotta’ feel it in your butt. I just use my normal routine and do what I do and try to be competitive — as best as I can — in anything I’m doing.” Indeed, if there’s any Musi to represent the family name well in outlaw-style competition, it’s natural that it’d be Lizzy.
But as evidence that her exploits in no-prep are truly an expansion of the Musi family legacy, not some paradigm shift in a different direction, she will continue to race in PDRA Pro Nitrous in 2019. That involvement in top-level Pro Modified competition means that she’ll continue to develop the business’ customer relationships and its R&D partnerships, as well. Edelbrock is one such partner: “We just signed a new deal with Edelbrock, this year,” she says with pride, and continues, “They’ve been a recurring sponsor and we’re proud to have them onboard with me. They’ve been really good to us, and it’s cool to keep them onboard for another year, and hopefully for another year after that.”
…you just have to be more ‘on your toes’ when you’re driving in no-prep, because anything can happen. You gotta’ just feel it in the ‘ass’ of the seat! I don’t know how else to explain it, but you gotta’ feel it in your butt.
Of course what the future holds is unknown, but the Musi/Edelbrock collaboration has years-worth of history behind it. While other fuel injection and power management systems such as Haltech and FuelTech have become more common with boosted engines, Lizzy explains that Edelbrock and Pat Musi have long been developing EFI technology for nitrous combinations. “Edelbrock’s done their own deal and my dad’s been working on that, over the years. It’s a pretty good piece. That fuel injection’s ideal, especially for no-prep.” And it will have to be, given the competition Lizzy and the other nitrous runners face in Discovery’s No Prep Kings series.
As she puts it, “Right now, the rules being as they are, a nitrous car running against the turbo and blower cars… there’s no comparison. Nothing against turbos or any other power-adder — hey, they’re fast with what they have. My dad’s been around it for a long time and he knows what’s going on. And if you look at any other [sanctioning] organization, they’re having the same problems.” But, rather than wither with frustration, a camp like Musi’s always seems to find new stones yet un-turned in their search for power.
In other words, instead of relying on rule-makers or promoters’ whims, the Musi-powered no-prep crew plans to work internally and step their own game up. “We just gotta’ come up with a good combination to try to outrun those guys for next year,” Lizzy states flatly, and continues, “We’re working on, maybe, a bigger engine for my car [Aftershock], and Kye and I have changed pretty much his whole combination for next year. It’s going to be a pretty big deal, so we gotta’ do a lot of testing before the season starts back up again.”
That’s the voice of a racer who never quits, because she never stops learning and growing. Not content to simply create more of the same, she sustains her and her family’s legacy by ever expanding, as part of a process — the making of a dynasty.