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GAINESVILLE WASN’T JUST A DEBUT FOR MAYNARD; IT WAS A MESSAGE

By BOBBY BENNETT JR.



Maybe Joe C. Maynard didn’t intend for it to look too easy, but it sure came across that way. 


Maynard, the son of Top Fuel team owner Joe Maynard, made his Top Alcohol Dragster debut and ended up sweeping the NHRA Gatornationals, which became two-in-one following the suspension of the Baby Gators, the NHRA Div. 2 event scheduled the week before. 


“I remember every single run,” Maynard admitted. 


That part Maynard revealed was easy.


“I’ve only made 13 passes in his car,” he added. 


Try this on for size. Seven of those thirteen runs were round wins, and one was a provisional No. 1 qualifying run behind the wheel of the Samsell Racing A/Fuel Dragster.. 


Maynard doesn’t hesitate to point out that he got his one lucky win in the semi-finals of Sunday’s race against Jackie Fricke. He might have looked calm on the surface but was doing his duck-on-the-water impersonation. He was calm on the surface, but underneath, he was churning in mayhem. 


“We joke about it in the pit a lot,” Maynard explained. “If I do well, I get the credit. If I suck, you get the blame. I mean, that’s a terrible way to race. So we made a deal that we will talk, we will throw shade at each other all day long, but at the end of the day, we share the victory and we share the blame.”


“We’ve just been fortunate enough to not have to share blame,” Maynard said. “Now, I did screw up big time in the semis against Jackie in the Nationals, and that was totally my fault. And that’s because of my inexperience is when he’s holding me, they’re tuning the car after I get burnout and everything. And I look up, and I see she’s already pre-staged. “Chalk it up to inexperience that morphed into beginner’s luck.


“I was thinking I had seven seconds, which is wrong because I don’t have seven seconds,” Maynard said. “It doesn’t start until there’s three bulbs lit. So as soon as he waved me up, I bumped it in fast and I caught myself and double-bulbed her. And I know Jackie. I love Jackie.


“I was like, oh crap, I’m double bowled her. That is such a d*** move. So I glanced, I put my left hand out, and I shoved my fuel back, and I glanced down to make sure the handle was back, and I heard her launch, and so I just foot-swapped it and launched with her.”


“I had a 360 light. It was terrible. But I never even took my foot off the clutch. I literally had my foot on the clutch, and then I just foot-swapped instead of holding it with the brake. I was holding the brake anyway, but it was all messed up. And that was just my inexperience right there, getting the better of me.”


Fortunately for him, Fricke smoked the tires at the hit. The veteran driver used a measure of humor and reassurance to keep the rookie focused.

“It’s funny because when we got to the top end, Jackie came over, she goes, ‘You double-bulbed me,” Maynard said. “And then she was just joking and she gave me a hug, told me congratulations.”


“And I just felt so bad. Even Amanda [Busick], when she interviewed me, she said that I was frustrated. I said, ‘Yeah, because I don’t play dirty and I don’t want that to be a thing.” 


“But also, people could play dirty with me all day, and I won’t even know it because I don’t have the experience to say, ‘Oh, he’s doing this. So I just go out there.”


In the final round against an upset-minded Jeff Veale, Maynard played the game to the letter of the law by leaving first and leading through the finish line.  “I didn’t even realize I had won until I made it to the top end,” Maynard said. That was only the 13th pass I had ever made in one of these cars, and now I’m holding two of these trophies. “To leave here with two wins in only my first two races is just incredible and not possible without something else. I’m sure a lot of this is thanks to my mom, who I know was along for the ride with me this weekend,” added

Maynard, referring to his mother Cathi Maynard who passed away in June 2023 following a lengthy battle with multiple sclerosis. “I got to have my dad here on the starting line with me all weekend, my kids watching along at home. It’s just been really special, and I couldn’t ask for a better start to my NHRA career.”


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