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Golden Years?: The 50th Eagle River World Championship Derby


(1/22/2013)

 

Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby

The Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby turned 50 this past weekend.

As always is the case at the Derby, there was plenty of pomp, ceremony and celebration. There was even a little bit of racing.

 

Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby

There is a magical quality about pulling into Eagle River on Derby weekend, due in part to the fact that the town still rolls out a visible welcome mat for the fans.

 

Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby

Not many town newspapers put together a three-section edition for a snowmobile race. Again, this is what makes the Derby unique among snowmobile events.

 

Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby

This year my Derby weekend began with a long stop at the World Snowmobile Headquarters and the Derby Hall of Fame, located just behind turn-4 of the famed half-mile oval.

 

Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby

This was my first stop at the WHQ and it won't be my last. It's a great space with an excellent collection of snowmobiles, including regular models and famous race sleds.

 

Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby

Famous as in a 1977.5 Arctic Cat IFS Sno Pro and a '78 Sno Pro.

 

Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby

There are also tons of artifacts that honor the great sport and its participants. I was really pleased to see this display honoring the late, great snowmobile journalist C.J. Ramstad.

 

Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby

There is definitely a feast for the eyes at the WSQ.

 

Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby

I'll never forget when Dave Wahl raced this Wahl Bros. twin tracker done up in Arctic Cat livery at the 1991 late-season race in Beausejour, Manitoba. I grew up thinking of Dave as an Arctic Cat guy as much as an independent guy. That spring he traded some of the Ski-Doo decals for a full-Cat look, and it seemed perfect and right.

 

Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby

More than anything I was struck by the great photography throughout the WSQ. Of course most of it is Derby-related, but holy cow is there a lot to see and enjoy.

 

Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby

There was an area dedicated to Ed DeVault, a great man from a great family. Ed died in 2002 as a result of crash sustained at the Derby that year. Ed and his brother Dan were enormously successful oval racers, particularly in the stock classes.

This year at Eagle I was able to enjoy a nice dinner with a group that included Dan and his two sons. Lots of shared stories and laughter, and so much history with this family. It was probably my favorite time of the weekend.

 

Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby

Here is Ed's 2001 Arctic Cat ZR 440 race sled.

 

Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby

For myself and many people I talk with, Derby weekend has become as much about seeing old friends as it is about racing. I ran into two such friends at the WSQ: Tom Anderson (r) and JoAnn Smith (middle). I've worked with and alongside these two off and on for nearly 25 years, and I appreciate all they've done for the sport. On the left is Bob Mendlesky, who I met for the first time. He was Doug Hayes's mechanic and instrumental in the Mercury Sno Pro race program.

 

Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby

As I left the WSQ, I snapped this image of two youngsters checking out the displays. Kids love vintage as much as us old farts.

 

Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby

Venturing over to the track, I stopped by the Arctic Cat skybox above turns 3 & 4 where I ran into another great friend and colleague, Kathy Johnson of Arctic Cat. For one Kathy allowed me to shoot her photo, although I'm pretty sure I tricked her into it by asking her to show me the sweet decals given to her by Errin Kolden.

 

Arctic Cat's Scott Eilertson and Jeff Goodwin

It was no surprise that I ran into some legends in the Cat skybox, including Screamin' Scott Eilertson (L) and Jeff Goodwin, both of whom are now sales reps for Arctic Cat.

Eilertson used to jump cars on his El Tigre at the Derby, while Goodwin was one of the great oval racers for the better part of two decades.

 

Arctic Cat racing legend Roger Janssen, 1969 World Champion

It was great to see and talk with this legend, 1969 Champ Roger Janssen, who will see more of later in this story.

 

Arctic Cat skybox at Eagle River

Great viewing from the skybox for a whole bunch of Arctic Cat fans.

 

Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby

A scan of the pits showed a decent number of race rigs. Not nearly as many as 20 years ago and prior, but definitely larger and more luxurious.

 

Team Arctic Cat's Gary Moyle and Mike Kloety

Walking through the pits and over to the track, I had a nice conversation with 2-time Team Arctic World Champion Gary Moyle (left) and race manager Mike Kloety. Moyle was explaining how the changing temperature (going from a balmy 25 degrees on Saturday to a frigid 0 on Sunday) was going to challenge the teams. It would prove prophetic.

 

Moyle Racing team at Eagle River

Moyle and his crew had qualified with the fastest time for the 50th running of the Derby, a good sign for their effort to win a third World Championship.

 

2-time World Champ Gary Moyle of Team Arctic

During the first heat on Saturday, Moyle kept his momentum to move to the Semi finals, where he suffered from a less-than-perfect decision on carburetion and failed to qualify for the front row.

He would get into the final via the LCQ, which put him on the back row.

 

4-time World Champion P.J. Wanderscheid of Arctic Cat. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Arctic Cat's other strong hope for another World Championship title was the sport's only four-time winner, P.J. Wanderscheid. Unfortunately for P.J., a couple crashes in the previous weeks had given him a broken ankle and a separated shoulder, the latter of which was most impactful during Derby weekend.

 

2-time World Champ Gary Moyle of Team Arctic. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Champ 440 is the World Championship class, and it's sensational for its speed and parity. I'm no oval racing expert, but I'd say there were 6-8 racers who were definite contenders to win, with only the slightest differences in speed and handling.

 

4-time World Champion P.J. Wanderscheid of Arctic Cat. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

After struggling through the early part of the weekend, Wanderscheid found his groove during the Saturday semi final and cruised into the final.

 

4-time World Champion P.J. Wanderscheid of Arctic Cat. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

It was a HUGE relief and energy-boost for P.J. and his team, who went into the weekend unsure whether P.J. could actually compete.

When he pulled off his helmet after the semi final, P.J. said he never even felt his injuries. Yep, the power of adrenaline!

 

Inside the Wanderscheid Racing trailer at Eagle River

The change of fortunes for Wanderscheid Racing essentially reset their expectations for the weekend. Now, instead of uncertainty about even racing they were talking about winning.

Sunday morning inside of the race trailer, there was a mixture of hope and hard work. Engine builder and racing engineer John Hooper (L) was working on the clutches while talking with Mark Wanderscheid.

 

Inside the Wanderscheid Racing trailer at Eagle River

This is a team whose singular focus on excellence is truly impressive.

 

Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby

In addition to the Champ class, Arctic Cat had a handful of racers in the other handful of classes. I'd like to tell you the name of this racer who won, but for the second year in a row the Derby still hadn't posted results as I write this one day after the event.

I'm not going to turn this report into a magnifying glass on the Derby, but oval racing and "modern" racing at the Derby are in a serious state of limbo. There are pieces of it all that are fantastic, and pieces that are in serious need of a rethink.

One of the latter is the fact that the above ZR-lookalike sled is as modern as it gets at the Derby, which means that there's nothing that resembles a stock snowmobile of the past decade.

 

120 class racing at the Eagle River Derby

Even the 120-class race sleds are styled to look like vintage greats.

On a brighter note, the 120 and Kitty Cat races are a strong part of the weekend, and it's always great to see the new generation of racers. But in all seriousness, I question what the future holds for these young racers if oval racing continues to ignore stock classes?

Again, if there were results I could give you the actual number, however, I would say that there were fewer than 75 total entries in all the World Championship oval classes. Maybe even fewer than 60. In contrast, I can remember when there were that many entries in just the Stock classes during the 1990s.

Right now oval racing is an inverted pyramid, with strength and parity in the Champ class but a huge fall-off in the support classes. That's not sustainable.

Some people say the answer is vintage racing, which saw 900 or so entries the previous weekend at Eagle River.

 

Stan Hayes and Scott Frandsen at the Derby

Speaking of vintage (nice transition, huh?!), here are two great guys who were there when it all started. On the left, Stan Hayes, winner of the very first Eagle River Derby in 1964. With him is Scott Frandsen, son of 1967 winner Daune Frandsen and regular cross-country competitor in the 1990s. Great guys with great perspectives on the sport.

I rank Stan as one of the greatest snowmobile racers of all time. He's the only racer to have won Eagle River, the Soo 500 and the I-500 cross-country (in addition to hundreds of other victories).

I asked Stan if he had any interested in trying a modern Champ 440 sled on an ice oval... Nope!

 

Jim Dimmerman and Nielen Racing celebrates at the Eagle River 50th

If you've been reading this site you know that 1984 World Champs Jim Dimmerman and the Nielsen Racing crew had put a lot of effort into restoring the Phantom Sno Pro for the 50th.

Team owner Ted Nielsen pulled out all the stops and got matching gear for the entire crew that harkens back to their Championship-winning season.

 

Roger Janssen and sled builder Tom Ische with the '69 Panther

You might have also read here last week about the replica of Roger Janssen's 1969 Arctic Cat Panther built by Tom Ische for the 50th. Here's Janssen (seated) and Ische in the staging area prior to a ceremony honoring the past champions.

 

Roger Janssen and Ted Nielsen

There were hundreds of Polaroid moments for everyone, including this one of Janssen and Nielsen.

World Champ Bob Eastman at the Derby

On the infield prior to the start of the Champ 440 final, I saw another serious legend: 1973 World Champ Bob Eastman. I have HUGE respect for this Polaris great, who in many ways is that brand's version of Roger Skime.

 

Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby

Many smiles shared by this crew of former World Champs. From left-to-right: Daune Frandsen (1967); Mike Trapp (1971 & '72); Stan Hayes (1964); Bobby Donahue (1988) and Jim Bernat (1975).

 

Arctic Cat racing legend Roger Janssen, 1969 World Champion

Of all the sights at this year's event, the one of Janssen on the '69 Panther Mod brought the biggest smile to my face. You could see he loved riding it and that he kept wanting to crack open the throttle.

 

1984 World Champs Jim Dimmerman and the Phantom Sno Pro

Like Janssen, you could just see it in Jim Dimmerman's posture that he wanted to throw down 8 hot laps at race speed. These guys and others who restored their Championship-winning sleds for the Derby deserve a round of applause for their efforts.

Despite how old I feel when I roll out of bed in the morning, I wasn't actually at the '69 Derby when Janssen won or even the '84 Derby when Dimmerman won. So to be able to watch these men and sleds go around this track was an experience for which I'm grateful.

 

Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby

As the sleds rolled around the track, the crowd and the past champs were all smiles. I wish that the Derby folks had done more to talk about these guys to the assembled crowd. Really, they were a huge part of the show.

 

Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby

Yet the biggest show of the weekend was the World Championship final which, true to Derby style, started 90 minutes later than scheduled.

All the drama and anticipation reaches a feverish pitch when these screaming sleds are lined up.

 

Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby

... and not even one lap was completed before the red flags came out following a first turn tussle that stopped a couple of the sleds. Huge bummer for P.J. Wanderscheid, who would have completed the first lap in the lead had there not been a red-flag.

Upon the restart, Ski-Doo racer Malcolm Chartier cruised to a commanding lead and "win" of the first 10 laps, at which point all the machines stop for a five minute pit-stop before the final 20 laps.

 

Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby

Last year I thought the pit stop was interesting, this year I thought it was goofy.

Not that anyone is asking my opinion, but since this is my blog I'm going to express it: stopping a race for a five minute pit stop is weird and I vote to eliminate it.

 

Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby

I suppose if there's one virtue of the pit stop and three red-flag-restarts, it's that all the racers are bunched back together to tighten up the racing.

Seriously, there were five green-flag starts to the World Championship finals. That's weird too.

 

Malcolm Chartier at the Eagle River Derby

The guy who led four of the five starts was Chartier, riding a Mike Houle-prepped Champ.

 

4-time World Champion P.J. Wanderscheid of Arctic Cat. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

P.J. never found his groove and appeared to be running slightly off the pace he'd shown in the Semi Finals.

Maybe it was the horrendously bumpy track. I hope someone posts video of this race, because these guys have to contend with a track that's so bumpy and chewed up that their sleds literally catch air if they take the wrong line into turn one.

Anyone who thinks that oval racing is smooth should see for themselves just how rough this sport is at the Derby.

 

Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby

The last few laps of the final were definitely dramatic. Coming out of turn four on the last lap, Chartier and Jordan Wahl dragged-raced each other and Matt Schulz to the finish line. Wahl almost got him, but it wasn't to be. Just 0.095 seconds separated the top three.

And with that, racing concluded at the 50th Derby.

For the record, Gary Moyle finished fifth and P.J. finished ninth.

 

Jeff Johnson of King Kat Racing at the Derby

The last person I talked with prior to leaving the track on Sunday was Arctic Cat collector Jeff Johnson of King Kat Racing.

Jeff is a fiercely loyal fan and race team owner who is always good for some stories and strong opinions.

Like thousands of others who come to the Derby, Jeff loves the history and spectacle.

 

Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby

I'm going to end this post with the above and below pix. Above is an image from this year that captures the competitive element of Eagle River. This is the core of Derby weekend, and it's something that's in short supply but for the few classes that have more than a handful of competitors.

A World Championship needs to be the biggest, to attract large fields and to be a vibrant force for future racing. Right now, the Derby seems like it's basking in its former glory while its future looks precarious and in need of nurturing.

 

Jim Dimmerman and a future Derby champ?

This last image is of Jim Dimmerman posing with someone who might be a future World Champ and his Scorpion Sno Pro 120 mod. I want this kid to have the opportunity that Dimmerman had, to race a variety of competitive "feeder" classes before eventually winning a World Championship title that reflects the amazing and awesome sport of oval competition.

Thanks for reading.



Comments (28):

pluedy says:
1/22/2013 11:31:00 AM

First!

Another great post...you are really knocking them out of the park. How many past champions did they get to come back? Seems like a rather short list in your photo. And were there any other examples of former winning sleds/clones on the track or on display?

Regarding results...I could not even get the Derby website to open on Sunday night or Monday.
John Zanon says:
1/22/2013 11:58:00 AM

Great post!
I couldn't believe when I was driving into the derby, there was Roger Janssen and his wife, walking down the sidewalk along the highway...Made my weekend!
John, I couldn't get any pork chops to you this weekend. Got hurt in the Plus 30 heat race Friday and have a hard time walking. I did race the finals Saturday, taking 3rd in both Plus 30 and Plus 40. (I had a nice lead in Plus 40, and crashed on lap 2, but came from the back to finish 3rd).
"Next time!"
nick stafford says:
1/22/2013 12:23:00 PM

Great recap of the weekend John.
hugh says:
1/22/2013 1:44:00 PM

last pic: Is Turner Childs the son of Beef Childs?
G Marier says:
1/22/2013 2:45:00 PM

John - I am surprised that you didn't mention that jeff Johnson was wearing a 'Hetteen Cup' hat from the oval races held at Alexandria, mn back in the day.
Ted Paterak says:
1/22/2013 3:37:00 PM

Noticed Jim Dimmerman is wearing a GoPro camera on his lap........When do we go for a ride ???
Elmer Jensen says:
1/22/2013 3:52:00 PM

For your information the racer standing next to the number 81 artic cat is my wifes nephew Mark Durke he is from Clintenville WI and has won the sportsman 600 class at the last 2 derbys he also took 2nd in the 500/600 combo class and would have won but had some handling problems which cost him the lead on the last lap. Great set of pictures brings back a lot of old memories.
Eric says:
1/22/2013 4:51:00 PM

It looked like Dimmerman wanted them to get all the items off the track so he could throw down. Was awesome.

I agree get rid of the 5 minute break. That's part of this race is the length!

Oval racing is far too expensive. All the guys I know who did it were priced right out of it due to other teams being superior in spending money and not always racing ability. Saw the shift when teams started rolling in with semis (not a knock on those teams just a sign of the times I guess).

Great article again John.
Glen Mallory says:
1/22/2013 5:42:00 PM

Great event pics. I like the feeder series comments. I think new sled oval racing took a hit many years ago when sled design diverged away from low and fast to super long travel suspensions. It had to to stay with the market, as longer travel saves your behind, but when the makers dumped out of making stock race sleds for ovals by the early 80's, its been harder and harder. I can only imagine what it takes to make an oval sled replica that looks like a modern Cat but will hang in the corners. That has to be really expensive and time consuming. Racing is always money, but there's smart money and just spending money, OK? With vintage it looks like you can still race and not quite go in so deep on chassis mods, but is vintage going to top out someday? How do you feed a sport on old frames? It's something that needs a closer look. Maybe the market for a youth oval tracker just is not there?
Kevin Hooper says:
1/22/2013 6:06:00 PM

Congrats to everyone who worked with and helped bring the 50th to a reality. I really really wanted to see Gary win his 3rd -- but not meant to be. I am so impressed with quality of the drivers in the Champ class right now. Clean and smart racers with a huge amount of driving talent.

The highlight of my weekend was meeting and talking with Roger Janssen. This reminds me once again that someone with talent for writing and with good connections to Team Arctic is going to need to do something real soon to bring the insidee stories of legendary Team Arctic to us. John Sandstrom and Jim Dimmerman would be perfect for this -- come on ... Please!!!!

Another highlight of the weekend was seeing the championship sleds in the tent and on the track. I wanted so badly to see Jim Dimmerman be able to throw that Phantom down through turn 1 and 2 but he just couldn't with everyone else out there. You could tell he sure wanted to though -- we wanted that too. The Phantom was my favorite sled and Jim's win in 84 is one of the great ER victories of all time. He and the sled became instant all time greats.

The final highlight for me was seeing that young lady from Canada, Sabrina, beat the boys at their own game. She is for real and I think the guys in Pro Champ will have their hands full when she enters the game.

Finally, a few thoughts on the race itself. If the split race is to continue, I'd to see maybe 35 laps -- with a 15 then a 20. 10 and a break seems short. Moving back to a single 25 lap feature wouldn't be the answer -- they've been there and done that. Also, like the bikes, the snocross sleds are a side show at Eagle River. The best years at ER were before snocross came to town. Nothing against it, but just not at Eagle River. That's not what ER is about. If you have to run them, then do that stuff on Saturday and then knock down the track so we can see sleds on the backstretch. Also, bring in some more vintage classes to combine with the WC weekend. Vintage would mean more grooming breaks with no side shown but it would be worth it.
Wade says:
1/23/2013 8:00:00 AM

Yeah Hugh thats Beef's kid. I remember watching Childs Bros race when I was a kid. I still have a childs 99 racing cap. They had some really fast El tigres back in the day. If I remember right they where like 80 or 81 500 cc el tigres. My dad use to work the Greg's (Beef) brothers. Beef now owns a machine shop down here in rochester. He builds kitty cat 120 race sleds called Bull Doizers. They are neat has heck.
Jared says:
1/23/2013 8:02:00 AM

Just to add my opinion, I think Kevin Hooper nailed it. A 10 lap sprint to a pit stop seemed pointless to me, I think it was better with 15 and 15. I also agree that snocross has to go, and this is coming from someone who used to love racing snocross there. It just doesnt fit well, I never heard one positive remark from anyone in the crowd about the snocross. It might be different if ALL the pros came instead of the maybe 5? that do show up, but i dont see that happening. Instead, as stated earlier, bring back some of the faster vintage classes to run. A LOT of vintage classes get bigger turn outs than most of the late model stuff. I dont think fans care what year the sled was built as long as its good, fast oval racing. All in all though I think it was another good year without another good turn out, it will be interesting to see what changes come in the future for ER and ovals as a whole. My highest hope is that someday the factories will become more involved again in what was once the most popular form of racing.
wade says:
1/23/2013 8:08:00 AM

Opps I need to proof read a little better from a smart phone. My dad worked with Gregs brothers at one time is what I meant. We use to go watch alot races. Hangout in the race trailer. Waterville,lake zumbro,and lake city had races ice races back in those days locally for me to go to.
artdcat says:
1/23/2013 8:39:00 AM

I couldn't agree with Kevin Hooper more, Jared too. Snocross is not Eagle River. 10-15 years ago when WSA & Eagle River had competing weekends with Crandon's snocross race and the spectators were torn...then ER had to add snocross to follow what the spectators wanted. Now, nobody is watching snocross, it's boring, the only class that matters is Pro, the rest can & should stay at home (that's been my opinion since the inception of snocross... Pro only.)

Add more to the oval show, add vintage, add stock classes and dang, Sabrina can ride! Kloety, sign the woman up!
Eric says:
1/23/2013 9:01:00 AM

Could not believe how hard Sabrina was driving into the corners. She was smooth and fast. Just insane!!! Cat needs to sign her up now!
Allen Teach says:
1/23/2013 12:28:00 PM

In addition to agreeing with all the comments made above, if I were King of Derby the following changes would be made:
1)Get rid of the GenX type announcer or at least add a color commentator that could add some real information to the race. I sure miss Ted Otto. The best story of the weekend was Sabrina and all we really learned about here was here name.
2) Get rid of snocross and build an old fashioned snow/saw dust oval in the middle. Have three classes, 85 hp, 600, and 800 stock with OEM ride height. Might get some people in ice ovals and bring back some brand passion.

Just my two cents but have been an oval fan since the early 70's and it is a shame to see it slipping away.
Larry Preston says:
1/23/2013 10:05:00 PM

I sure hope this will spark a healthy debate on what can be done to make oval ice racing as popular as I think it should be.

Okay, I'll start.

Before anything will get better, the denial of the sorry state of the sport must end. Now.

Before anything will improve, the people who have been running it into the ground for the last 35 years must be pointed out, and frankly, eliminated.

The focus must change to marketing, FANS, and recruiting new blood.

That is just a start. Let the flames begin.

John Sandberg says:
1/24/2013 8:33:00 AM

I appreciate every comment here. I agree with every one of them, which tells me that there at least something of a consensus on what ails the Derby and oval racing.

Really, the conversation is about two subjects that are of course related to one another: Oval racing and the Derby.

Larry is absolutely correct that any path forward requires an honest assessment of where the sport stands today.

Here are chief problems that I saw with so-called "modern" oval racing this weekend: Very few racers; No Stock class racing; no factory-supported racing (which is primarily the result of there being no Stock classes). Fixing those is a huge discussion in itself and worthy of a separate conversation.

The chief problems with the Derby, in no particular order: Expensive for racers and fans alike; very little actual racing; too many sideshows; not nearly enough focus on or discussion about the racers themselves (the hour pre-WC absolutely and utterly failed to adequately honor the past champions or introduce the current finalists); the split-race format of the WC final; too many red-flag restarts in all classes; a schedule that is blown up within the first hour of the day; terrible post-race info/results.

Regarding Oval racing, I'm unsure of who ALL the principal decision-makers are at this very moment. The decision-makers for the Derby are of course the track owners.

Oval racing is a fantastic sport. The racers and crews who are currently competing are doing an excellent job. They are doing the best with what they're given.

The Derby is a fantastic spectacle. But the emphasis needs to turn away from the side shows and towards the actual racers.

I believe that there are people within the administration side of both Oval and Eagle who are doing a great job with what they're given.
Larry Preston says:
1/24/2013 9:11:00 AM

We're going to do a conference on snowmobile racing this spring. Oval, snocross, enduro, cross-country and vintage. I think it will be a great chance for some new ideas to be presented and ideas to be discussed. http://gofast2013.com
RACEKID says:
1/24/2013 11:39:00 AM

my opinion--- new ticket booth, why needed as it was a slow death for many people trying to get in, no one seamed to be in any hurry to take my $120 dollars for my family. Probably just voluntary people anyway.
Didn't think it would take 1/2 hour plus to get in on friday night as we were missing the past champions and fireworks.
How about the new jumbo tron--good idea-but too far away.
Been going to ER for years and I can be as big of critic as many others but not sure if anything will change.
Years ago they had many vendors showing snowmobile related items.
It's all about bringing money into the area.
I keep going back to see old faces and to meet some new.
The best oval racing is the vintage weekend.
I am for all types of racing but the lack of competitors that I seen friday night was not exciting to say the least.
The motorcycles --well-- were they racing or just running around the track?
That's enough for now --- hey John Zanon --when are you going to retire from sno-cross and just drink beer and hunt in the U.P. eh?
Ryan Teach says:
1/24/2013 1:31:00 PM

I will say these few things as a derby watcher for the last 20 years... and I hope it does not catch fire.

1. B.T.O vs A.T.O : The way I look at Eagle River is based on these two abrivations. 'Before Ted Otto' and 'After Ted Otto'.... Ill even throw the name Chris Oatman in there. These two were the REAL DEAL and made Eagle River. So far it looks as if the Deckers have not been able to replace them and a HUGE void has been left!

2. Stock Class : USCC now USXC has taken charge of snowmobile racing (my opinion) and it as done it with mostly stock snowmobiles - not Sprint/Kart/Snowmobile buggies... Dont get me wrong, Outlaws are wild wick cool... but I'd sooner see a stock class. 600s, 85hp, anything.

3. The BS crap between the "World Snowmobile Headquarters" and the "Hall of Fame" is dumb. There I said it. Beat me up! There is one Hall of Fame and there will only be one Hall of Fame - the St. Germain snowmobile Hall of Fame. The industry itself has way to many factors poised against it (climate change, EPA, bad press) to have to figure head places in a tizz. And this comment is ONLY about the promotion of the "50th World Championship Derby".... maybe its a rumor, maybe not, but who gives a crap who can promote it!

Plus side... good seeing everyone, brands aside, cheering on the 28 team. Spoke with a member of the 66 team right before the WC race and it sounds like their motor was torn down hours (like 3hrs.) before they had to race - I've been working on one since June and still have yet to hear it run!

Let it snow!
Paul Nadeau says:
1/24/2013 6:08:00 PM

Great comments and observations from die hard oval racers and race fans. Here's a perception from an old race fan from northern Maine, far away from all of the action. I have Eagle River on my bucket list of races to attend after I retire. I have been looking for any kind of news stories about this years 50th Anniversary. The only source with any news, photo's daily updates has been Arctic Insider. Thanks John. I feel that the Deckers completely dropped the ball on promotion of this golden anniversary. Any kind of news, race results, etc were non existant. In this age of technology you would think that they would have seized the moment.
It is so very sad that stock classes have gone away. I am sure that there are smart folks outthere with great ideas to revive stock racing. Hopefully they come forth.
I like the idea of 85hp, 600, 800. Maybe have a definite set of enforceable rules to keep costs down, would like to think that the old adage still applies, what wins on Sunday, sells on Monday.
Thank you John for keeping us race fans informed and up to date ! Greatly appreciated !
Eric says:
1/24/2013 7:49:00 PM

Eagle River also advertised that there would be 30 some past champions there and 30 some sleds. Neither seemed to be true so this was a huge letdown for me.

The program for the 50th was horrible. It said Terry Wahl is still racing which I don't believe to be true.

I expected to see all kinda of 50th hoopla and saw nothing.

Sno cross also needs to go. Not being able to see the back stretch at the derby sucks!! It just doesn't seem worth it when barely any Pros show up.

The prices are outrageous for the fans. How can a working class guy take his family to the races for the day and feed them?

The vending area is horrible. Why even have most of that stuff at all? I don't know what Sled ***** is all about either, but come on let's get a bit more classy than that.

They very much so need to make a bigger deal of the drivers. I had a hard time even remembering who was in the WC after qualifying because nobody really seemed to care.

The formula 500 class was a great idea but as with all forms of racing other guys found ways to make their sleds faster. Also seeing big names from the past in this class also seems to be a deterant.

Alot needs to change before my beloved Eagle River is no more. If anyone is going to the Wausau 525 I believe this is a good place to get some ideas from. The race is promoted and run extremely well from what I have seen.

It's also intimidating for anybody to get into sled racing nowadays when the other guys are rolling in with high dollar equipment and big support and have never won anything. I miss the days of seeing a guy parked with a rollback trailer in between all the expensive rigs and that guy going out a putting a whooping on. Those days are gone though I'm sure.

Ok I'm done...


Jared says:
1/25/2013 8:03:00 AM

I honestly think that they did a good job of advertising for the 50th, they have been running radio ads and promotions literally since July, tv commercials in the prior couple months and dates posted in magazines. Sure, bigger and better things could have been done but it would come at a cost and most likely trickle down to us who some are already complaining about prices. As far as that goes when's the last time you've gone to another major race of any kind? The cost of everything is high. If you really wanna feel ripped off try taking you're wife and kids to a movie these days and getting the tickets, popcorn,soda, etc. Then consider its all for only a 1 1/2 hour movie where as a day of racing is 5-6? Whats the better deal? As a side note i bought my sunday tickets for $17 from a radio station and know of several other places offering similar deals. The deals are out there if you just look.
Eric says:
1/25/2013 11:22:00 AM

I go to many snowmobile races during the winter and none of them cost as much as Eagle River. I also go to multiple NFL games throughout the season and Eagle River Beer and food costs are approaching NFL beer and food prices (tickets of course are much higher). I attended Dirt Late Model touring racing and those seem to draw in big money but ticket prices are cheaper. I dont go to Nascar events so I cant compare there.

A movie where I live is 8 bucks. I choose not to go to movies and do the alternate of renting them. Of course it seems going to movies is also a thing of the past due to costs and things like Netflix.

I dont have a problem affording the races. I just consider other folks who have families as I do not and of course the future of our sport depends on the youth and their interest in it. This seems to be dwindling away fast which is both sad and scary. Maybe cutting costs a big would change this? Change is good.

I wish I could find deals on tickets but nobody in my area could give a hoot about snowmobile oval racing so nothing is available. Maybe thats why I didnt see as much advertising as you? I live in Western Wisconsin for the record.
Bruce says:
1/29/2013 11:20:00 AM

Great pictures and words and comments. Totally agree that the "pit stop" has to go.....let them run! We really thought there would be more to the 50th anniversary doins'. Been coming to ER for 26 years and some changes are good, others not so good. Also agree on getting the sno-cross done by Sat. and then lowering the course for all to see better. I thought for sure ALL the manufacturers would show up for the 50th, but then again they never do. Thanks for all these pictures !
Darren Gissel says:
9/23/2013 1:03:00 AM

"1. B.T.O vs A.T.O : The way I look at Eagle River is based on these two abrivations. 'Before Ted Otto' and 'After Ted Otto'.... Ill even throw the name Chris Oatman in there. These two were the REAL DEAL and made Eagle River. So far it looks as if the Deckers have not been able to replace them and a HUGE void has been left! "

I agree with this 100% but in Ted Otto's case I don't think there is anyone that can replace him.

I often wonder what would happen if someone built an oval track with snow, or saw dust and snow, had a groomer there to groom it every so many races, put out a decent purse and run stock 340, 440, 500, 600, 700, and 800 sleds.
You could advertise it like this, the only thing you have to do to your sled to race is put gas in it.
If you promoted it right I think it would catch on, and if it did you can bet your azz the manufactures would be all over it.

Some places like B.J. you could do it inside the ice oval, when you are grooming the ice track you are racing on the sno oval, when you are grooming the sno oval you can race the ice oval

What do you guys think?

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