By: Ashley McCubbin
As we continue to approach the 2017 season, this series will take a look at some storylines to watch in different series and tracks this season. Feel free to add what you’re hoping to see via commenting on the post, facebook, or twitter.
Sunset Speedway’s Mini Stock division has proven to be top-shelf over the past couple of years, with lots of race winners and close finishes. This year looks to be the same once again based on a quick glance at the roster, and the intriguing fact that two divisions will become one. With that in mind, keep an eye on the following……
Number of Race Winners
This was discussed with relation to the Late Models and Super Stock, but also plays true for Mini Stocks as well. In 2015, there were six different Mini Stock race winners and seven Mighty Mini victors. Last season, there were seven different race winners in each division. What does the number become in 2017?
Andy Kamrath, Warren Paxton, Nic Montanari, Gerritt Tiemersma, Eric Yorke, Charlie Smith and Chris Allard were the winners for Mini Stock in 2016. They’re all back for 2017, and they’ve all got incredible programs put together so you have to believe each will win. That makes seven.
Chris Allard, Ken Townsend, Chandler Bos, Johnny Paradzinski, Daniel Montanari, Robert Toope and Nic St. Onge won last year in Mighty Mini. Paradzinski and Montanari were the pair to watch all season long, battling for the championship. Given Paradzinski finished well at Autumn Colours, with both inside the top-15 at the Velocity 250, they’re bound to be quick this year so that gives up nine names. The four – Townsend, Bos, Toope and St. Onge, they’re going to be left off for now based on the speed shown at invitationals.
Samantha Shaw has spoken up about wanting a win after her Frostoberfest victory, so she could possibly give us 10 winners. Though while the roster is steep, it’d be tough to expand further.
Can Montanari Go Two in a Row?
Last year, Nic Montanari put together an impressive season with only one finish outside the top-six all season long en route to being crowned champion.
Can he do it again? Absolutely. The team is putting in work during the winter, and he was quick at the end of 2017 with a second and third to round out 2016.
“I’m going to be stick to Mini Stocks and see where it goes from there,” he said. “We’re going to keep up the effort, and try and hang onto the momentum coming into next season.”
Partnership of Allard and Paradzinski
Last year when Chris Allard wasn’t having mechanical issues, he was one of the quickest Mini Stocks on-track. Meanwhile, Johnny Paradzinski shocked everyone with a championship in his debut season of competition, including four feature wins. Now there’s intrigue as the pair announced they’re teaming up for 2017, with Allard building a new car.
If there was ever a power duo to watch, this could be it based on what we’ve seen thus far out of them separately as multiple wins could be the future.
“Teaming up with Chris Allard and JJ Noble will be a huge part of our year,” Paradzinski 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.”
New (Old) Car for Lisa DeLeeuw
Last year, Lisa DeLeeuw put together a break-out campaign with 12 top-10 finishes en route to finishing fifth in the Mighty Mini standings. Now, set to face the top drivers of four-cylinder competition, she’ll have a bullet underneath her – well, sort of.
DeLeeuw and her DY Racing team have been hard at work in getting ready the Nissan 240SX that teammate Eric Yorke drove to the 2012 series championship ready for the season. Yorke proved the car was fast just two years ago in 2015, picking up nine top-10s and a feature win.
“I’m a little nervous to learn a whole new car,” she told Short Track Musings. “Retiring the mustang for 2017 and jumping in Eric’s 2012 championship car, which means learning a whole new car and hoping to continue the successful season I had last year.”
This was touched upon briefly with regards to race winners, but it’s really a big deal. With over 30 cars on the roster, Sunset Speedway split the Mini Stocks into two divisions beginning with 2015. However, car counts have come down and the result is bringing the classes back together.
The positive is this – fans are going to get to see 25-30 cars on track for the feature, battling three-wide, putting on crazy shows that made these cars a hit initially. There may be some rough patches with wrecks, but it’s bound to be entertaining if they keep it align.
The negative is drivers who are learning, whether year one or two, are now thrown against drivers who have been racing for awhile. There’s also the difference in budget from top to bottom in the field. The Mighty Mini division gave some of those spending less a chance to win a feature – but long gone that is now.
The shift will keep everyone on their toes, and certainly help the show run smoother with less races on a night. Let’s just hope it results in a positive.