Drag Illustrated Issue 177, July / August 2022 | Page 82

midnight ,” he says . “ I was in the finals , and I looked up in the grandstands and everyone had gone home except the couple who let me borrow the helmet ... they were the only ones left !” He won $ 50 that night , and promptly split it with the man who let him borrow his helmet . “ I bought a helmet after that ,” he laughs .
Another memorable outing was winning the 1977 NHRA Division 1 Bracket Finals while competing in Heavy Eliminator . The event was held at the fabled dragstrip in York , Pennsylvania . Reynolds was no stranger to long road trips in those days , and he toured the car extensively in decades past . “ I ’ ve been to Gainesville , Orlando , Palm Beach , Bristol , the Carolinas ... even went way out to Byron , Illinois , back in the 1970s .”
As Reynolds approaches 70 years old , the competitive fire is still in his belly , but it ’ s awfully tempting to just race close to home , especially when a facility as nice as Maryland International Raceway is less than five minutes from his house .
These days , the Reynolds Family Maverick is something of an iconic car , covered in decals and seen weekly at MIR . The car has undergone a variety of engine swaps over the last half-century . Following the 1977 upgrade to a 302ci powerplant , Reynolds outfitted the Maverick with a series of 351 Clevelands that he had difficulty keeping together .
Afterwards , he found success with a couple of fast 460 engines , followed by a bone-stock 460 that came out of a Mercury he used to tow the Maverick with . “ That engine had 280,000 on it when I put it in the Maverick , so after about eight or nine years I was getting kinda scared of it , so I wound up buying another 460 engine from a junkyard for $ 300 .” That was the last engine transplant the Maverick has undergone , which was around 2013 .
The car has been painted three times in all the years Reynolds has owned it , always sticking with
its original factory color of Wimbledon White . “ I believe by 1989 they were calling it Colonial White ... same color with a different name ,” he says . Its most recent respray was 33 years ago after his brother-in-law back-halfed the car first , then put a new front end on it . Since then , a steady flow of decals has been applied , each serving as a constant reminder of the best of times spent at the dragstrip .
His daughter , Molly , is always by his side , and has basically grown up at the dragstrip . “ No better place to raise a daughter ,” smiles Reynolds . “ Molly and I have been by ourselves since she was 5 years old .” It comes as no surprise that Molly followed in her father ’ s footsteps , drag racing at their local Maryland International Raceway .
She started racing her great-looking 1991 Foxbody Mustang in 2020 , and got her first win the following year during the Midnight Madness event . “ Molly and I both race in the Modified class . We ’ ve never met in eliminations , but we hope to meet in the finals someday ,” says Francis . Molly ’ s boyfriend , Gary Hill , comes to the track and cheers them both on . Win or lose , it ’ s the most fun they could possibly have in a weekend .
Reynolds treasures the family he ’ s made at the track and the people who ’ ve impacted his life through the years . “ I met Luke Bogacki about a decade ago , and he ’ s a true gentleman , not just in drag racing but in life . There ’ s always something you can learn from Luke , and I ’ m glad I was able to sit down and get to know him ,” says Francis .
And so it goes , every weekend Francis and Molly gather up their cars and head to the track . Francis couldn ’ t imagine being anywhere else ... or driving any other race car . “ I kinda got a feeling I ’ ll finish up my racing career in the Maverick ,” he laughs . DI
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