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Hey, Hollywood, Joe C. Maynard's NHRA Journey Would Make A Great Movie

Maynard, a 20-year Army vet just five months removed from attending Frank Hawley's Drag Racing School, already has two Wallys in Top Alcohol class.


By MIKE PRYSON



  • Joe C. Maynard, a former chief warrant officer four and 20-year Army veteran, has made 13 passes in his life in a Top Alcohol Dragster.

  • He's also the proud owner of two Wally trophies after just two events.

  • Maynard attended drag racing school in November, which marked his first time ever in a dragster.


Someone needs to call Hollywood.


Quick.


On the other hand, Joe C. Maynard has a story that actually might be too good—or at least a little too unbelievable—for even the big screen.


Maynard is not your typical NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster pilot. Oh, he's a pilot, all right—a U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot who spent 20 years in the Army before retiring from active duty in 2016. This past fall, Maynard, the son of NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series owner Joe Maynard, thought he'd give piloting a Top Alcohol Dragster a try.


To say he's caught on kind of quickly is the understatement of the young racing season.


Less than five months removed from attending Frank Hawley's Drag Racing School, the former chief warrant officer four—a senior-level technical and tactical expert—has made 13 passes in his life in a Top Alcohol Dragster. He's also already the proud owner of two Wally trophies.



He actually won both events this past weekend in a Samsel Racing A/Fuel Dragster backed by JCM Racing and Leatherwood Distillery in Gainesville, Florida, as rain shortened the Baby Gators event from a week earlier. Maynard took care of business by notching the win in the delayed Baby Gators by beating Mike Coughlin in the semifinal and Matthew Cummings in the final for his first career Wally trophy.


Maynard then went on to win at the 55th Gatornationals event on the same Gainesville track, where he beat Dan Dietrich, Angelle Sampey, Jackie Fricke and Jeffrey Veale. The win over Veale in the final came in Maynard's lucky 13th career pass in a Top Alcohol Dragster.

Was Maynard surprised at the two-Wally day? Sure.

How about shocked or overwhelmed by the pressure of the moment? Certainly not.


"I was a helicopter instructor pilot in the Army, for combat maneuvers, for all sorts of stuff," Maynard told Autoweek. "I did eight tours of combat, I went through it. And so when I look at NHRA, I'm out here thinking, 'Man, we're not curing cancer, we're not saving the world. We're a traveling circus.'


"That takes half the pressure off right there because you know the worst that's going to happen is you might get hurt. Nobody has ever shot at me yet (in NHRA). No pressure."



The 45-year-old Maynard says he's proof that it's never too late to try something new. He's also keen to what he says is a bit of an advantage he may have over, say, even three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart—who raced the full Top Alcohol Dragster schedule last year—or even three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Sampey—who is also making the move to the Top Alcohol Dragster class on the backend of her illustrious NHRA career.


Neither Stewart nor Sampey was able to go 2-for-2 in their first two events in Top Alcohol.


"Tony has had to unlearn a lot of things, and me, I don't have anything to unlearn," Maynard said.


Maynard attended Frank Hawley's Drag Racing School in November, which marked his first time ever in a dragster. He was hardly a natural and was even second-guessing whether he would be able to complete the licensing phase in his first try, which was scheduled for Las Vegas just a few weeks after the dragster course.


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