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Another Maynard Takes On Drag Racing, But With A Twist

By: Grace Woelbing

Driving a Top Alcohol dragster down a quarter-mile drag strip at 270 mph is the second-most exhilarating feeling Joe C. Maynard has ever experienced.

The first? Piloting a Black Hawk military helicopter in the U.S. Army.

As for which one is more enjoyable, Maynard chooses the dragster.

“It’s a ridiculous amount of fun,” Maynard said with a grin.

Other than a season he spent racing a busted-up 2002 Ford Escort at a local dirt track a few years ago, the 20-year military veteran had never set foot in a race car until last year.

More so, the only reason he ever checked out the drag strip was because of his parents, Joe and (the late) Cathi Maynard, and their involvement in the sport.

The Maynards entered drag racing as associate sponsors with Top Fuel driver Leah Pruett several years ago and later acquired the assets of Don Schumacher’s race team in order to form their own — JCM Racing. This year, the family is fielding cars for Tony Schumacher and Ida Zetterstrom in Top Fuel.

The ironic part in all of it is that Joe C. Maynard originally didn’t approve of his parents’ deep dive into NHRA and ensuing financial commitment to the sport. But that changed once he made it to the races.

“At first, I was like, ‘That’s stupid. Why would you spend all this money just to put your name on a car?’” Maynard said. “Then I showed up to the track and I was like, ‘Oh man, that was a great decision. I’m so proud of you guys.’”

He attended about half the races on the NHRA schedule during that first season of sponsorship and eventually determined he wanted to be part of it.

At first, that included on-the-ground involvement with the running of Maynard Ashley Racing — the Maynard’s joint effort with Top Fuel driver Justin Ashley that began in early 2023.

“My dad still ran the show, but I was under the umbrella and got to do day-to-day with the team. I had a blast with the Ashley’s, Mike Green (crew chief), Dustin (Davis) and all those guys. It literally is like a family,” Maynard said.

Zooming ahead to the 2023 offseason, things started to change.

The Maynards parted ways with Ashley, who went on to join the newly-formed SCAG Racing operation. The same thing happened to the Maynard’s partnership with Tim Wilkerson, who moved his Funny Car team over to SCAG.

“That’s when I really started thinking hard about driving. I just didn’t know how to approach it,” Maynard said. “I had shoulder surgery last December and I was like, ‘Whenever I’m healed up, maybe we’ll go get licensed just so we know what it’s like to be in the car.’”

The 45-year-old took the idea and ran with it.

He earned his Super Comp license at Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School in the fall of 2023, then traveled back down to the school a few weeks later to attempt learning a Top Alcohol car.

“I’ll be the first one to tell you, I chewed that course up and it spat me out,” Maynard said. “I didn’t even get everything together in the car until the last run. I was in the wrong gear, I was foot swapping, I rolled through the light — I did everything you’re not supposed to do.”

Despite warnings that he should wait another year before earning his A/Fuel license, Maynard’s impatience got the best of him and he decided to go ahead with the process.

This is where his experience as a helicopter pilot came into play.

“I used to fly helicopter missions, basically in a kitchen, just visualizing where all the switches and everything was. I’d sit with a plunger between my legs sitting in a chair, broomstick in my left hand as the collective,” Maynard explained.

He applied the same visualization technique to his Top Alcohol licensing session, made three “beautiful passes” and collected the credential.  

After finding an open seat at Samsell Racing, Maynard signed up for his first championship chase in the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. And it started in near-perfect fashion at the Baby Gators, where Maynard flipped his first win light.  

“It was nuts,” Maynard said. “I only had two things in my head. One was, don’t go out there and look like an idiot. And two, I remembered this conversation I had with Amanda Busick (pit reporter) years ago.

“I was like, ‘I feel like I’ll wanna drive someday.’ It was kind of just a pipe dream at the time, but I told her, ‘If I ever get interviewed by you at the top end, then I’ll feel like I’ve made it.’”

Long story short, he did it.  

Maynard won both the rain-postponed Baby Gators and the Top Alcohol portion of the NHRA Gatornationals, which were held on the same weekend at Florida’s Gainesville Raceway.

One other tidbit — the final round of the Gatornationals was only Maynard’s 13th career pass in an A/Fuel car, including the runs he made during testing.

“I can’t express the emotions I had at the time. I screamed in the cockpit on the finish line just for like two or three seconds and I ended up losing my voice for that week,” Maynard said. “I look at Amanda (Busick) at the top end and she gives me a thumbs up and I was like, ‘Holy crap, that just happened.’”

Once getting out of the car, Maynard joked to Busick, “I guess I finally made it.”


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