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Joe C. Maynard to make NHRA debut in JCM Racing/Leatherwood Distillery A/Fuel Dragster

In the recent months we’ve heard a lot and have been talking a lot about JCM Racing and their Top Fuel program. Now, we shift to the A/Fuel category and another member of the Maynard family, Joe C. Maynard, who will be making his debut at the Division 2 event known as the “Baby Gators.”

The event will kick off on Thursday, February 29th and will mark the first time Joe will be staging the 4,000 horsepower dragster in competition, however, he feels as though his adult life experience has prepared him well for this new venture.

“Making my NHRA debut is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I’ve always loved racing and fast cars, and being out at the track these past few years has really got the competitive juices flowing.”

Before becoming involved in NHRA drag racing in 2021 with him family, Joe, son of JCM Racing patriarch Joe E. Maynard, served 20 years as a member of the U.S. Army. The former Chief Warrant Officer Four did eight combat tours where he manned the controls of various military helicopters, performing combat maneuvers as a Black Hawk pilot. His exceptional aviation skills led to his being promoted to an instructor pilot role in addition to receiving multiple air medals throughout his time spent in service. Maynard’s extensive military training has provided him with the innate ability to quickly assess and react to high-pressure situations. No doubt this is a skill that will come in handy when wheeling a machine that will regularly exceed speeds of 275 mph.

“I can’t wait to get out there and compete,” Joe added. “To be able to run a full season and have the opportunity to compete for a championship in my first year is unbelievable. Since I retired from the military, I haven’t been able to really compete, and this is a different type of competition. That being said, I’m not naïve to think that I don’t need as much seat time as possible at this point. I am a true rookie in every sense when it comes to driving an A/Fuel car, but I do believe that having spent so many years operating in some of the most extreme, tense situations has trained me to keep a cool head and remain calm under pressure, which I feel will translate to driving.”

Though this is Joe’s first time in drag racing competition, he’s no stranger to the cockpit of a race car. He competitively raced at local dirt tracks in his home state of Tennessee and in 2020 was crowned Clarksville Speedway’s Pure Mini series champion. In 2023 he attended Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing school where he was licensed first in Super Comp, then returned to learn the ins and outs of a Top Alcohol Dragster. With the guidance of driving mentor and JCM Racing teammate Tony Schumacher, Joe earned his Top Alcohol Dragster license in October.

Joe’s plan for the 2024 season is to compete on a full time basis. This includes several divisional events and 10 national events, which will make him eligible to contend for a championship. His JCM Racing/Leatherwood Distillery A/Fuel Dragster entry, is owned and operated by Samsel Racing. Most recently Robin and Tony Samsel helped tune JCM Racing Vice President Mike Lewis to a No. 1 qualifier and runner up finish during Mike’s stint behind the wheel in 2023.

While taking on his busy day to day role of overseeing JCM Racing driver development program, which recently announced the addition of seven Jr. drag racers, Joe has been preparing himself as much as possible for his debut.

“I’ve been practicing my reaction times and doing a lot of visualization techniques, such as my staging procedures,” said Joe. “I’m ready to get strapped in, but I’m also very aware of being careful not to allow ego to get the best of me. If I’m ever at a point where I’m in the car and I feel like I’m in over my head or don’t know where I am on the racetrack, I’ll do the smart thing and lift off the throttle. Thankfully, I’m surrounded by great drivers that I can lean on for guidance. I’m very much looking forward to next weekend; it can’t come soon enough.”

Adding to the point that drag racing and JCM Racing itself is a family sport, Joe’s son Shelby, recently made his own debut aboard one of the newly added Jr. Roadsters.

Qualifying for the “Baby Gators” will begin on Thursday, February 29th and continue through Friday and Saturday morning. Eliminations kick off on Saturday morning, with the event winner to be crowned on Sunday, March 3rd. Joe is scheduled to make some test runs prior to the race weekend.


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