Coming in as the new guy on the scene, Johnny Paradzinski shocked the racing world with a victory in the second week of competition. From there on, he didn’t look back en route to picking up the Signs of Innovation Mighty Mini Championship.
“Surreal that I went from a spectator in 2015 to racer in 2016,” he told Short Track Musings. “Yes the mighty division was an entry level division, so to win the championship to some wouldn’t seem like a big deal, but to me and family it was.”
Now he will return to Sunset Speedway once again in 2017, hoping to find success in the GGC Construction Corporation Mini Stock division.
“Teaming up with Chris Allard and JJ Noble will be a huge part of our year,” he said. “In this off season with Chris purchasing a civic, we found things to change on my car and to help improve lap times, make the car easier to drive and more consistent. The family run team has goals, not anything crazy but we won’t be satisfied till they are achieved.”
“We come from different backgrounds but we both work hard for what we want and won’t stop till we get it,” he said. “We grew close throughout last year and became like brothers. Whether it be just hanging out or working on the cars, we are just two personalities that work. So far it’s been a blast and lots of work is getting done, I can’t wait to see what this year has to bring.”
Entering the year, Paradzinski notes he’s not “looking to set the world on fire”, however wants to “prove to everyone on and off the track that last year wasn’t a fluke”.
“We have a strong team and great people behind us,” he continued. “We will know where we stand in April.”
Of course, he’ll have the benefit of having some notes and things he learned from 2017 in his back pocket, noting there’s not one single thing he learned being important than another.
“You can never pin point one thing,” he said. “I was constantly learning, on and off the track, always watching and listening to others. Going into 2017 is going to be nothing different; you can never stop learning.”
While Paradzinski transitions form the ‘beginner’ division as it was known to the higher division, this becomes a year of change as the track announced they will merge the divisions together, versus having them separate as they have the past couple seasons. The merge is something which brings mixed emotions for Paradzinski.
“I can’t speak for anyone else in the class, but there is a good two-three (seconds) from the front of the Mini Stock class to the back of the Mighty Mini,” he added. “But having a full field of cars will sure be nice.”
As noted, last year was a successful campaign for Paradzinski, kicking off with a fourth place finish in his debut to start off the season. He then came back a couple weeks later, putting together a great performance en route to victory.
“We went to Flamboro the weekend prior, and got taken off by the tow truck,” Paradzinski said. “My dad and I worked all week long to make it on Saturday, and to be standing there with a trophy and checkered flag for the first time in front of everyone, it’s really a feeling that is indescribable.”
Starting from sixth, he was able to put the No. 4 Stella Auto, Mega Wheelz, Prime Motors, Vinyl Obsessed and Image Wraps Honda Civic out front on Lap 3 ahead of Doug Wilman. From there on, it seemed as though he was on cruise control, running solid lap times to maintain the lead – only to be matched with solid restarts. Notably, the second restart wasn’t perfectly clean as there was contact between Paradzinski and Ken Townsend. Townsend got into the back of Paradzinski, getting him sideways. Paradzinski held on to it, though, making the impressive slide-save through turns three and four to keep the lead. Behind them, Inglis stopped with a problem. The officials then made the choice to fly the checkered flag, with that being the second attempt at a green-white-checkered, with Paradzinski picking up the win.
From there on, the success continued as he posted a pair of runner-ups in the week which followed, before picking up his second career victory after taking the lead on Lap 12. He then backed it up with another feature victory a week later. The second win wasn’t easy as he had to make his way to the front after starting 14th, and didn’t end up passing Fred Jordan for the lead till the final couple of laps.
He then kicked off the month of July with a fifth, before making his fourth trip to victory lane. He was able to finish up July with finishes of fifth and third. The month of August, notably, didn’t start out as well as he’d hoped with back-to-back 16th place finishes. However, the consistency returned and he capped off the year with a pair of podium runs.
Entering last year, Paradzinski says he never expected the success which came his way.
“My dad and I were hoping to learn what oval track racing was all about,” he said. “We weren’t even looking for a win. Both my dad as my crew chief and myself as a driver had a lot of growing to do as the year went on, and together we are still growing going into 2017.”