When Michelle Lackey Maynor says she’s raced a little bit of everything, she means it.
She got her start in drag racing, taking cars, trucks, and even snow machines down the strips in Alaska. She’s raced snow machines on water and snow and done hill crosses.
She’s raced in the Sports Car Club of America, and last November she got her NHRA Super Comp license, so she said she can “go real fast, legally.”
Even last year she tried racing on a dirt track for the first time, “so now we’re building a dirt track car,” she said.
So it makes sense someone who grew up around so much racing would take a job at a race track.
Maynor is the General Manager at Alaska Raceway Park, a NASCAR-sanctioned 1/3-mile asphalt oval track and 1/4-mile drag strip in Palmer, Alaska, where she started working when her parents bought the track in 1997. She became operations manager of the track’s oval when it opened in 2016.
“Our family kind of grew up in racing,” Maynor said.
Maynor’s family was involved with a dirt track team when they lived in Wisconsin and her dad raced. When they moved to Alaska in the early ’80s they got out of the sport a bit until Maynor’s brother started drag racing in 1986.
Even though Maynor grew up around racing and has been around ARP for 25 years, there was a learning curve to taking over operations of the circle track.
“On the drag strip side it helped out a lot because I grew up as a racer so I know things from the racer side of it,” she said. “It was more of a challenge on the circle track because it’s not where I grew up. The first oval track race I attended was opening day for our track.”
Maynor said she’s still constantly learning new things at the ARP circle, and she’s found that other people who run NASCAR short tracks across the country have been a great help in her education. Two years ago she traveled to Evergreen Speedway in Washington to see how they run their track and meet the tech crew.
“I’ve been really fortunate that there are a lot of really good mentor tracks out there that have been able to provide information for me and for my parents on how to do this and how to make it work right,” she said.
“I think that’s one of the things that’s probably most unique about motorsports is if you’re a racer you’re a racer. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, and it’s the same for track operators. We’re all in this together so its like an instant bond. Everybody is really able to help each other out often and it just makes it really cool. You can go anywhere and everybody has an open door and they’re ready to teach you and help you make the sport better because it makes it better for everybody.”
Working in racing and being part of the larger track family has only reinforced Maynor’s love for the sport. She has her family who runs ARP, her family at tracks across the country, and her family at her home track, all of whom make her job special.
“I really love racing, but I really love being able to put all of the stuff together to make the event happen,” she said. “For me, it’s been our family. It’s not just my mom, my dad, my brothers, and me. It’s all of these people that have been part of our racing family and our community since the beginning. A lot of these guys, they’ve seen me grow up and they’ve seen my daughter grow up and it’s all our family. We see our family every summer and now we have the circle track and we have additional family.
“It’s being able to provide this facility for our family, but for all of those other kids and the new people who are coming in… That’s kind of what motivates me to keep doing it.”
ARP will open the season in May, and Maynor is equally as busy now as she will be once the season begins. Right now she’s spending a lot of time as what she calls a “paperwork pusher,” making orders, perfecting the track’s processes for putting on a race, making upgrades to the facility, and making sure they have employees lined up for summer, contracts filled out, and sponsorship taken care of.
Once the summer comes around again, it’s all about getting everything lined up for race day week after week. On race day, she’ll start in the pits talking with drivers and making sure the crew down there and around the grandstands has everything they need, then oversee the grounds from the tower.
“It’s always exciting and that’s part of why this is such a cool job because it’s never the same thing every day,” Maynor said. “I’ve never been one to have a cube job… There’s a lot of people who are perfectly content working in their office and doing their office things and they don’t really interact with other people, and that’s great because we need people like that too, but that’s not who I fit into.”
The busy job doesn’t allow Maynor much time to get behind the wheel as often as she’d like. She still has some bucket list tracks and driving schools she might try to get to this fall.
She mostly only races for fun maybe once or twice a year, but just because she doesn’t drive anymore doesn’t mean she isn’t still able to share her love of the sport.
“I might only get to race once a year but it’s a really good way to let off steam. And I’m not in charge of it,” she said with a laugh.