JRM Car Chief Davis Goes ‘Into the Wild Blue Yonder’ with Vermont ANG

Ron Lemasters | 3/7/2018

Las Vegas News Pilot Flying J

Jonathan Davis, car chief of the No. 5 PFJ team, fulfilled a lifelong dream and flew in an F-16 with the Vermont ANG. His experience will air on Race Hub tonight at 6 p.m. ET on FS1.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (March 7, 2018) – Jonathan Davis is out on the pointy end when it comes to making sure all the pieces of the No. 5 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet are working together at their optimum ability. The United States Air Force (and the Vermont Air National Guard in particular) is in the same business, only their vehicle of choice is the F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft.

Those two areas of mechanical - automotive and aeronautic - excellence met head-on last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and you can watch footage of the experience tonight during the broadcast of NASCAR Race Hub at 6 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.



Davis’s friend, Chief Master Sergeant Darin Mauzy, the senior enlisted advisor to the Maintenance Commander of the Vermont ANG, was the catalyst behind his opportunity to experience something few of us ever get to...flying in a USAF fighter plane. The ship was a two-seat version of the Fighting Falcon F-16D, dubbed “The Bus,” and besides the extra seat, there’s no difference between the two planes.

Davis met Mauzy while testing at Las Vegas in 2001, and the two struck up a lasting friendship.

“It’s a great friendship”, said Davis. “He’s always had that respect for me as to what I do and he wanted to show people that there’s quite a bit of similarity between the guys who maintain those airplanes and what we do on the racing side.”

Sitting at the end of the runway at Las Vegas’ Nellis Air Force Base (which is one of the most secure facilities in the world), Davis was eager to begin.

“I was more in disbelief that it was actually happening,” Davis said of actually being on the runway in the rear seat of a fighter plane. “Darin and I have worked on it for quite a few years and never had any traction on it, but we did this time.

“It was definitely an experience.”

The idea behind the swap came about because of a shared desire to be the best mechanically. Mauzy on the military side and Davis on the NASCAR side. Senior Airman Rob Evans, who is the crew chief for the Vermont ANG, accompanied Davis to the track on Friday to see life from the NASCAR perspective. Evans, whose role is similar to Davis’, got to take in the preparations for the Boyd Gaming 300 at LVMS, which are quite involved.

Much as any layman does with one of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Chevrolets that Davis works on, he was interested to see what the plane could do. After takeoff, the pilot stood the plane on its tail and went vertical (“ballistic” to those of you weaned on the movie Top Gun, even though it’s the wrong branch) all the way up to 16,000 feet.

That left Davis impressed.

“I was amazed at how fast it (the plane) accelerated,” he said. “It was funny, because I talked to the pilot and the guys on the ground after I got back...when we first put the throttle to it at the end of the runway, I was like, ‘man, that’s not really any more than a Lear jet that we’ve flown on before,’ but then as we got going faster, the faster we got going faster. It was exponentially faster. When we got to the end of the runway and went vertical to 16,000 feet, it was definitely an eye-opener...or an eye-closer, I guess.”

Once in the air, they flew 90 miles out to Death Valley, where they were given an area to operate in. It got technical and physical at that point.

“We did a G-check, where he rolled to the left and we pulled about 4.5 Gs, and he said if I was all right with that, we’d go right into a 9-G turn to the right for about 15 seconds,” Davis said. “It will definitely get your attention.”

Davis said he had to work to get his breathing right, because being up that high, going that fast and turning that sharply can do bad things to the human body...just like being at the top of Turn 2 at Talladega can in NASCAR racing.

“The biggest thing I had trouble with was getting the breathing right,” he said. “They have exercises they do when they’re pulling Gs, to keep oxygen in your blood. You also do a G-strain, which is where you tighten all the muscles in your legs and abdomen to keep that blood up there and the G-suit also helps you do that.”

Apparently, he got it right enough.

“I never passed out and I never threw up, so I won the pool,” Davis cracked. “I never even got tunnel vision. The guys on the ground were amazed that I didn’t look ghostly white when I got back on the ground.”

With Evans’ similar trip to the track, Davis found that there are more than a few similarities between the Air Force and NASCAR.

“The biggest thing I see is their attention to detail and the pride they take in their work on that airplane,” Davis said. “Just the small things...I’m very OCD when it comes to things, and Rob Evans, he’s about the same way with his stuff too. It was very rewarding to see that cross-collaboration of how they do things and how we do things.”

In the end, Davis got to fly in an actual fighter plane and Evans got to experience NASCAR from the inside—he even got to ride in the pace car around the LVMS oval. That was the point of the exercise. Asked he if was assigned a cool call sign (like Maverick or Goose or Iceman), Davis grinned and shook his head.

“There’re several that I can’t mention here...” he quipped.






XFINITY Series Schedule

  • March 30 01:00 PM ET
    My Bariatric Solutions 300Texas Motor Speedway
  • April 6 01:00 PM ET
    Alsco 300 at BristolBristol Motor Speedway
  • April 12 07:00 PM ET
    ToyotaCare 250Richmond Raceway
  • April 27 01:00 PM ET
    MoneyLion 300Talladega Superspeedway
  • May 4 01:30 PM ET
    Xfinity Series at DoverDover International Speedway

XFINITY Series Standings

After Production Alliance Group 300

Auto Club Speedway | 3/16/2019
1Tyler Reddick2200
2Cole Custer213-7
3Christopher Bell206-14
4Brandon Jones183-37
5Austin Cindric179-41
6Michael Annett178-42
7Justin Allgaier171-49
8Noah Gragson #161-59