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Q&A with Dan Ebert: From Factory Racer to Crew Chief


(10/8/2012)

 Team Arctic Cat's Dan & Russ Ebert

This summer, facing another season as a Factory Team Arctic Cat snocross racer with the perspective of having just recovered from a nasty elbow injury while juggling a 75-event commitment to dirt track competition, 24-year-old Dan Ebert of Lake Shore, Minn., found himself at a crossroads: What to do with the next period of life?

Dan’s decision?

To transition from racer to crew chief for the Factory snocross effort for the 2013 season, following in the mighty-big footsteps of his father, Russ Ebert.


AI: It sounds like you’ll see some big changes for this coming season.

Ebert: I will! After a lot of consideration, I made the decision to step back from racing snocross in order to manage the Factory Team Arctic snocross effort as crew chief.

 

AI: Yeah, that’s a big change alright. Why did you decide to do that?

Ebert: The decision was brewing for awhile, going back to last winter when I injured my elbow which prevented me from racing. After that happened, I spent my days and weekends helping out Cody (Thomsen) and Kyle (Pallin), actually thinking about engineering ideas and working on sleds instead of riding them. And you know what? I really enjoyed it. It opened my eyes to some other possibilities and opportunities.

Another factor was that I’ve been serious about my dirt track racing effort the past several years, which meant that I was racing upwards of five times each week. So pretty much all I’ve done for the past few years is race. It’s been great, but I also run myself pretty ragged trying to train and be competitive year-round in both forms of racing.

Considering all this, I made the decision to be the crew chief for the Factory snocross effort this season.

 

AI: What exactly does it mean to be the crew chief for Team Arctic’s Factory snocross effort?

Ebert: It means managing the day to day operations of this team. I’ll determine where and when we test; what we’re going to test; what direction we take with mod sled development, not just for our current race sled but also for future sleds; I’ll set the truck schedule for where and when it needs to be at events; and literally a hundred other details.

Cody is our Factory Pro for this season, but we’re going to add to the program in two unique and important ways compared to previous seasons.

First, we’re going to also prepare a stock Sno Pro race sled for this season [Editor’s note: Beginning last year, Pro riders competed on Mod sleds only, which meant there was very little factory development of the stock sled.] Then, periodically throughout the season, we’ll have a different Team Arctic racer working with us out of the Factory trailer.

They’ll learn how our approach to racing, testing and working on equipment, which we believe will be a significant benefit. It will be like a full-immersion, two-week race school for these riders. Plus it will allow us to further evaluate talent while knowing exactly the capabilities of the sled they’re racing.

Really, so much of our push this season is aimed at helping all Team Arctic racers, which is exciting.

 

AI: What’s your dad’s (Russ Ebert) role going to be going forward?

Ebert: He’s going to teach me all the stuff that’s required as crew chief! But there’s more to it than that. Now he’ll have more time to free up his brain in order to concentrate on how to do things better and engineer better snowmobiles… to sit there with a Sharpie and paper, and figure out how to make the snowmobile work better. That’s always been his strength, but it’s something that he hasn’t had enough time for when he was crew chief.

Just as important, at the races he’ll be able to work with the legion of Team Arctic racers, getting information to them, assisting with sled set-up and such. That too will really help our stock class program.

 

Ebert will manage the Factory Team Arctic snocross trailer

AI: That fires me up, in part because of what people will learn from your crew! I’ve heard you talk many times about how the misperception of what it takes to be a top-level racer. Explain what you mean.

Ebert: There’s a mistaking belief that magic happens inside of these trailers, and that being successful means having some top-secret parts or information. That’s never been the case.

What really happens inside the top trailers and programs is methodical preparation, attention to detail and hard work. Those are the secrets to successful race programs.

From a racer’s perspective the difference between a so-so sled set-up and a good set-up is huge. A sled that is set-up well is strong off the line, goes through the bumps in-control, corners well and does what you ask of it.

However, the set-up differences between a so-so sled and that great sled are actually pretty small. In other words, a few clicks of the shocks; a quarter-inch difference in front arm travel; a freshly-cleaned clutch… it’s the cumulative effects of these small differences that turns a so-so sled into a great sled.

 

Dan Ebert, Factory Team Arctic Cat

AI: I have a hard time seeing you quit snowmobile racing cold-turkey. Is it possible you’ll do any racing, perhaps taking a shot at winning another I-500?

Ebert: Don’t be surprised to see me lining up in a cross-country race or two this year. I really enjoy cross-country and it’s definitely a style of racing that rewards experience and good judgment rather than risk taking. We’ll see how the season plays out, but I hope to race one or two cross-country events.  

 

Dan Ebert, Factory Team Arctic Cat copyright ArcticInsider.com

AI: Compare your strengths and abilities with your dad’s… engineering creativity, fabrication, calibration and such.

Ebert: We’re pretty similar in those areas. I can’t do those things at his level simply because of his sheer experience level. But those are skills I have too.

On the other hand, I can actually ride the snowmobile and feel what it’s doing. I can relay the info from the track to the shop. And I’ll definitely strap the helmet on a lot this season and test alongside Cody and the other racers. So that combination of being able to ride a sled, feel what it’s doing and be creative about what it needs… that’s a unique set of skills that I bring to this program.

 

Dan Ebert, the dirt track racer

AI: For sure that’s a huge skill pairing that only a few other people have! Okay, let’s talk dirt track car racing for a bit. You’ve had another remarkable season, tell us about it.

Ebert: It was a great season. We raced around 76 events, usually about 4-5 race-nights each week. We took 25 feature wins in our Wissota B Mod and seven wins in our A Mod.

To put that in perspective, you could think of the B Mod class being similar to the snocross Pro Lite class, with A Mod being similar to Pro Open. Both are extremely competitive classes, as the Midwest is loaded with top talent.

This summer was great because Arctic Cat were great sponsors of our race effort. Their support was excellent and it made a big impact. I felt like we brought Arctic Cat into an arena of potential customers, and gave them great exposure. It felt good to keep wearing our colors even though it was summertime.

 

Dan Ebert, the dirt track racer

AI: Where does car racing fit into to your future plans?

Ebert: I’m a little up in the air about that. I really enjoy it and I’m not sure where it might lead. I would expect to have a similar program of racing next year.

 

AI: Okay, one last question... Have you tested the new Arctic Cat Sno Pro 600 race sled and what is your opinion on it?

Ebert: Last spring I rode an early version of it during one of the first engineering trips. I felt like the durability will be much improved over last year, plus we made some strong gains in cornering and ride calibration. The sled improved after that trip, but I didn’t ride the next version because those trips happened during my car race season.

Dan Ebert, Factory Team Arctic Cat copyright ArcticInsider.com



Comments (36):

RL says:
10/9/2012 7:28:00 AM

What a great opportunity for Dan. I can't think of a better way to heal and stay in the game. I'm sure he learned a lot from his father Russ,who was a crucial part of a young Tucker Hibbert's early career success.
Good Luck Dan
John Zanon says:
10/9/2012 5:34:00 PM

Sad to not have Dan running up front on the track, but happy for his promotion.
Also losing Kyle Palin and David Otto to Polaris, we're going to expect a lot out of young, up and coming riders for us to have a sucessful season. Looks like more weight on the shoulders for Tucker, Christian Brothers Racing, Cody, Wes, Matt, Tyler...etc... and all the other Cat riders
Scott Smith says:
10/9/2012 9:00:00 PM

I can't help but think of all the much more qualified candidates that Dan has passed over for this. There is only one reason he has this job and it has nothing to do with his skills at evaluating a snowmobile or managing people or a team. The hiring of Dan means only that Arctic Cat doesn't care about there program or they don't have the money to pay somebody with actual expierence. Also I am curious as to the hiring process, was it an actual job opening that Arctic Cat put there best effort into finding the man to replace Russ? I'm pretty sure we all know the answer to that.
BG says:
10/9/2012 9:07:00 PM

@John Zanon,

Just an fyi

Kyle went to Polaris, David Otto went to work for Fox Racing.
Scott Schuster says:
10/9/2012 9:09:00 PM

Good luck with your new venture Dan & hope to see you at at a few USXC races!!!
akrider says:
10/10/2012 12:58:00 AM

Do you think you could do a story about the Iron Dog? I've been really curious about the F1100 since it came out and Dixon and Wold were doing pretty well on the 4-stroke in last year's race. I really think the F1100 has the potential to win the Iron Dog and with no consumer 600 available, Cat could make a big push to get a team on the podium.
Brock says:
10/10/2012 6:39:00 AM

@BG

David Otto did not go to fox, he works for Carlson Motorsports. He is Johan Lidman's mechanic this year.
Dulpher says:
10/10/2012 5:56:00 PM

Im sad to see Dan leave SX, but happy to see his transition. This is great news for Team Arctic now and in the future! Im glad that Arctic Cat sees value in their racer/engineers like Dan, Brian Dick and many others! Go Cat!!
Mike Phelps says:
10/10/2012 6:38:00 PM

Dulphner,
Can you please explain in what way it is good news for Team Arctic? Also what other racer/engineers have they valued? It seems to me the boss gave his kid a job.
Brock says:
10/10/2012 7:02:00 PM

Do any of you know dan personally? Well I do and have worked with dan on his race cars and on snowmobiles at the ebert shop. Dan was in the shop working on tuckers stuff with his dad when he was 10 years old. Dan has been a hands on racer since they day he started racing because his dad was working on tuckers stuff.

Last year when dan was injured and wasn't able to race he spent a lot of time in the shop coming up with ideas to make the race sled better. Anyone who was at the races know that when people had questions about the race sled would come to the trailer and ask dan, russ or david otto(david is no longer on the team. accepted a job with carlson motorsports)

Dan is a great fit for the position as crew chief for the snocross team, he has had alot to do with the development and testing of the race sleds for many years now.

BEST PART IS YOU ARE ALL SCARED TO PUT YOUR REAL NAMES, MAN UP.


Scott Smith says:
10/10/2012 7:34:00 PM

Brock
First Scott Smith is my real name, second nobody knows who you are so you can't pass youself off as a friend of Dan's. But let me get this straight, you believe Dan is qualified because he has been working on trucks since he was 10. So he is the one kid. Cause I'm sure they couldn't get another guy who has had years of experience working on trucks.
Let's be clear Dan got the job for one reason. He was Russ Eberts son. And if Dan had a hand in anyway with the development of the sled last year then no he is not a good fit. It made Tucker Hibbert an average racer.
Also the point that people would not be man enough to put their names on what they are saying does not mean they do not make valid points.
Stop drinking the Arctic Cat kool-aid.
Mike F says:
10/10/2012 7:34:00 PM

Seems to be a lot of anger from a couple of the posters. Dan is becoming a crew chief, not running the race department. Give the guy a chance. He has always seemed to be a very smart, hard woking guy. Interestingly enough at Polaris, Tom Rager Sr., has been replaced by Tom Rager Jr. as the race director. Looking foreward to seeing Dan at the I-500, (he is a past winner). Let's try to keep all this in perspective, it's supposed to be fun.
Scott Smith says:
10/10/2012 7:48:00 PM

Mike F
There is no anger with my posts. Just trying to offer a different angle for people to think about. The fact that everyone is so happy that the privlaged kid has gotten more privlage irritates me. And the fact that I'm sure there was a list of guy's at Arctic Cat that would be a great fit for the job or atleast kill for an interview but since there Dad is not the boss they didn't get the chance.
Todd olson says:
10/10/2012 9:48:00 PM

Scott
Arctic cat has always been a family!! and yes they have given family memebers fantastic opportunities.... but come on dude this is bs and im calling it!!! imagine if cat would have not given kirk a job becouse he was a team arctic rider or for that matter not given kirks kid (tucker) a chance!!
Just becouse someone is a family member dont mean they cant do a fantastic job!!!!!! You see the people of arctic cat are all snowmobile fanatics and that drives them to be the verry best they can be at whatever they set there mind to!! Its in there blood!! you cant teach it it is who thay are!!! I guess you dont have it in your viens or you would all ready understand that!!!!.......sorry for my rant just could not let it go!!
Levi G says:
10/10/2012 9:49:00 PM

Scott its unfortunate you feel that way. But I think we can all agree that Dan's experience and understanding of the race sled and day to day activities of a crew chief played a role in his hiring. Do you really think Arctic wants to hire someone that is under qualified? It really isn't in their best interest. Also how do you think someone learns those things, it probably makes sense to hire a former racer if they are skilled and properly versed as it pertains to racing. Dan has been the Pro in a trailer with Semi-Pro's and he his leadership has been admirable. Cody didn't even race sled's up until a few years ago and Dan has played a major role in his ascension to the Pro ranks. Keeping consistency from year to year is typically a good thing for developing rider like Cody. Arctic's HR department likely considered this when hiring Dan. Lastly, to call him privileged may not be accurate because Dan is a very hardworking individual, which is known within the racing community, which is why he has earned so many people's respect. Also, you definitely are not qualified since you cannot spell privileged.
Todd Olson says:
10/10/2012 11:06:00 PM

Scott, you dont know me. I am a engeneer! I work with the largest medical companies in the world. And was not worried about spelling and grammer on some chat board. So once again you are showing how unintelligent you are! And your envy speeks volumes about your character.
Also the arctic cat "family" thing is not just a mantra it is real.If i have to explain you would not understand!It is evident you dont understand.
cat man says:
10/11/2012 7:36:00 AM

lets keep in mind that there are lots of people involved on pro-race teams. It is a group effort, and lots of chemisty involved to make it work. Lets get the facts straight Steve Houle will still be doing the work with the engine tunning, Kirk and fox will be doing the suspension. The Hired mechanics will still be doing all the maintaince. So is this just another fancy title that really looks good on a resume??
John Sandberg says:
10/11/2012 8:23:00 AM

Wow. I go to TRF for a couple days and this thread explodes...

Okay, first of all there will be no personal insults here (which is one feature separates this place from most others).

Scott (and also Mr Phelps): I'm totally fine that you guys have an opinion that's far different from mine and most others. But I don't understand why you throw insults out on a public forum? Serves no purpose other than trolling. Before writing stuff like that in the future, ask yourself what purpose it serves and what it would be like for the person/subject to actually read that kind of jab.

I just edited a few posts, which chafes me, because it's time I could spend making a post about what's going on at Arctic Cat this week.

As for why Dan got the job... many others here have said it well. And correctly. Dan has spent most of his life in and around race trailers, both snowmobiles and cars. He's smart, methodical, talented, creative, composed and experienced. In short, he's ideal for the job. To suggest that he got this job because of his bloodlines is to ignore the facts.

So let's keep the conversation productive.

By the way, it's SIX weeks until the Spirit Mountain snocross opener!
artdcat says:
10/11/2012 9:59:00 AM

Wow...Mike Kloety is the Team Arctic Race Director and he got that position after almost 20 years of following in the footsteps of guys like Joey Hallstrom, Brian Sturgeon and Russ Ebert. Dan Ebert is the Team Arctic Crew Chief. There's a big difference there, guys. Dan can relate directly with the racers. He knows exactly what it takes to get their job done. I have always had more respect for managers that walked a few miles in my shoes rather than somebody who comes in with none of my experience trying to tell me how it's done. Dan's the Crew Chief, not the Race Director. Don't confuse the 2.
jimu@sledracer.com says:
10/11/2012 1:20:00 PM

I believe Dan went to Central Lakes College for Engineering too.
Scott Watters says:
10/11/2012 3:37:00 PM

I think Dan is a perfect fit,he is young which means he will be around a long time,he is a well skilled sno x/snowmobile rider which will result in riding the machine to understand what is going on when someone explains to him a problem and last he has been next to one of the best guy's in the snowmobile industry since he was nee hi learning which will continue for many years.Good Luck Dan
Bob Larsen says:
10/11/2012 5:50:00 PM

John, I am a avid follower of the site and love reading the behind the scenes scoop that this site provides. However to say that his bloodlines have nothing to do with how he got the job is to me ignoring a fact. He may me smart and talented but I'm pretty sure that who his dad is had more to do with how he got the job then his attributes.

Thanks,
Bob
John Sandberg says:
10/11/2012 8:46:00 PM

Bob, I didn't say "bloodlines have nothing to do with it," however I'll be more clear: To suggest that Dan got this job ONLY because of his bloodlines is to ignore the facts.

I can't quite get my arms around why some of you are focusing so intently on Dan's father, rather than his experience. Of all the things to focus on this interview, this seems so misguided to me.

We have one of the sport's elite racers... a guy who has lived and breathed racing since he was a wee lad; who has competed at the highest levels (notching many top finishes including an I-500 win) and is retiring from snocross. Instead of racing full time, he will crew chief for this race trailer. There will be a rotation of Pro Lite and Sport racers competing out of this trailer, learning the system from the sport's best. There will be a renewed emphasis on stock class sled development. And one of the sport's greatest engineering minds (Russ Ebert) will have more time to invent!

Those are the take-away messages that strike me as the most important and interesting.
Paul Nadeau says:
10/12/2012 9:23:00 AM

Wow, this has certainly been an interesting thread. How about another view from a guy who bleeds green, has real gray hair, and would love to be able to rub coat sleeves with the Eberts to gain some knowledge and pick their brains on how to make your sled the best it can be. Give credit where credit is due. Give Arctic Cat and all of their talents the credit for doing the best they can to keep racing alive. You midwesterners are so lucky to be near all the action. I live in northern Maine ( John knows where I live and it is not next door) nearest pro snocross race is in Valcourt PQ, 9 hour drive from my house, we have the best trail system around but when it comes to racing, it died many years ago due to many reasons. So when you attend the races say thank you to the Eberts and Arctic Cat for keeping the sport of racing alive. Appreciate the fact these men are pros who have paid their dues along the way and are willing to share the education they got. This crying over nepotism is not productive, How many of the whiners have tried racing being it oval, sno cross, cross country? Congratulations Dan and hope you have a great season !
hot rod says:
10/12/2012 2:27:00 PM

I am excited to see what new and innovative things Dan can bring to the table with his racing experience.
Vince says:
10/12/2012 8:24:00 PM

Congratulations and good luck Dan!
Scott Smith says:
10/13/2012 10:22:00 AM

Paul,
Are you serious? Thank the Ebert’s? Since it sounds like you have not been to a race lately maybe you have for gotten how expensive everything is when you go to a snocross race, never mind the price of admission but the price of food or drinks or anything they sell. I think the Ebert’s and everyone else that has a career in racing snowmobiles owes us the fans thanks for coming out to the races and supporting them, and watching them on TV. and buying the products they sponsor. So no I don't think anyone owes the racers or the crews thanks.

Also the idea that Dan paid his dues irritates me.
Maybe John you can put some photos up of Dan paying his "dues" cause I'm guessing he hasn't spent much time hauling his sled in his pickup truck to and from small amateur races, where when he isn't racing he is sitting in his truck to stay warm or having to cram into a small little in closed trailer trying to stay warm with some junk heater that he borrowed from a friend, or worrying about getting parts for his sled or paying for his parts. That’s’ paying his dues. And I promise you the sport rider out there that is doing that is not going to get his chance at riding that stock sled out of the Cat trailer at a national. I promise you it will be some kid whose dad has spent their families savings on a huge trailer and all the latest gear and traveling to all of the biggest races so his spoiled little punk kid can be a "racer" and that will be the dad that sucks up to whoever in order to get the chance to use the sled. It won't be because Kloety is out scouting at some small local race and spots a kid with talent and true grit but doesn't have the right parents or doesn't have parents that are willing to waste all their money on their kid.

John, none of this is to say that I hope Dan fails or that Dan is not qualified or should not have the job. But to not understand why we are not focused on whom Dan's father is is to say that who Tucker Hibbert’s dad is had nothing to do with his success. It seems every story involving Tucker involves his Dad and the role both Kirk and Russ had in helping Tucker. And I have never heard a story of Tucker paying his dues. Cause he really didn't. But maybe I have a different interpretation of "dues".
John Sandberg says:
10/13/2012 4:08:00 PM

Scott,

You've veered off path of what the story is about. You've also made some grossly inaccurate statements about a number of people and topics, but I'm done with talking about those tangents here, on this story's comment section.

I created a forum for this site for the explicit purpose to allow people to write about their interests/concerns/etc... That's where I'd like you to bring the points you have to make.

Thanks.
Jack Grausam says:
10/14/2012 12:50:00 PM

A couple years back we entered the I500 for the first time -- after day two we needed to cut some threads in a suspension part during our alotted 1 hour work time. Running trophy class our hour was a different time than the pros. Anyway I took the part to the Arctic Team trailer - as we had been in there off and on over the years getting help and ideas and even emergency parts. That year the pros were having some problems with an exhaust valve I think and were making plans to fix on the route the next day as the rules provide.
When I came in they dropped everything as we were "on the clock"
Roger Skime - Russ and Dan all pitched in. Did not surprise me - but certainly appreciated. Roger explained in detail how to reinstall to prevent the bolt from stripping again.

That year we were in the trophy class - basically entry level.
We finished second behind by 8 seconds - what a memory.
Oh the winner that year Dan Ebert.
Brucer says:
10/15/2012 9:47:00 PM

To say Dan hasn't earned his job has not watched him race. You remember the few years Tucker only raced the X-games. Little known fact was that the sled Tucker used to run those races was Dan Ebert's semi-pro mod sled. I was in Yellowstone for an Arctic Cat dealer meeting (2007 model year meeting) and got to watch Dan in the semi-pro class racing one of those sleds tucker raced. He badly sprained his knee in the race before the final, but to place in points that year he needed to just go out and take the start, he literally hobbled to the sled to get it to the starting line. He then pulled the holeshot and lead for 3 laps I believe. He ended up finishing 3rd the race and they carried him into the race trailer afterwards. Dan has the heart and desire to race with the best. He may have had a helping hand from one of the best in the sport, and that is what he is trying to give other racers, but that is not the only reason he was racing out of the Factory trailer. You guys think he is the only boy in Thief River to race? No, I don't think so. Congrats to Dan and I look forward to seeing what he can help the sport do.
Scott Smith says:
10/16/2012 7:14:00 PM

Bruce,
Dan Ebert was using the best Arctic Cat mod sled that was available? Wow that must have been tough for him. I mean Tucker's sled he used in the x games. But every story put out there about Tucker's x games sled is that it was a one off sled that was never used. Either way I'm happy you like him so much.
steveo says:
10/17/2012 11:49:00 AM

I like POPCORN!!!!!!!!!!!!
crazy cat says:
10/21/2012 9:29:00 PM

crazy I time will tell. arctic cat should have 1 and 2 in the points then with such a great qualified crew chief
Carlee says:
10/26/2012 12:13:00 AM

This introduces a pleasingly rational point of view.
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Rick Fuerst says:
10/31/2012 8:54:00 AM

Man, for a minute or two I thought I was on Hardcore Sledder! A racer going to be a crew chief is great. He knows the track side so he will know what the racers needs are! Congradulations Dan!

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