Arizona race fans have been cheering on the Maroney name since the 1970s when Jack Maroney fielded the Blind Faith Funny Car at local dragstrips like long-defunct Beeline Dragway, but their new nitro hero is his son, Jim Maroney, who is trying to make a big impression with Phoenix friends, family, and fans with his Gilbert, Ariz.-based American Flow Tech Top Fueler.
Maroney, who cut his racing teeth in front-engined altereds and Nostalgia Funny Cars, began driving in Top Fuel in 2018 with Terry Haddock after sponsoring Haddock’s dragster the year before. The transition from sponsor to driver went so well that Maroney has stayed after it, and two years ago made the plunge to purchase his own team, and this year’s Arizona Nationals in his first in front of the hometown fans with his own operation.
“No pressure, right?” he said with a grin. “It’s a huge challenge for me because everybody wants tickets, everybody is your buddy, and you want to perform for your hometown crowd. Everybody's watching you, and you want to be that guy that steps up for them.
“I bought an additional 23 tickets this weekend; that gives you an idea. about the number of people coming in and out of our pit that are friends and family, and so it adds a level of pressure. We went to start the car this morning and had a mag[neto] box go bad on us. There’s no way to test them -- they either your work or don't – and I have all the friends and family standing there watching to see this and it wouldn't fire up. My daughter came up to me and just said, ‘Dad I know you're not happy, but you can't look mad, you can’t look bad.’ “
Pressure aside, after running a total of 15 races over the last four years, Maroney is taking the further plunge to run eight races this season, all on the West Coast and all self-funded by Maroney’s company American Flow Tech, which does construction engineering, HVAC, plumbing, and electrical on commercial buildings.
“Our whole crew is volunteers who have to be at work on Monday, so that limits how far we can travel, but it’s still great,” he said. “I grew up around nitro racing but never really thought I would actually get to this level, so this is a big of a bucket list item for me.
“We’re all Funny Car guys but they’re just too expensive for us. Take Q1 in Pomona last week; we torched some head gaskets and burned all the wiring off the back of my car, but there wasn't a Funny Car body so catch fire, so I'll take it.
“My dad ran a B/Fuel Altered that was an AHRA national record holder and then moved up and ran Funny Cars for years with his brother, Ed, and Mike Day,” he said. “I ran nostalgia Funny Cars with Mike Broome and this dragster is the first rear-engined car I’ve ever owned; I've always been a short wheelbase Funny Car guy, like my dad. My mom and dad and daughter are also here this weekend, and my son, Colton, does cylinder heads on Austin Prock’s dragster, so it’s kind of a family weekend.
Maroney shares tuning duties on the car with Kevin Knowles and, after an aborted pass Friday night they clicked off a 3.930 to give them some breathing room in the field.
“Kevin and I make all the calls now,” he said. “We did have the late Eric Lane help us a bit when we started and then Johnny West -- who lives six miles from me -- came over and gave us a little bit of advice and was very instrumental in the car together. He actually told us how great a job we were doing, and that we didn't need him anymore, and he needed to move on and help someone else, which was a big compliment.”