FUZI: Pitside Chatter
GAYLORD, Mich. — On the track, the Maui Shower Company/Dirt Late Model Magazine No. 22 is driven like every other dirt late model in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series lineup.
A hard-charger from Cedar Falls, Iowa, Jill George has been giving the WoO boys a run for their money since 2009. The only thing that sets George apart from her competitors is that outside the cockpit she answers to the title “mom” from her 4-year old son Jackson.
A competitor by nature Jill has never shied away from a challenge. Through high school she was a multi-sport athlete and has since earned two Golden Glove boxing titles. Taking on the world of dirt-late-model racing has been a new challenge for the 33-year-old driver who considers herself, “The luckiest woman that ever lived. Right at the time I was dating my now husband Rick Hartzell, he asked if I wanted to go to the races with him to watch his son, Nate, race. I was like, ‘Great! One of those guys,’ but I went anyway and by the end of that 2003 season Rick was asking me if I wanted to put a car together for the next season and I said, ‘Heck Yeah!’ We got a hand-me-down chassis and worked though the winter together getting it ready and then I started racing in 2004 at a local track in Webster City, Iowa.”
George’s career quickly began to take off and knowing that she wanted to take that career to the next level Jill and Rick decided that the best way to learn was to learn from the best and became a series regular with the World of Outlaws.
Racing at a national level is a humbling experience for George who is still looking to grab an A-Main win with the series, and although she has yet to capture “The Big One” George has solidified herself as a fierce competitor within the series and holds the title of the first woman to race her way into a WoO event.
“Although I’ve got a lot of goals in this sport, the only thing I can give back right now is showing young kids especially young girls that they really can do anything they want to do regardless of the circumstances,” she said. “We run our program differently than most in the series, yet we still keep up. I don’t race for a living, throughout the week I am Dr. Jill Hartzell at Hartzell Family Chiropractic. I go home and work on a race car until 2 a.m., and then hit the road for the weekend. We are racing the way racing used to be, and it is definitely a family sport as Jackson very rarely misses a race. To some our program is a little crazy, but we make it work.”
It certainly has worked. Last season Jill was part of the WoO dirty dozen, finishing 12th in the standings, and currently she sits 14th on the leader board with eight events remaining on the 2011 schedule.
For Jill, her greatest accomplishment came back in 2009 on home turf at the Yankee Dirt Track Classic in Farley, Iowa, “For Midwest racing the Yankee is one of the biggest events of the year and we made the fast car dash out of 68 cars and sat on the pole. That was just cool.”
Jill’s career has been a roller coaster of triumphs and tribulations, but one of the scariest moments came last year in Texas when she took a wild ride.
“We hit the wall head-on. I ended up taking out the lighting system, shot off some fireworks, ended up in the catch fence and then had to spend six hours in a Texas hospital,” she remembered. “We went all the way down there to get about five laps on the track before heading back home to Iowa.”
When it comes to the future of Jill George racing the possibilities are endless. In recent years George has ventured into asphalt competition making an ARCA debut at Daytona in 2010 and later testing at Talladega, but for now the main focus is the dirt-late-model program where Jill is looking to grow even more as a driver and as a team.
“I really hope we can get a sponsor on board,” she says. “We are really behind the competition equipment wise. I really think that if we could be on the same playing field for a month we could surprise a few of these boys.”