Arizona fans will have a Top Fuel driver to cheer for this weekend in Jim Maroney, who will be making his 2019 season debut in a new partnership with drag boat racer Kim Davidson.
Maroney, who owns American Flowtech in nearby Gilbert, Ariz., impressed during a five-race rookie season in Terry Haddock's dragster last year but set out on his own this season after connecting with Davidson, who approached him late last year about wanting to try his hand on the NHRA circuit. Maroney agreed to help show him the ropes.
Davidson, whose Disorderly Conduct Top Fuel Hydro has been a fixture on the drag boat scene, purchased the ex-Hennen Motorports dragster and had it freshened at Morgan Lucas Racing. Their plan for a debut at the season opener in Pomona was scotched after they couldn’t get their rear wing SFI-certified in time, pushing the new partnership’s debut to Maroney’s hometown event.
“It’s been a lot of work to get it to this point,” said Maroney, whose two decades of previous drag racing experience includes Nostalgia Funny Car and Fuel Altereds. “I flew down to Austin [Texas] where he lives and saw his operation. We went through some things -- I’m not a little guy so we had to do some work on the steering shaft -- and started ordering parts. We’re still going through a learning process of the partnership, but he’s showing a lot of patience with me.”
Maroney put his local contacts to work, signing local businesses such as Tempe Mechanical, MotoTire, Rapid Repair Automotive Services, and Top Fuel Espresso to help fund the debut.
Maroney is eager to get his second season started and build on the promise he showed last year and will start with some practical hands-on experience already in his pocket.
“I’ve been driving nitro cars for a long time, so the way that you drive this car is the same as I’ve been doing, just in front of the engine,” he said. “The cars leave mostly the same but the biggest different with the dragster is at 330 feet when the clutch starts coming in and feels like someone in standing on your chest. It’s ‘Holy crap, here we go. It’s hauling now.’ And then you’re done in 1,000 feet. It all happens so fast. I have to admit that the first couple of full passes I made last year I was a little late on things.”
Maroney was one of just a handful of Top Fuel cars who made attempts down the cool track Friday, and ended up in the No. 2 qualifying spot. The 8.67 e.t. was nothing to brag about, but it did earn his two qualifying-session bonus points.
“I’ll take those two points,” he said with a laugh. “I know today is going to be fast and might not get them again today. That was a first for me, but I loved it.”
Davidson eventually will also license in the car and hopes to make his debut later this season. The team hopes to run approximately 12 events, mostly in the Western U.S., and the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. Next up is the Denso Sparks Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas. Chris Crudele, who has worked on Davidson’s drag boats as well as a variety of land-locked racecars, is the crew chief.