On a cold and snowy morning in Mid February we took a trip out to Walpole and check out what was going on with Big Cat Racing and Sam Parrazo for the 2017 season. Sam is like many of our grass roots teams working out of an attached garage with barely room to walk around the car to work, but still taking the time and spending the hours to build and create their machine to compete every Saturday night.
What is your home town and how did you get your start in racing?
Sam: My hometown is Norwood, Massachusetts. I’ve lived here my entire life, born and raised in Norwood. I got my start in racing, my father raced at Norwood Arena in the 60s and then stopped in the early 70s and then I was born; then he went a few years without racing and then in right around 1984, he started racing at Seekonk. He had a Pro 4 and he raced there for a little bit and then there was some time off. I went to college and when I got out of college, I started racing myself. My father had a body shop so I worked there and kind of learned how to do mechanical work and I started racing. I started at Star Speedway.
How did you end up being number 64?
Sam: It was my Dads number racing at Norwood and Seekonk so it just seemed natural for me to carry on the family racing tradition.
Why did you start at Star Speedway as opposed to Seekonk?
Sam: At that time, I wanted to build what Star called a Super Street and the Seekonk Street Stocks weren’t as advanced as they are now, they were more like a Pure Stock or a very basic car and I wanted to start in a little higher division. Star had their Super Street division and we happened to go up there one night and saw and was like wow, this is a pretty intense division and that’s what we decided to build.
Who’s been your biggest influence in racing?
Sam: I would say my father has been my number one influence along the way. You know, he’s been my driving force helping me along the way and doing things with me. As far as drivers other than my father, I was always a big Ford fan, so I was a Leo Cleary fan back in the day when he drove the 48 at Seekonk and then Freddy Estelle; and, really, probably one of my biggest influences was Rick Martin. I have always been a huge Rick Martin fan ever since I was a little kid and they would call his name and everybody would start booing him and I’d stand there cheering at 10 years old, you know. He’s still a bad ass when he goes out there, so nothing’s changed. You know, I go out to his house on Friday nights to race slot cars and he still dominates in that. So …
Have you ever had a chance to race against those two guys in real life?
Sam: I raced against Freddy and Rick. In fact, one of my best racing memories was lining up in my Pro Stock at Seekonk and I looked to my left and there’s the blue and yellow 14 and then right in front of me is Freddy in the 30. I raced on a little dirt track in Westport, MA with Freddy and I got to know him pretty well. That was really great and he helped me a lot doing that. But, to line up with my Pro Stock and be able to see two of my heroes there …
How long ago was that?
Sam: That was probably 4 or 5 years ago; and, you know, of course, the green flag threw and I didn’t see Martin or Astle much after that. It was nice to be able to sit there though.
What do you recall most from your first career race?
Sam: My first race, I started out in go carts first and then, that was, I really don’t have a lot of memories of that. We had fun with that, but my first race in a full size car was at Star Speedway. It was actually a pass tour race and we pulled in and they thought we were a Pro Stock instead of a Street Stock, so they parked us over with the Pro Stocks. I had the only Ford. I’ve always been a big Ford fan, so I build a Thunderbird Street Stock. Then, the first time up on the track, the upper radiator hose blew off and I just spent the whole night chasing trying to get it to not overheat just so I could drive a few laps because my mother drove all the way to Epping, NH and I wanted her to be able to see me turn a couple of laps. So, it started off as a rough night, but it was good. You know, me and my father struggled, we got the thing back down so it wouldn’t overheat. I was able to run a few laps and I think I hold the record for the worst handling Street Stock ever that night, but I was able to get out on the track and turn a few laps anyway.
What are you looking forward to in 2017.
Sam: Hopefully, some more consistency. We’ve had, you know, basically two years with two brand new cars and in 2017 we bring back the metric chassis car, that was the orange Camaro. A couple of years ago, um, just looking for more consistency and try to … we come down one week and the car’s pretty fast and we’re top 5 car and then the next week we’re, you know, we’re going in at the back of the pack. So, we got to find something to get a little more consistent.
Anything new to the car this season?
Sam: The car’s got a new body on it. We redid a few sections. We wrecked this car a couple of years ago. I took it apart and it sat last season because I broke the Camaro; and then, of course, last season of my last race, I ended up in the front straight away wall at Seekonk so the Camaro is still in pieces. So, I redid the front suspension on this, I redid the front clip, and then we hung a new body and redid some of the interior tin and put an aluminum body on it.
Don’t most of the Sportsman have the fiberglass bodies?
Sam: A lot of guys are going to the fiberglass now. We actually, I was one of the first ones that had the fiberglass and then just decided to go old school. The Camaro was such a bit hit with the old Camaro body on it that we decided to go back with the old Buick Regal / Monte Carlo.
If there was one national racing event that you could be in, that you could drive in and race in, what would it be?
Sam: I’m a big dirt fan, so I’d love to run a dirt modified down at the dirt track in Charlotte. I had a dirt modified and I didn’t get to do a lot with it. I loved racing on dirt when I had the chance, so, if I had the opportunity, I’d hop into a big block dirt modified down in Charlotte or in Eldora. I’d love to do that.
Any sponsors you got coming on board for 2017?
Sam: Performance Restoration is back with us again. That’s my cousin Pat. He’s got Performance Restoration here in Norwood. He’s back on. That’s pretty much who we have for right now. We’re always look for more help; but, my cousin Pat, he’s a big help with us. He’s our primary sponsor and helps me out a lot.
What are your plans for 2017? Are you going to race a full season in the Sportsman Division at Seekonk?
Sam: Yeah, we’ll run the Sportsman Division at Seekonk and we’ll pretty much stay there. I’d like to go, you know, if I get my Camaro done, I’d like to go to Star or Hudson for a couple of races when Seekonk’s off; but, it doesn’t look like the Seekonk cars are going to be legal for the big Street Stock race in New Hampshire, so I don’t think we’ll be running that, even though I was kind of looking forward to that, but … different rules for this street stocks. There are no Three link, no pickup bar, you can’t have jacker bolts in the front, so it doesn’t look like they’re going to let us run that. But if that was to happen, then, you know, it will be fun to run on the mile. But, I like racing in Seekonk, it’s enough for me. I enjoy it every week.
What moment stands out the most in your time in racing? One, if you had one moment?
I would say probably my most memorable race was last year. Jesse Melburg and I ran like twenty-two laps side by side and didn’t touch. Well we rubbed, we rubbed a little bit, but we knew we weren’t going to wreck each other and we ran like twenty or twenty-two laps, side by side, first and second at Seekonk and I got out of the car and, you know, I ended up finishing third and I think he ended up finishing fifth and I got out of my car smiling ear to ear. It was one of the best races I ever had in my life and it was really fun. We had a good time.
What do you think is the one thing that keeps you coming back every week?
The competition. I like the competition. I like the fact that I get to go out on the track with the car that I build and, you know, say, “here I am, I did this” and I’m going to try to go up against some guys that build their own and some guys that didn’t and I’m going to see if what I build is good enough to compete. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t, but, you know, we do what we can.
Sam Parazzo is one of over 250 weekly competitors at Seekonk Speedway. Sam runs in the NASCAR Division Three Sportsman Class on Saturday Nights at Seekonk. Check out Big Cat Racing @BigCatRacing on Facebook .