OldArchive / Sports
Billy's Last Go-Round
Veteran racer Billy Maynard poses in Tioga Motorsports Park's victory lane after winning the first Modified feature of his career on July 10. Maynard retired from driving after this season to spend more time with his family.
Billy Maynard is a husband, a father and a successful businessman.
For the last 17 years, he has also been a racer.
After the checkered flag fell on the Modified feature at Tioga Motorsports Park last Saturday, the soft-spoken Maynard climbed from the cockpit one last time, ready to begin a new chapter in his life.
"I've always wanted to get out on my own terms," said Maynard, who formally announced his retirement on Aug. 28, after winning his second feature of the year at the Owego, NY, track.
"I didn't want to be forced out because of lack of funds, injuries or an accident. I'm fortunate because I made the decision on my own."
Ironically, Maynard's decision to retire came during his most successful campaign since he moved up to the Modified division six years ago.
After his seventh place finish on Saturday, he finished the season fourth in points at Tioga.
He won his first Modified feature at Tioga on July 10 and added his second victory just seven weeks later.
There are several reasons why the 33-year-old Maynard is planning to sell his car and leave the sport he has enjoyed as a competitor since 1988.
For one, he wants to concentrate on his business—Maynard's Garage and Graphix by Billy on River Road in Standing Stone. He has worked at the garage for 20 years.
Most of all, he wants to spend more time with his wife of 10 years, Darlene, and his two sons, Jacob, eight, and Mitchell, two.
"I want to spend more time with the boys," he explained. "They're at the age where they want to do things and go places. I feel like I need to spend more time with them."
Darlene has always worried about the dangers in the sport. She has also had to sacrifice, allowing for the inevitable scheduling conflicts, especially during the season when the car took priority over some of her personal preferences.
"She's been supportive and understanding," Maynard said.
Frequently, she would ask Billy, "Why do it? What's the attraction?"
He would tell her "it's the only time of the week that I can clear my mind. It's a stress reliever. There's no mortgage, no worrying about how the kids are doing in school.
"I'm just worried about catching the car in front of me. Even if it's only 20 minutes a week, it's great medicine."
Recently, Darlene competed in a powder puff race at Tioga.
Billy laughed as he described her first words as she climbed from the car.
"Now, I understand," she told him.
"She enjoyed it," he said. "I'm happy she did."
Now, he can turn his attentions to the boys, who not surprisingly, are showing an interest in racing.
Billy has begun looking into different divisions and tracks where Jacob can begin his career.
"Right now, I'm looking at caged go-karts," he said. "It's something that in a few years, the younger one can do and it will give us a chance to do things together.
"I'm excited about getting the boy started. He's excited about it.
"I'd hate to think that my 17 years of knowledge will go to waste."
Billy developed his own love of racing from his parents, who took him to Shangri-La Speedway, Tioga's predecessor, where he became a big fan of Modified driver Wayne Edwards of LeRaysville.
As a junior in high school, Billy started his racing career in the Pure Stock division at what was then Granville Speedway.
He was successful almost immediately. He finished second in his 1972 Pontiac Bonneville in that first race and then won the next three weekends.
The following year, he won the Pure Stock track championship at Granville. After missing half of the 1990 season while he prepared a new car, he returned to Granville with a vengeance in 1991, winning his second Pure Stock title.
In 1992, he competed at Dunn Hill in Monroeton and Thunder Mountain in Center Lisle, NY.
In 1993, he raced a Street Stock at Thunder Mountain, finishing tenth in points.
In 1994-1995, he competed at Five Mile Point in Kirkwood, NY, in Street Stocks. In 1995, he was named the track's Most Popular Driver while finishing second in points.
He traded the dirt for asphalt in 1996 when he began campaigning a Late Model at Tioga. That year, he was the Rookie of the Year while finishing fourth in points.
He raced Late Models for two more years at Tioga, including a second-place points finish in 1998. That year, he also was honored for owning the Best Appearing Late Model.
Finally, in 1999, Maynard moved up to the Modified division he had grown to love as a child.
That first year, he raced at Tioga and on the Sunoco Race of Champions tour. The following season, he raced exclusively at Tioga. In 2002, he competed at the Chemung Speedrome.
Last year, he returned to Tioga.
His car was competitive all season, but that first Modified win in July was a dream come true for him.
"That was just incredible," he said of the victory in which he passed rookie Ben Reynolds on a re-start and pulled away.
The track report from Tioga that night stated "the overdue win was appreciated by the big crowd, which gave him a huge round of applause and listened to his emotion-packed victory lane interview."
"I had won in every division and every car," Maynard said. Breaking the six-year losing streak in the Modified was a "big motivation."
Racing has its highs and lows.
The night of Aug. 7 was among the lowest of Maynard's long career in the bullrings.
Two frightening accidents in the Modified feature that night made it "my hardest night ever at the track," he said.
The race started with Maynard and Jeff Frisbie racing side-by-side back in the pack.
"Someone ahead of us got off on the back stretch," Maynard said. "Jeff moved down and I moved up and we touched wheels. We both got out of shape. We touched a second time and I got turned into the infield."
A heavy dew had settled on the infield grass and Maynard was, in his own words, "along for the ride."
Unable to stop, his car slid into Charlie Brown, the turn three flagman. Brown, who like Maynard lives in Wysox, suffered several injuries, the most serious of which was a hairline fracture of the hip.
Maynard knows Brown well as a neighbor and a customer at the garage.
He reports that Brown, who had to be life-flighted that night to Robert Packer Hospital, is doing well.
"He's still on crutches, waiting for the hip to heal. The doctor says there will be no lasting effect from the accident.
"Track workers get all my respect," Maynard noted. "They're not protected. They're kind of vulnerable."
Maynard sat in his car as his friend was helicoptered out of the track.
His crew and track officials kept asking him if he wanted to stay in the race.
"I decided that once we fired back up, I'd follow the pace car and I'd continue if I felt like it. If not, I'd park it.
"I knew Charlie would want me to race. I decided to focus on the race and go to the hospital afterwards."
After some quick repairs in the pits, Maynard joined the fray just as the green flag fell. As competitive as ever, he moved quickly into fourth place.
Then, what was already a bad night, got worse.
Ahead of Maynard, Bill Chandler, the leader of the race, hit loose dirt or gravel on the track and spun into the infield.
Behind Chandler, all hell broke loose.
Maynard slipped also and got sideways. As he tried to correct himself, Mike Marollo's Modified jumped over his right rear tire, becoming airborne.
Maynard doesn't even remember his car sliding into the front stretch wall, but he'll never forget what he saw next.
"I was shocked to see his car 10 to 15 feet above me. My car was in his shadow. His car just disintegrated. It came right apart."
Appropriately enough, Maynard reached for a racing reference to describe his feelings.
"It was like watching