Local high-schooler already owns world record, titles

Sean C. Morgan

Relatively massive horsepower, lightweight vehicles, four G’s for 300 feet and zero to 60 in less than a second is what it’s all about for Sweet Home High School senior Jonny Maas.

Performing under the nickname “Ricky Bobby,” as in “Talladega Nights,” Maas, 18, is only too happy to put it as simply as his namesake: “I wanna go fast.”

He races a world-record-setting 1,146-cc twin-cylinder ATV, with a custom-built drag chassis and motor, that weighs all of 200 pounds and produces more than 200 horsepower. And it’s pretty much about the rush. It’s in his DNA and a lifetime of habits.

“He rode his first quad when he was 2½, in Florence,” said his father Greg Maas, 52. “I started on dirt bikes in 1977.”

Greg grew up in Albany and also raced. When he married his wife, Carol, they rode together. They let up long enough for Greg to serve in the Marine Corps. They returned to Oregon, living in Foster and then in Waterloo before returning to Sweet Home last year.

That’s when racing turned into a family affair. Their two oldest children, Katie and Jacob, raced, and Jonny’s younger sister, Kallie, races too, after starting at the age of 8. She’s won championships as well.

“My brother was going to go racing with a friend just to see what it was like,” Jonny said. Greg talked him into letting Jonny go with him. Jonny raced his first quad that day and won his first race at the age of 12.

“I’ve been racing ever since,” Jonny said. “It’s so much fun. It’s such an adrenaline rush.”

He does his racing on a 300-foot dirt drag strip, he said. His maximum speed in that distance was 98 mph. Using nitrous oxide racing fuel, he thinks he can push it over the 100-mph mark.

Jonny started getting serious with the racing three years ago with a family friend, Steve Siever, Greg said. “He approached me and said he was wondering if it’d be OK if (Jonny) rode his bike.”

That was a Yamaha Banshee with a 525-cc drag motor. Greg said it was a scary idea, but he left it up to Jonny to make the choice.

Jonny decided to give it a shot, he said. “I went from 49 mph to 83.”

In his first race, he ended up setting a track record in Albany, Greg said. He ran 3.83 seconds at 78 mph. He’s won multiple championships at Albany.

Jonny said he holds three track records and a world record, 3.22 seconds at 96 mph for the twin-cylinder unlimited-cc spread-bar class.

Today, he races year-round across the country, including Oregon, Arizona, California, Louisiana and Kentucky.

His biggest races are with the Pro Sand Drags Association, which runs two races annually in Kentucky and Louisiana. He set his world record at the Bluegrass Nationals in Kentucky.

He is flying out today (Wednesday) to race in Arizona, Jonny said. He’ll head for Louisiana in February.

Jonny races four “bikes” for two owners, Matt Shearer of Apply Valley, Calif., and Junior Sanchez of Anaheim, Calif.

“If I win any money, they give it to me,” Jhe said.

“They keep the trophies,” Greg said. “They fly him to all the races, so he doesn’t miss (school).”

When he does miss school, the teachers and SHHS have been very supportive, Greg said, and he’s able to keep his school work up to about “average.”

Greg said SHHS Principal Ralph Brown, as a supporter of alternate sports, has been supportive of Jonny’s racing.

The racing is serving as a sort of personalized career and technical education experience for Jonny. He’s already got a job lined up after he graduates and attends Linn-Benton Community College to study machining. He’ll work for Shearer, who owns and operates Shearer Custom Pipes. The business supplies most of the exhaust pipes for the ATV racing scene.

“It teaches me a lot about how engines work,” Jonny said. He’s learned about machining, welding and building frames.

Jonny got to know Shearer and Sanchez when they came to race in Albany. Jonny said he’d been friends with them. When their driver had some trouble, Jonny offered to ride one of their bikes back, and he made a good pass while doing it.

That’s when he started riding for Sanchez. He started riding for Shearer this year.

A lot of people ride their own bikes, Greg said, but some hire jockeys.

Greg and Jonny said he has had a lot of support from others, including Red Line Racing, Cuervo Racing and Shearer Custom Pipes. He’s also had a lot of help specifically from Cort Gion of Red Line Racing.

Jonny loves it, and he has no intention of ever quitting. He watched one man ride his last race last year at age 76.

It’s “the adrenaline rush,” he said from riding 300 feet at four G’s – a force four times his normal weight. The driver of a sports car might experience 2 G’s on a high-speed corner, while a top-fuel dragster, which can accelerate from 0 to 100 in less than a second, delivers 5.3 G’s.

“Racing is really fun. I also like hanging out with my friends.”

“As a dad, it’s been incredible to see where he started to where’s gone to,” Greg said, and he’s having fun watching his son move into “the top of the sport.”