Thank you, Loren Anderson
Thank you to all the Board members and Members of the Hall of Fame.
I am truly honored.
I must say it is an advantage to be inducted some 10 years after my last competition. I have had much time to reflect on nearly 30 years of racing.
Even today, I have flashbacks into my past and vividly remember certain race days and the people I have met. I have no idea what triggers it.
Sometimes I will keep my thought for several minutes and wish I could tell somebody the stories, too; which brings me to today.
I hope you’ll indulge me for a few minutes while I highlight my memories. I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy it. We’ll go back in time about 40 years.
I was 14 years old. Two of my best friends had snowmobiles, one an Evinrude and the other a Botel. They took me riding and I fell in love with it. I could only afford a couple of hundred bucks at the time, and I found a used 68 SkiDoo Olympic 10 Horse. It was a basket case. The hood was disconnected from the chassis, the seat was loose and it had no key. I brought it home and proceeded to unload it in my parent’s driveway.
It was about dusk. My mother came out of the house and was standing on the front steps. She was looking at my new purchase from a short distance. I was trying to get it started and, of course, it didn’t want to start. She spoke up and said, “Just leave it for tonight, honey. You can fix it tomorrow.”
“I just want to drive it around the house and put it in the backyard,” I answered.
Being there was no key, I unplugged it and the machine started right up. I turned the handlebars to head out and the loose hood fell down on the throttle cable and it went wide open.
I held on tight, roaring across our yard, past my mother on the steps. I broke through my neighbors wire fence, went through the hedge row and into the next neighbor’s yard and finally into a chain link fence.
That stopped the sled, but the motor was still running wide open. I reached for the spark plug wire and pulled it off, getting one hell of a shock. That was nothing compared to what was running down the street after me now: Mom…She is hollering “Are you OK?”
“I’m fine,” I answered and started telling her what was wrong.
She wasn’t interested in the mechanics of it.
“Drag it home”! She said. That was my first ride. Mom was there.
Probably the most influential person for my new passion was Dick Hammond. He owned the local Polaris dealership and he was a racer and a very good racer.
The day I met him in ’69, he was working in his shop on a 744 TX Racer with megaphones. He was just finishing his project and wrapping a rope around the flywheel to start it. He squirted gas in the carbs and gave it a pull.
It was the most God-awful deafening sound I had ever heard. He hollered at me to lift up the back of the sled by the bumper. I did as he asked. He started revving this machine and it shook the floor. People were running away within 500 feet.
Not me! I wanted to know where he got this thing, are there any more of them? “Dimmerman” he said, “You’re going to have to come to a race with me.”
What a lucky time to be born. Polaris was about to unveil the 1970 TX Racer. In my opinion this series of new racing machines set the standard for the next 10 years. It had an all aluminum chassis, a Japanese high revving free air Fuji engine and, most important, an all-aluminum high-rev adjustable drive clutch.
The components inside of this clutch were selectable weights and springs that you could tune for various conditions. It worked awesome.
I went with Hammond to some USSA races that winter and saw my first factory racing. By far, the Polaris team stood out. Bernat, Eastman, Lindblad, Rugland, Monsrud, Drews, and Hayes. These guys were very good. They had sleds for every class, 295,335, 439, 649 and 795. They won them all.
I bought a 1970 TX335 Racer from Hammond and started racing locally in the ASA circuit. I had a lot to learn.
I went to work for Tousley Sports Center in White Bear Lake, an Arctic Cat dealer.
I soon met a man named John Helland. He was a research engineer for Medtronic and had a passion for oval racing.
He had just purchased two new Arctic Cats, 1975 250 & 440 Z’s. We struck up a deal and my brother, Rick, was to race the 250 in the Jr. class and I was to run in the Sr. class in both the 250 and 440.
My brother and I enjoyed some good successes during the year as we followed the USSA circuit. I quit my job at Tousley’s so I could work on the machines full time.
In 1976, the Mercury factory offered us a sponsored ride with two 250 merc’s and all the parts for free.
It was a very good choice except for one thing: There was a new face in town for the first USSA race in Alexandria. He was a very small guy from Erie, Pennsylvania. His name was Brad Hulings.
This guy was to become the Jeff Gordon of snowmobile racers. He was very fast, very smooth and very smart. What he lacked in size, he made up in skill.
Brad Hulings is the best race driver I have ever raced against. He made everybody in the sport a better racer. We all had to pay attention to detail from now on or settle for second place!
By the time the season got to Eagle River, I was pretty stoked to beat Brad in my class. My brother had just won the 250 Jr. class and now it was my turn to face Brad. The 250 superstock class was a good race for me and I did win it against Brad!
But more importantly, in a bigger picture, that I hadn’t seen yet, was that somebody else was watching the battle during that race. That somebody was Roger Skime, the Director of Engineering for Arctic Cat, the guy responsible for the entire direction of Arctic Cat Racing. You’ll hear this name come up again.
Another significant situation occurred at Arctic Cat.
Dave Thompson, who was one of the 3 Team Arctic drivers, had a severe accident and broke both of his legs. He would recover, but ultimately would retire from driving. That left Team Arctic with just 2 drivers.
In 1977 Arctic Cat proposed a deal to Jerry Simison of Team Frustration to field 9 machines on a fully-sponsored ride with myself, Todd Elmer and Tim Benedict as drivers. We were based in Fargo, N.D. for the season.
In 1977, racing was about to make some very big changes. Polaris changed up their entire driver’s roster and hired Brad Hulings, Steve Thorsen, and Jerry Bunke. This new trio was to become the Midnight Blue Express and to add more fuel to the fire. The new machines had a revolutionary independent front suspension. The Polaris boys in Roseau just never stop digging. Those same guys I talked about watching in 1970 had just come full circle with yet another killer machine, the RXL.
The Arctic Cat factory drivers and development team were very busy working on new IFS prototypes. However, the 1977 Superstock Z models they produced were very competitive. These are what I was racing. At Alexandria I won the 340 Superstock finals against Brian Espeseth, Stan Fox and Bobby Donahue. It was a good close race.
Roger Skime was there watching.
I led the Eagle River 440 Superstock final until the last lap when Dick Trickle passed me for the win. Roger Skime was there watching.
There were over 100 entries at Ironwood, MI for the 440 superstock class. I won the final and, again, Roger Skime was watching.
In Peterborough, Ontario, at the Kawartha Cup, I was just a few points short of overall high points to win the cup that Jerry Bunke won. Guess who was watching…
It was the summer of 1978 and my phone rang. It was Bill Decker, VP marketing for Arctic Cat. He asked me if I would meet with Dennis Zulawski about becoming a Team Arctic Driver.
Dennis and I met the next week. He asked me questions, like would I be able to live in Thief River Falls for 7 or 8 months.
I said yes, I was single, self employed, and racing was my job! I could leave anytime.
He said they were considering a couple of other drivers and that I would get a call later in the week with the decision.
I don’t believe there is a word in the dictionary that can describe how I felt waiting for that call… and then it came.
Bill Decker said they had made their decision. He said Roger Skime liked the way I raced and had his vote.
He asked if I would accept $2,500/month and all expenses paid. I said yes, got off the phone and told my family I was going to Thief River Falls.
I chuckled to myself – I would have paid THEM $2,500 a month to race!! YES!
And so my mind started to wander. I could picture myself carrying the checkered flag, standing on the podium kissing the trophy girls, and how was I ever going to spend all the prize money?
All I had to do was hold the throttle a little longer than the next guy.
And then it hit me – my heart sank for a moment. Back against Brad Hulings again, Coltom, Elsner, Thorsen, Hayes, Bunke, Villaneve. These guys were just waiting for fresh meat.
What have I done? I don’t know if I’m good enough to run with them.
I drove up to Thief River Falls and parked at the White House, went in and found Bill Decker. He introduced me to the President, John Penn and took me to the new race shop. The electronic card key opened the door and there, gathered around the prototype race sled, was Charlie Lofton, Larry Coltom, Dave Thompson, Durmont Wahl, Dennis Zulawski, Richie Porter, Roger Gage and Roger Skime.
I could hardly swallow.
I was standing in front of the entire life blood of Team Arctic and they all turned to look at me.
Bill Decker introduced me as the new team driver, I walked up, shook hands with all of them and from that moment forward, I had a long way to go to earn my place to become one of them.
The rivalry between Arctic Cat and Polaris, I was to learn, wasn’t simply because of the two snowmobile factories.
These were two small towns filled with local pride. Their schools, hockey teams, grocery stores, fishing, hunting, farming… were all reasons to rival each other.
They had as much pride in their respective cities as they did in the snowmobiles they built.
Arctic Cat had just had their booties handed to them the past season, and these 10 men, including myself, were on a mission to restore some damaged pride. They took it personally that the Roseau boys had figured it out first. Now it was our chance to make it better, not just as fast, but faster – way faster. The challenge was on.
Team Arctic had developed a very special machine. A completely unique IFS design, complex in its look, but quite simple in the way it worked. But like anything new, we had to work the bugs out.
Driving these new machines was a bit scary at first. One small mistake and the machine would respond violently. You always drove, ready for the rebound. Throughout the four years of driving for Team Arctic, I enjoyed many successes, many firsts. I know I was instrumental in restoring that lost Cat’s Pride. Roger Skime had seen something in me that I didn’t know I had.
Unfortunately, the industry was going through some very bad times and Arctic Cat was going to close its doors. I was about to lose my dream, my one in a million job. Team Arctic would be no more and never would come back.
A man by the name of Ted Nielsen came up to me during the race at Alexandria in 1981. He was an Arctic Cat dealer in Lake Villa, IL, and the Goodwin Brothers raced for him.
He found out about the certain demise of Arctic Enterprises. He asked if I would entertain the thought of racing for him when Arctic closed its doors.
I was trying to look into the future of my racing at 27 years old. I didn’t want to stop yet. I still had one race I needed to win, the World Championship at Eagle River.
Brad Hulings and Jacques Villeneuve were still racing for the Ski-Doo factory and I wasn’t going to let this Cat die.
I said yes to Ted and the Phantom was born.
I dug deep into everything I had learned at Arctic Cat and I came to realize that Ted Nielsen and all of his family and employees were going to give me the best racing machine I had ever had.
The Phantom won more than my fair share of races as an Independent and in 1984 we put together a machine that set the Skidoo factory on their heels.
In a very hard fought battle for 25 laps, from last place to first, I convincingly won the World Championship.
This race was for Team Arctic, for Ted Nielsen and Jimmy Crichton. It was for my Mom and Dad. It was for all my family and race fans. It was for me. I had qualified 7 times for that prestigious WC and now my name was etched on the trophy.
After my trophy presentation in the infield, I needed to get back to the race truck for my fans. I needed to be with them. One person was missing, my mother.
They told me she was up in the first turn tower, crying, and couldn’t come down. I went up to get her.
I had just won the World Championship and my Mom was there.
After that season I continued on with my racing, but changing directions a bit. I started drag and speed run racing. I enjoyed many firsts and many new world speed records.
I started my family and have 3 wonderful children, Jimmy, Molly and Samantha.
The racing machines have been idle in my life for about 10 years.
I enjoy horseback riding with my girlfriend of 10 years, Kris Kelly.
Trail riding is a lot quieter without a screaming engine!
My list of thank-you’s is very long. One special man – C.J. Ramsad – has always been part of my memories. “Pappy” was a good friend and made all of us mere mortals into household heros! He followed my career since day one and helped give me the drive to be the best. Rest in peace, Pappy.
So many people played a part of my career and I can’t thank all of you enough.
Life truly is being in the right place at the right time.
Who would have thought, believe it or not, it’s just me.