In the multi-generational sport that is drag racing, father-son duos have been front and center on the track over the years. Kenny and Brandon Bernstein, Warren and Kurt Johnson, Don and Tony Schumacher, and Mike and Justin Ashley are just a few of the fathers and sons that have made their mark on the sport together. The latest father-son duo to hit the NHRA Camping World Series, Joe E. and Joe C. Maynard, has had a quieter, behind-the-scenes impact, which suits Maynard Family Racing patriarch Joe E. Maynard just fine.
[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in DI #184, the State of Drag Issue, in September/October of 2023.]
JCM Racing burst onto the scene a couple years ago, beginning with a sponsorship at Don Schumacher Racing. That led to Joe E. and wife Cathi purchasing a majority stake in the Tony Schumacher-piloted Top Fuel team in the middle of the 2022 season. Their footprint expanded again in January 2023 when they partnered with Funny Car veteran Tim Wilkerson to form Maynard Wilkerson Racing, and yet again in late May with the formation of Maynard Ashley Racing (MAR), a partnership with Justin Ashley, Dustin Davis, and Jim Epler.
An Army veteran with a deep background in building successful businesses, Joe E. Maynard oversees the day-to-day business operations of JCM Racing. His son and fellow Army veteran, Joe C. Maynard, has been by his side at every step, bringing his own unique skills to the table while learning others from his father.
Since the beginning, they’ve made a point not to micromanage the teams, instead allowing the team members already in place to focus on their own departments. That was their strategy when they took over operations of the Schumacher Top Fuel team, and it’s continued as they’ve partnered with Wilkerson and Ashley on their programs.
“I’m a big fan, of course, but I oversee all the businesses,” Joe E. says. “We operate a little differently than a lot of teams in that we’re not owner-drivers. We don’t tell the crew chiefs at all how to do their business. We simply are here to be a resource to them.
“We adapt to the co-owned teams without trying to tell them how to run the race day part of the operation,” he continues. “We do support race day. One of [Joe C.’s] biggest functions is race day. He’s out there doing a lot. He’s much better at socializing than I am. He fits it, he looks it, and he brings the Maynard name to all the teams. I like to stay in the background. Behind the curtain, I guess, is my favorite way to operate when I can.”
The Maynards’ approach to working with their teams is especially beneficial for Wilkerson, who’s been his own driver, tuner, and team owner since he made his Funny Car debut in 1996. Working with crew chief Richard Hartman, Wilkerson has developed a reputation as a consistent competitor who can throw down with the “big teams.” Partnering with the Maynards has allowed him to take his program to the next level.
“One thing that Joe was adamant about is that he didn’t want me to bend or change or do anything different than I’ve been doing for the last few years because the car performs so well,” Wilkerson says. “He just wanted to be an addition, not an influencer. He’s been great about that. He lets me do my thing, and together, we’re trying to build a bigger program. He’s a huge part of that.”
Things are a little different in the Schumacher camp, as JCM Racing oversees the day-to-day operations. Still, Schumacher sees the unique way the Maynards get involved with the partner teams.
“Tim Wilkerson is a guy who for years you’ve always wanted him to win. He’s really paid his dues,” Schumacher says. “For Joe to go, ‘Here, here’s an opportunity to go out and have more financial support than you’ve ever had before,’ it’s just awesome. And really, to do the same thing with Justin: Step in and form a partnership and make sure you guys are funded. Everyone’s doing their job.”
While the younger Maynard has had some experience in business, he admits he’s still learning a lot. He’s immersed himself in the business operations of JCM Racing while specifically working on sponsor relations and B2B connections.
“Right now, my big focus is with MAR trying to get into the business side of it,” Joe C. says. “The team’s running good. There’s no sense in just shaking up a box. I’m just learning the different aspects of that to make everything run smoothly and trying to integrate MAR and our business team to facilitate a future that looks good on paper and on the points.”
Ashley agrees that the Maynards have been a beneficial addition to the team dynamic already in place within his Phillips Connect pit area.
“We’ve only been together a short period of time – just a few months – but in that short period of time, you can really see a difference in our program,” Ashley says. “Not only in terms of performance on the racetrack, but in terms of performance off the racetrack too. The premise behind our relationship with them was really to provide growth and stability, and that’s what they’ve done.
“In addition to peace of mind, we’ve been able to work together on the business-to-business side and open up a lot more opportunities for partnerships and different sponsorships,” Ashley continues. “It’s already made an impact, and I think you’ll continue to see it make an even stronger impact throughout not only the remainder of this year, but really throughout years to come.”
JCM Racing does not follow the multi-car team model that was so successful for the last 20 or so years in nitro racing. The Maynards have a hand in these three teams, but they all operate independently of each other. Ashley sees it as a positive because teams like his and Wilkerson’s have the resources and support of a mega-team but the autonomy of a single-car team.
“The more cars the better, but they’ve done it in a little bit of a different way than we’ve seen in the past because they’re allowing these teams to not necessarily be under one big conglomerate, but operate independently at the same time,” Ashley says. “I think that’s the best approach because it’s the best of both worlds. You have that stability and the opportunity for more cars to be involved in NHRA drag racing, but at the same time not be under this one big umbrella and all be dependent upon each other. I think they’ve found the right balance, and I think it speaks volumes to their approach on the business side and how it’s going to continue to help the sport as a whole grow.”
“It is 180 degrees from the JFR [John Force Racing] and DSR and Kalitta legacies,” Wilkerson says. “They were all under one roof and commanded by one leader in reality. We have some co-op leaders. We’re not having to fight with each other over dollars. At the same time, we have some cohesion together where if any of us need help, we can talk to each other. That kind of thing I think is still a good thing.”
Unlike nearly all of the other team owners in the nitro ranks, the Maynards have never driven in the classes they now compete in as owners. Joe and Cathi have been longtime fans of the sport, and as Army veterans, they were especially fond of Tony Schumacher since his days driving the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster. Their success in business allowed them to get involved as team supporters and now team owners. That business background informs the way JCM Racing is operated.
“We started a company that got pretty large, and then I sold out part of it, so what I bring to the business side of it is the processes, cashflow operations, and all the things like that,” Joe E. says. “I don’t know if every team has that. I think a lot of guys are doing that as a side to being the driver and/or crew chief, and so I bring a full-time presence to that.
“Then my job is to take those lessons I’ve learned and the knowledge I have and pass it on to Joe and Eric [Lehman] and the rest of our executive team here,” Joe E. continues. “So I think maybe we have a fresh set of eyes. That’s what I’ve been told by other owners. We’re seeing the business side of this completely different than other people are. It is very much a sponsor-driven operation, but I look at sponsors more as partners than I do as sponsors.”
The most obvious example of that is Maynard’s relationship with Scag Power Equipment, which signed on as a sponsor on Schumacher’s dragster in 2022 and expanded as a major sponsor of JCM Racing through the 2025 season. That also includes sponsorship of Wilkerson’s Funny Car. Scag has taken an active role in the partnership, holding meet-and-greets at power equipment dealers and hosting employees at races.
The Scag partnership is one of JCM Racing’s biggest success stories in their early history. It’s a part of the father-son duo’s collective effort to build and maintain relationships with sponsors.
“I’m not a cold-call guy, but once I get in the door, I typically do well in negotiations and generating interest,” Joe E. says. “Randy [Gloede, president and CEO of Scag] and I were just talking about that this weekend. In one hour, it went from talking about them sponsoring a team to shaking hands on a full deal. So that’s what I do well, and then [Joe C.] does pretty well at building it. I’m just the germinator, if you will, not the Terminator. [Joe C.] is the Terminator, I’ll be the germinator.”
The father-son dynamic plays into the Maynards’ working relationship, and the two have had to learn how each other handles decisions and negotiations.
“It’s harder on him than me,” Joe E. says. “That’s the truth because I’m fast with decisions and I’m demanding and I look at him and he’ll think, ‘Crap, he’s looking at me like he did when I was a little kid. He’s not happy,’ which is not true. It’s just the look I have, but it’s been harder on Joe to run the business side of it. He has all of the natural personal skills, but it’s me teaching him more of the big business. He knows how to run his own business, and he’s a lot nicer guy than I am, so it’s harder on him than me.”
Joe C. agrees that it hasn’t been easy. While the two learn the unique business that is nitro team ownership, Joe C. is simultaneously learning the general business lessons that his father has learned over the course of his career.
“I may not have all the information that I need and I may not know the questions to ask to get that information,” Joe C. says. “You don’t know what you don’t know. So, when those times happen, that’s the hard part because I get to the point where I feel like, ‘Damn, he just pulled the rug out from under me.’ But then he explains to me, ‘Well, this is what you need to know. If you’d have known this, then you would’ve had the information, you would’ve made this decision.’ I’m like, OK, well, then the next time something comes along, I have that in my toolbox to say, ‘By the way, I need this information first.’ Just yesterday, we had a phone call and there were some tools that I needed that I knew to ask for. So, it’s getting easier for sure.
“It’s not all terrible. It’s not even partly terrible,” he adds. “It’s a learning process. Eventually, I will be sitting in that seat and my son will probably be sitting in this seat. The only way for me to do that is to go through this gauntlet, and we don’t have years to do this, or endless zeros to just cover up mistakes. That costs us. We don’t have that. So, I’ve got to learn, and it’s just a trial by fire.”
Fortunately, the Maynards have multiple father-son duos in their network to learn from. One of those is Tim and Daniel Wilkerson. Though Daniel is now the crew chief for Chad Green’s Funny Car team, he came up through the ranks learning from Tim as a driver, tuner, and team manager. Both have a business background as well, with Tim owning a successful automotive business and Daniel being an accountant by degree.
“I think we’ve learned a lot from being with Daniel and Tim on how to manage our relationship because they do a good job of being even against each other out there, but when you’re with them, you realize they are a father and son team,” Joe E. says.
Despite the challenges that might come with this new endeavor, the Maynards and their partners have quickly found success. Schumacher won the 2022 NHRA Northwest Nationals, the Maynard’s debut race as team owners. Wilkerson raced to victory in late May at the Route 66 Nationals, Scag’s home race, just a handful of races into the Maynard Wilkerson Racing partnership.
“The Scag folks are pretty new at this also,” Wilkerson says. “We spend our entire weekend entertaining distributors and dealers and end users for Scag. That’s really what the program’s built around. To actually be able to win a race at the same time, I was really happy that we got to do that at Chicago because we’re really calling that Scag’s home race. All the upper echelon of Scag, the CEO and marketing folks, they were all at the race on Sunday when we won, so that was really a fun deal.”
As of this publication, Ashley has scored six wins this season, including a double-up at the Thunder Valley Nationals, which also hosted the completion of the rain-delayed New England Nationals.
That early success has been rewarding for the Maynard group, which also includes minority partners Eric and Kim Lehman. But they’re also determined to keep that success going into more wins, and eventually championships and long-term, sustainable growth.
“The idea for me is to build whatever we build into a self-sustaining operation that Joe is well-equipped to turn that into the legacy for his great grandkids or his grandkids,” Joe E. says. “But we all love racing. It all comes down to this. We like being out here. Eric loves being out here, probably even more than we do because it’s just his lifelong passion. So it’s fun for us to build things to help other people, and I think that that’s what we’re trying to do here.”
Schumacher is a firm believer that this is just the beginning for the Maynard family’s involvement in drag racing. Proof can be found in the JCM Driver Development Program. More than just a sponsorship, the program offers numerous resources and training tools to Jr. Dragster drivers who are accepted into the program.
“These programs they’re coming up with for these Jr. Dragsters are super cool,” Schumacher says. “All these years, no owners have stepped up and said, ‘What about these kids?’ Are they going to work their way up into Top Fuel? Who knows. But to give them the opportunity to feel like they have a shot as a youngster, it’s super cool what they’re doing.”
Through his regular interactions with the Maynards, Schumacher sees their desire to help more teams accomplish their goals. As someone who’s been in the business of burning nitro for more than two decades, he’s offered Maynard advice on how to deal with the influx of people looking to get their piece of the pie.
“I don’t think he’s ever been the kind of guy to say he wants to have a DSR eight-team deal, but he will help people that are out there,” Schumacher says. “On one hand you want to say that. On the other hand, you don’t want every team in the world calling him. I told him, be aware when you start to dabble in this, you’re going to have everybody calling and asking if you can help. Be aware that it’s coming. No different than when we had the Army deal or even Scag. You bring a deal in and everyone’s going to reach in and try to grab a little bit.”
Schumacher realizes Maynard doesn’t necessarily need any pointers when it comes to choosing who he brings into the fold. He’s been impressed with Maynard’s moves to this point, and he doesn’t expect that to stop.
“From what he’s done so far, it’s been outstanding,” Schumacher says. “I’m so glad he picked a guy like Justin [Ashley] because he picked a good, young, humble, butt-kicking driver with Mike Green as a crew chief – people I’ve worked with before. He seems to pick quality people, and I think that’s a blessing.
“So, if you’re out there and you’re a quality person looking for something, you know Joe Maynard is out there keeping his eye on you,” Schumacher continues. “Just do your job. He’ll find you.”