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Grafton 100 USCC Cross-Country Race Report


(2/14/2012)

Grafton USCC cross-country snowmobile race

Tick was there to greet us, looking all blue and buff.

 

Grafton USCC cross-country snowmobile race

Cross-country racing wasn't the only show in Grafton on this weekend, as the '80s band Menudo was there playing a gig.

 

Grafton USCC cross-country snowmobile race

But the big show was definitely the race. There were something in the neighborhood of 260 entries at Grafton, the third event of what looks to be an abbreviated race season (no thanks to Mother Nature).

 

Grafton USCC cross-country snowmobile race

USCC races have an awesome grassroots feel... a easy approachability that simplifies the spectating and racing. Helping make that possible is an amazing crew of USCC "people," on of whom is Scott Schuster (R), shown here talking with Joe Lesmeister. Joe is the mechanic for Team Arctic's Brian Dick, who had to miss Grafton because of a date with the upcoming Iron Dog.

 

Christian Bros. Racing team at Grafton

As usual, the Christian Bros. Racing team was out in almost-full-force. Ryan Simons and D.J. Ekre are full-time cross-country racers, while Logan Christian and Cory Davis hit the USCC circuit whenever there's no conflict with ISOC snocross races.

On Friday night Logan and Cory were roosting the Pontiac Silverdome (with Logan snatching 2nd in Pro Open!), followed by a quick flight home in time for Sunday's cross-country.

 

Grafton USCC cross-country snowmobile race

The 20-mile Grafton course consisted of approximately 7 miles of river, followed by good ol' midwestern ditch running.

Thankfully, a swatch of snow around 6-10 inches fell in the Grafton area a few weeks prior, providing just enough fluff to hold a "typical" cross-country. But with the sun high in the sky and temps around 20 degrees, the course deteriorated throughout the day as riders logged multiple laps in the 17 different USCC classes.

Above, Cody Mathees drops down onto the river to start his first lap in the Semi Pro Improved class.

 

Grafton USCC cross-country snowmobile race

The river was down to an ice groove early in the day. For this old race-fan, hearing the scream of the engines roll through the woods, getting louder until the sled comes into view, is something that still sends shivers down my spine.

 

Grafton USCC cross-country snowmobile race

Chasing a cross-country race is incredibly fun, especially when you find little hideaway spots like this shuttered bridge. It made for some fun viewing, and a few surprised riders.

 

Grafton USCC cross-country snowmobile race

Three riders within a few seconds of each other, throttle to the bar and trying to stay in the ice groove.

 

Team Arctic Cat racer Sara Larson

Arctic Cat’s commitment to cross-country is plainly evident, with riders stacking the deck in the 85-hp classes aboard the Sno Pro 500, plus the most riders in the 600cc classes aboard the Sno Pro 600. It’s a big contrast to snocross, where cubic dollars speak the loudest and Arctic Cat has a far-quieter voice.

From what I gather, the big number of Team Arctic racers comes not from giving away free sleds and parts allowances, but from simply being committed to the USCC circuit and building sleds specifically for cross-country racing.

One key example is the Sno Pro 500, which absolutely owns the 85-hp classes in XC because of its managable power and ease to prep and ride.

Above, Sara Larson is a regular on the USCC circuit, having started in the 120 classes before graduating to the full-sized machines. Her family loves racing and they've found a home with both Cat and USCC. Good people!

 

Matt Feil, Team Arctic (and ArcticInsider!)

Another family whose blood is green and dream revolve around windswept ditches, is the Feils of Bemidji, Minn., area. Here young Matt is ripping down the ditch in the Junior 10-13 class and sporting an Arcticinsider decal (thanks Matt!).

 

Jolene Bute, Team Arctic terrain legend

The Bute family is yet another who has supported cross-country and Arctic Cat for as long as I can remember. I'm pretty certain that Jolene Bute is the winningest woman snowmobile racer of all time. And she added to her winning tradition yet again at Grafton.

 

Erik Bute, Team Arctic Cat and DRIFT

Jolene's nephew, Erik, is a mainstay of the Semi Pro class, finishing ninth at Grafton.

 

Arne Rantanan on the Arctic Cat Sno Pro 500

Arne Rantanan nailed his first win of the season at Grafton, taking the Expert 85 Improved class. Nice job, Arne!

 

Lance Efteland

And Lance Efteland won the Expert 85 class, his first win of the season.

 

Team Arctic Cat's Wes Selby

Normally a snocrosser, Wes Selby ran strong on the ice in Detroit Lakes, Minn., a couple weeks ago, and decided to give Grafton a shot. He was smoking-fast, winning the Semi Pro Improved class early in the day and looking like the favorite for the Semi Pro 600 class. But the brutal race course took it's toll on Selby's sled and he DNF. Bummer.

 

Team Arctic Cat racer Jordan Torgerson

The guy to beat in the Semi Pro classes this season, Jordan Torgerson notched a second in Improved and a third in SP 600.

 

Team Arctic Cat racer Garth Reinking

Garth Reinking notched a win the Sport 85 class.

 

Team Arctic Cat racer, Chad Lian

Chad Lian caught and passed Cory Davidson in the Vet 30-plus class and was on his way to a win when...he ran out of fuel not too far from the finish line. Lian limped it in to finish second, no doubt bummed out about the costly mistake.

 

Jon Arneson, Team Arctic cross-country racer

Jon Arneson led an Arctic Cat sweep of the podium in the 40-plus class. I myself have often used duct tape to create a race number, so I appreciate that Jon does the same.

 

Boris Mahlich, Team Arctic Cat racer

Boris Mahlich has won at least one class at each of the USCC races this season. In Grafton he topped Sport 600 Improved.

 

Team Arctic Cat racer, Kelsey Pladson

Kelsey Pladson scorched to a win in the Junior Girls 10-15 class with a time that would have put her in third place in the Women's class. I have a feeling Kelsey will notch lots of big results going forward.

 

Benjamin Langaas, Team Arctic Cat cross-country

Benjamin Langaas is another Team Arctic racer whose been winning all season in USCC. At Grafton he won Junior 14-17 and took second in Sport 600.

 

Zach Herfindahl, Team Arctic Cat

A shout out to Zach Herfindahl who, having just turned 16 a few days before the race, jumped into the Semi Pro 600 class and scored an impressive second-place.

 

Grafton USCC cross-country snowmobile race

A cool 80-mph dance down a whooped-out ditch is one of the things what makes cross-country racing so dang cool.

 

Grafton USCC cross-country snowmobile race

Likewise, launching off of the many approaches, like Jay Illstrup is doing here, is a defining characteristic of midwestern cross-country.

 

Nathan Moritz, Team Arctic Cat

Either Nathan Moritz is really into tail-standing and ditch-banging, or he cooked the landing of this ditch approach. No, he didn't save it.

 

Jesse Strege

Since USCC founder Pat Mach's sad passing last season, former Team Arctic racer Jesse Strege has stepped in as USCC race director. Jesse and the whole USCC crew do a great job, and I think everyone is grateful for their commitment to keep cross-country racing alive and ticking.

 

Team Arctic Cat racer, Ryan Simons

Pro 600 is the premier USCC class, and the defending class champ is this guy, Ryan Simons of the Christian Bros. Racing team. Simons scored a second in the Pro 600 Improved class to begin the day in Grafton. And he was looking like he'd finish second again in the Pro 600 class when, halfway through the fifth/final lap, he nailed a rock at wide-open-throttle. Simons was shaken but okay, however, his sled was totalled.

 

Team Arctic Cat racer, Cory Davis

Simons' CBR teammate Cory Davis finished third in the Pro 600 Improved class and was also looking fast in the 600 class before the brutal race course took its toll on his sled.

 

Logan Christian, Team Arctic Cat racer

The Christian Bros. Racing team suffered another disappointment when Logan Christian broke half-way through the Pro 600 final.

Sixteen pros started, but only seven would finish. It was truly a rough, nasty course.

 

Ryan Greening, FOX and Team Arctic Cat racer

Another pro who didn't see the finish line was last year's Semi Pro champ, Ryan Greening.

 

Team Arctic Cat racer, Cody Kallock

One Pro who ran fast and clean all day was Cody Kallock, eventually finishing sixth.

 

DJ Ekre at Grafton XC

Without question, the fastest guy at Grafton was D.J. Ekre of the Christian Bros. team. Fresh off of his second-place finish (with teammate Ryan Simons) at the Soo 500 Enduro, Ekre wasn't in the mood for anything other than first.

Ekre is an experienced champ with oodles of wins in his long career. He's figured out that narrow zone of blazing speed AND smart line line choice AND sled preservation. And at Grafton he found the perfect balance of all three.

 

DJ Ekre at Grafton XC

Ekre chose to take fuel prior to the fifth and final lap of Pro 600. Here Cory Berberich gives him the gas and reassures Ekre that he has a solid lead.

With a comfortable margin ahead of second, Ekre rode a conservative final lap to win the Grafton 100 by nearly two minutes over second place.

 

DJ Ekre at Grafton XC

At the finish line Ekre is congratulated by teammates and fellow racers for having ridden the perfect race. 

And once again Team Arctic racers and crews delivered an outstanding performance in USCC, taking 13 (of 17) class wins. I'd call that true terrain domination. Congratulations to these and all other other racers on the USCC circuit.

Thanks for reading.



Comments (15):

Chad Colby says:
2/14/2012 7:05:00 PM

GREAT article, thanks for sharing the action from Grafton!
Bob V. says:
2/14/2012 7:14:00 PM

Great coverage of the event. Love the photos! Keep it coming, I can't get enough! Congrats to all of the Team Arctic drivers on a great weekend!!
Tom Rowland says:
2/14/2012 9:17:00 PM

Awesome!!
John S says:
2/14/2012 9:46:00 PM

Great article except you forgot about the cat that took second place in the semi pro on sunday! he looked pretty fast and young, I think he is someone to keep an eye on!
Aaron K says:
2/14/2012 11:04:00 PM

It was nice to finally meet you out there! I can't figure out why some of our shots look the same! ;)
taperk600 says:
2/14/2012 11:08:00 PM

Nice write up & great pics as usual. Thanks for keep us up on the action in a year where there is very little of our own (riding) action to be enjoyed !
David says:
2/15/2012 6:53:00 AM

John,

As usual, great write-up and pictures!

With the less than average survival rate, what was the most common break-down?
Dulpher says:
2/15/2012 8:14:00 AM

The most common breakdown was the LACK of snow!!!!!!
Mike F says:
2/15/2012 9:15:00 AM

John,

As usual, thanks for the great write up and images! For those of us who are helping out in the pits, it is great to see what is going on out on the course. Matt was tickled to see his photo in AI. He had a mechanical problem which led to a not so hot finish, but it was very nice for him to be recognized for his efforts. Incidently, testing has proven that properly applied AI stickers will add 2-3 mph on the top end. Thanks!
John Sandberg says:
2/15/2012 11:13:00 AM

Thanks all for the kind words. It's absolutely my pleasure to see one of these races and write a story about it. So many wonderful characters, sub-plots and drama!

John: Congrats to Marcus Herfindahl for claiming second in Semi Pro...that is definitely an awesome finish and speaks to his future. What's his relation to Tom Herfindahl, Brad Pake's mechanic?

Aaron: good to meet you as well!

David: I know of two broken chain cases, a broken link on a rear suspension, and one broken A-arm. And Simons' entire sled was pretty much destroyed. For sure the dirt/rocks took their toll on all/most (like Dulpher said, the problem was lack of snow).

Mike: Please spread the word that AI decals add 2-3 mph.
Greg H says:
2/15/2012 11:41:00 AM

Marcus Herfindahl does race in the junior 10-13 however it was his cousin Zachary Herfindahl who turned 16 on Feb 9th so he was able to run semi-pro 600 in Grafton. He bent his bulkhead in expert 85 and had to scratch from junior 14-17, but did finally get his shot on the 600. Tom and Zachs dad are cousins.
John Sandberg says:
2/15/2012 1:59:00 PM

I've said it to Tom's face and I'll say it again: there are just too dang many Herfindahls. And the fact that I can't keep it straight between Marcus and Zach is further proof.

Congrats to ZACH for his second in SP600. At 16 yrs old, no less! I added a photo of him to the story to make up for my screw-up in the the comments above.

I gotta ask: How did he bend the bulkhead?
Greg H says:
2/15/2012 2:18:00 PM

In his second lap of Expert 85, he somehow found a tree and limped it out to the truck. You'd think he would be used to trees from living in Eagle River, Wisconsin but managed to find one of the few trees out there in North Dakota!
Jeremy S says:
2/15/2012 8:34:00 PM

Awesome photos!!
Khairi says:
3/23/2014 4:23:00 AM

It must be so hard being a single mom ! One good thing is when the boys get old egnouh you can get them to fill the wood box and chop the kindling (that's what I do) but you have a few years yet for them to be old egnouh I hope you enjoy the day Rachel.

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