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Young Malayna Johnson feels the need for speed

By Staff | Oct 4, 2020

Malayna Johnson is all smiles in the winner’s circle after winning the Bullring National Championship in Hartley, Iowa in September. The 12-year old speedster finished ahead of 10 other racers in the 30-lap race to take home the championship belt. Pictured above with the track official are Malayna in her pink racing suit along with her mother, Megan, and her father, Matt. Even the family dog, Moose, managed to work his way into the photo.

Malayna Johnson is just like many other typical sixth grade students who are not happy to be attending school in the hybrid model this year.

But that may be where the similarities end between this 12-year old and many of her school friends at GHEC (Granada-Huntley-East Chain).

Malayna is a go kart racer. And she is a good one.

So far in 2020 she has raced 23 times. She has finished in first place 11 times, second place six times, third place four times, sixth place once and eighth place once.

According to her parents, Megan and Matt, Malayna does not just race the cars, she also works on them with her father in the farm shop west of Winnebago.

Malayna is pictured taking a victory lap while holding the checkered flag.

“Growing up, she would always rather play with cars than with Barbies,” Megan says. “And if her dad was working on motors then she was right there with him.”

Malayna competes in races which are sanctioned by either the NKA (National Karting Alliance) or the IKF (the International Kart Federation).

“She grew up watching racing at the local speedways,” Matt shares. “She has been around motors her whole life.”

“I actually began by competing in some races in 2019,” Malayna comments. “But this was my first full season of racing.”

Her biggest win of this summer came during the first weekend in September at the Plessis Motor Speedway, located near Hartley, Iowa.

Racing against 10 other drivers, Malayna took first place to win the Bullring Nationals Championship.

“It was a 30 lap race,” Matt explains. “The race is stopped at the half-way point and any adjustments can be made to the car except changing tires.”

Of course, not everyone was happy to see her win.

“No one likes to get beat by a girl,” Malayna says smiling.

She also shares some of her strategy while out on the race track.

“I think a key for me is to be patient,” Malayna notes. “I also try and have a good, positive attitude.”

A person might think the young racer would have a big display case to show off all of her first place trophies, but the only momento she has from all of her wins is the belt and sign from the Bullring Nationals.

“I give the trophies to my sponsors,” Malayna notes. “I cannot thank them enough and I appreciate the fact they come and support me.”

Malayna and her father say she has a long list of sponsors but many of them wish to remain anonymous.

“The two sponsors we want to make sure and mention are Sharps House of Speed and Cade Lehr Racing,’ Matt says. “They are both from Fairmont and have been tremendous supporters.”

Although the racing season is coming to a close, she was still planning to race at Cedar Lake Speedway near New Richmond, Wisconsin, on Oct. 3.

“Most of the people I race against are from Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota,” she says. “Going to Wisconsin will be a change.”

She does have some other hobbies and interests she shares with her friends in school.

“I am in FFA and I play volleyball and basketball,” Malayna comments.

When it comes to racing, Matt says it is the preparation which makes the difference.

“Ninety percent of the races are won at the shop,” he notes.

The go karts do not have gear shifters. However, Matt says they have six different clutch drivers and 12 different rear gears they can switch out when they are configuring a car for a race.

“You rely on your tachometer readings,” he comments. “You gear things so the motor runs at the recommended tachometer specifications.”

Matt refers to the motors as Honda clones.

“A new one will cost $1,200,” he shares. “We freshen (rebuild) them for about $500.”

Matt says they usually have two motors on hand.

“We switched to a new motor towards the end of the season,” he remarks.

Those are just some of the adjustments Malayna’s racing team makes throughout the year.

“Sharps House of Speed has a scale we use to make sure the car is optimally balanced,” Matt states. “We also use lasers to set the front-end alignment.”

Malayna has more goals in mind than just being a successful go kart driver.

“I would like to race a stock car when I am old enough,” she says.

Her father is not anxious for that to happen.

“The longer I can keep her in go karts, the easier it will be on my pocketbook,” Matt comments.

The Johnson family share they would also love to see the go kart track in Blue Earth start up again.

Meanwhile, Malayna will keep competing where she can while remembering the words of one of her favorite drivers, the late Dale Earnhardt.

He said, “The one with the fastest car is not always the one who wins, it is the one who refuses to lose.”