March 20, 2017 03:10PM
By Pete Paguaga
SOUTHINGTON — As he was walking toward his trailer at Mount Southington on Sunday, Cody Paolella saw his grandparents and his pace picked up.
“I’m so happy you guys came,” the 20-year-old professional Snocross racer said as he hugged his grandparents.
For the first time in his 15-year racing career — that also includes ATV and motocross competitions — the Wallingford native got to compete in his home state in front of friends and family at the East Coast Snocross this weekend.
“It’s awesome because (my grandparents) don’t come to a lot of my racing events so it’s pretty sweet that they are here,” said Paolella.
His father, Bob Paolella, was also very happy his parents were able to attend.
“We probably have raced 170 ATV and Snocross races in our careers and this is the second race my parents have come to,” he said.
The East Coast Snocross was the first ever held in Connecticut.
Cody Paolella, a Sheehan High School graduate, said racing in front of family and friends does add pressure.
“A lot more pressure and I think that it is awesome ... They watch it on the (internet) and they watch it on TV and it does it no justice. It makes it look like it isn’t as big as it is,” he said. “... When you’re flying 30 feet up, nothing beats it.”
Paolella has been racing snowmobiles for three years, but grew up racing ATVs with his father and older brother, Kyle Paolella.
Kyle races ATVs professionally and is also a student at Central Connecticut State University, where he is studying to become a mechanical engineer.
“I am very proud of both of my kids,” Bob Paolella said.
Despite traveling every weekend from late January to late March, Cody Paolella — two-time East Coast Snocross Pro Lite champion — works full time and is taking EMT classes. He hopes to have a career as a firefighter.
“It’s a struggle to have to miss some classes here and there, you have a lot of homework to catch up on during the week,” he said.
Since he was competing close to home, Paolella was able to attend class on Saturday, although he missed the first heat of the competition.
“I was getting real antsy, staring at the clock,” he said.
After class, Paolella came back and finished in third place in the second heat and then took second place in the Pro Open Main Event.