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HomeRacingThe Legend Continues: The USXC Seven Clans Casino I-500 Cross-Country Feb. 6-8

The Legend Continues: The USXC Seven Clans Casino I-500 Cross-Country Feb. 6-8

Team Arctic Cat's Jim Safranski in the I-500

I-500 race start

USXC Seven Clans Casino I-500 in 2013. Photo by

Tomorrow morning, Thurs. Feb. 6, the green flag will drop on the USXC Seven Clans Casino I-500 in Thief River Falls, Minn. (CLICK HERE to listen to live coverage from KTRF radio).

This will be the 41st edition of a legendary event that first ran in 1966, and that’s captured the imaginations of men and women ever since.

The image of a lone racer hurling down a windswept ditch line – skis dangling in the air and the bitter cold clearly visible in the rider’s hunkered posture – is a sight that has stirred the soul of untold numbers of racers and fans alike.

Arctic Cat has prevailed to win the I-500 13 times, bested only by Polaris (18) and followed by Ski-Doo (8). The only other brand to win was John Deere, at the hands of USXC president Brian Nelson in 1976.

Arctic Cat racers have captured the past three editions, with Dan Ebert in 2010, Brian Dick in 2011 and defending champion Ryan Simons in 2013 (the race was cancelled for weather in 2012).

The smart money is on Arctic Cat winning again this year, with Simons, Dick, Zach Herfindahl, Wes Selby and Cody Kallock being five key names to watch for.

But anyone who knows cross-country is well aware that this form of racing (and this race in particular) is anything but predictable. There is a cadre of racers on other brand machines who will definitely contend for victory.

And of course there are all the other USXC classes to consider, from Juniors to Vintage to Women and even the all-new 120 Mini I-5. As I write this, there are 170 entries in the three-day classes, plus 40 in Vintage, 30 in Junior and 30 in the 120 classes, the latter three of which will race on Saturday only.

No matter what brand of machine or what class you compete in, I wish you the very best of luck at the granddaddy of all cross-country races.

If you see me along the route, camera in hand, don’t worry about waving. Just do everything you can to get to the finish line!

Thanks for reading.

Team Arctic Cat's Brian Dick. Photo by

Team Arctic Cat’s 2011 I-500 winner, Brian Dick.


Roger Janssen in the I-500 on a Polaris.

Former Team Arctic World Champ Roger Janssen chases the I-500 checkers, this time on a Polaris.


Team Arctic Cat's Dale Cormican wins the I-500

Dale Cormican won back-to-back I-500s in 1968 and ’69.


Team Arctic Cat's Brian Nelson wins the 1978 I-500.

Brian Nelson scored his second I-500 win in 1978 on an Arctic Cat.


Team Arctic Cat's Brade Pake at the 1999 I-500. Photo by

Brad Pake won back-to-back I-500s in 1995 and 1996. He’s shown here racing the 1999 edition.


Team Arctic Cat's Ryan Simons won the 2013 USXC I-500. Photo:

Defending USXC Seven Clans Casino I-500 champion Ryan Simons is the man to beat at this year’s event.



  1. Good luck to all Arctic Cat racers! Race-Ride-Safely!!!! To all the other riders on the different brands, good luck to you also! Race-Ride-Safely!!!!
    John, please be careful on the side of the road taking those great photo’s you always do! Give a thumbs up to all racers !!

  2. Is there a link to the route somewhere out there? Thank you and good luck to all the competitors, especially the vintage guys!

  3. First day is in the books…unofficially Herfindahl is leading 2hrs 6min 5sec and unofficially Brian Dick is in third with a time of 2hrs 8min 8sec. Way to go guys! Keep it up!

  4. Dan go to and arrow down to the i500 spot on the right side of the page and click on the maps tab will show fri and sat courses…rock on cat they looked fast today…

  5. This race is the TRUE TEST of machines for endurance. Consider that only 5 wins separate Cat and Polaris,, that doesn’t say much for either Ski-Doo (and their 1win) or Yamaha (zero wins) now does it?

    John, that pic of Pake on the ’99 is awesome!

  6. Rusty, Ski-Doo has won the 500 five of the last 10 years and 8 times total (DuHamel, Wolff 2 times, Erdman and Dyrdahl 4 times). In the last 10 years Ski-Doo has been better than Arctic Cat at winning big cross-country races – they have won the 500 more times than anyone else, the last two Iron Dogs, four of six Cain’s Quest races and the Soo in 2009 (the Soo is an enduro but oh well).

  7. jimu, Have no idea about the Iron Dog or Cain’s quest, but in the last decade the Ski-Doo XC program consisted of Bryan Dyrdahl and that’s it. Erdman won on a sled Bryan prepared and only won after Dyrdahl broke. He also drove almost all the laps at the Soo in 09. It helps to have the best rider of the era on your sled. Remember he won the first of his 500’s, and a million other races on an Arctic Cat. The best money Tom Lowrance(sp) ever spent!

  8. Jim: my humble apologies.. I had Nelson’s “1 win” onboard a Deere stuck in my mind for some reason when posting that. Why???? IDK,, Sorry about that. :/

    Mike F: Well said. Especially for making it clear that Dyrdahl mopped up the majority of on track urine for years, making for far more wins for him aboard Cat products.

  9. Well not to tarnish Mr. Sandberg’s site with too much “other brand” propaganda, but a win is a win, and if you have one guy winning (Tucker Hibbert, Bryan Dyrdahl) that is all you need. The record books will never say, “Bryan Dyrdahl won four I-500s on Ski-Doo but he was the only guy on Ski-Doo so it doesn’t really count.” And to my knowledge Bryan never shared setups to any real extent. Erdman got a little help from another Ski-Doo racer in 2007 but it wasn’t Dyrdahl.

  10. Jim,
    This is a multi-refreshment discussion! You are correct, the record book is what it is. Bryan gave a ton of info back to Valcourt, it just didn’t happen to match what their thinking was. Bryan would give you the shirt off his back if you contributed to the effort…which was always a problem with the BRP deal….I’ve ridden, and my brother raced one of his 2007 sleds in 08 with the original setup. Absolutely breathtaking.

  11. My two cents: I have a hard time agreeing that Cain’s Quest counts as a “big cross-country race.” It’s a cross-country adventure with sleighs, no prescribed route and won by teams who spend weeks practicing and finding the fastest routes. Plus it’s not contested by enough of North America’s fastest racers.

    Which isn’t to take away ANYTHING from the competitors who do it… it’s a phenomenal challenge and everyone who accepts it deserves major kudos. But in my mind, a win there doesn’t equate with a win in the I-500 or Iron Dog. At least not in terms of bragging rights.

    Yes, if you look at the last 10 years, Ski-Doo and Cat are pretty much even on the big wins. In the I-500, Cat has (now) won four while Ski-Doo has won five. In the last 10 editions of the Iron Dog, Cat has won four to Ski-Doo’s three.

    But why a 10 year period?

    If we go a little further back, it the balance begins to shift.

    In the last 15 editions of both, here are the numbers:
    I-500: Cat (6) and Doo (7)
    Iron Dog: Cat (8), Doo (3)

    What about 20 years?
    I-500: Cat (9), Doo (7)
    Iron Dog: Cat (10), Doo (3)

    And of course if you looked at all the classes that compete in the I-500, it would be a complete stomp by Cat.

    All of this is just bench racing anyway. Both companies can take pride in having won a lot of the big ones. Both make great sleds.

    For what it’s worth, I was just looking at winning percentages in USXC so far this season. Arctic Cat has 75% of ALL the classes, and 65% of all the podium positions! Unreal.

    Congrats to Cat and its amazing racers and teams!

  12. Why 10 years?

    a. That’s when sleds changed to rider forward
    b. That’s when the third generation/”modern” era of cross-country started with USCC

    How far should you go back when assessing brand wins? 10 years is a lifetime in any motorsport – anything past that is ancient history.

    Playing devil’s advocate, maybe Cain’s Quest/Iron Dog is more “real” cross-country than the I-500, which basically uses the same course/terrain makeup each year?

    I agree, fun debate! Arctic Cat would have won a lot more 500s if they had never let Bryan Dyrdahl slip away to another brand…

  13. My point is that, depending on the timeframe you’re using, the story is different. The last 10 years would be, by far, the only period that Ski-Doo would contest with Cat for most XC wins. It’s cherry picking.

    If 10 years is ancient history in motorsports, then I’m a dinosaur and nobody cares about Todd Wolff, Toni Haikonen, Brad Pake, Kirk Hibbert, Jack Struthers, Mario Andretti, Senna, Dale Earnhardt, Jeremy McGrath, Bob Hannah, Kenny Roberts, Wayne Rainey, the Unsers, the Villeneueves or Evel Knievel.

    While I for sure am a dinosaur, I think all the above names are still pretty damn relevant.

    And finally, if you’re going knock points off of the I-500 for having a similar route for the past 10 years, you’ll have to do the same for the Iron Dog.

    And for the Baja 1000, Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500, and so on.

  14. “Owned” might be tad hyperbolic. Cat has 14 wins, Polaris has 18.

    But for sure Polaris is the leader, as I mentioned in the original story above. And they probably would have six more wins had there actually been an I-500 from 1981-86.

    A serious powerhouse in cross-country for a lot of years, the target for Arctic Cat then (and still now).

    I-500 Winners:

    1966 Herb Howe (Polaris)
    1967 Gerry Reese (Polaris)
    1968 Dale Cormican (Arctic Cat)
    1969 Dale Cormican (Arctic Cat)
    1970 LeRoy Lindblad (Polaris)
    1971 LeRoy Lindblad (Polaris)
    1972 Yvon DuHamel (Ski-Doo)
    1973 Stan Hayes (Polaris)
    1974 Marv Ode (Arctic Cat)
    1975 Ed Monsrud (Polaris)
    1976 Brian Nelson (John Deere)
    1977 Archie Simonson (Polaris)
    1978 Brian Nelson (Arctic Cat)
    1979 Paul Matejka (Polaris)
    1980 Bruce Olson (Polaris)

    1987 Nolan Knochenmus (Polaris)
    1988 Lauren Wolff (Polaris)
    1989 Jeremy Fyle (Polaris)
    1990 Kirk Hibbert (Arctic Cat)
    1991 Jack Struthers (Polaris)
    1992 Jack Struthers (Polaris)
    1993 Kirk Hibbert (Arctic Cat)
    1994 Jack Struthers (Polaris)
    1995 Brad Pake (Arctic Cat)
    1996 Brad Pake (Arctic Cat)
    1997 Corey Davidson (Polaris)
    1998 Todd Wolff (Ski-Doo)
    1999 Todd Wolff (Ski-Doo)
    2000 Bryan Dyrdahl (Arctic Cat)
    2001 Troy Taggart (Arctic Cat)

    2003 Corey Davidson (Polaris)
    2004 Bryan Dyrdahl (Ski-Doo)
    2005 Corey Davidson (Polaris)
    2006 Bryan Dyrdahl (Ski-Doo)
    2007 Ross Erdman (Ski-Doo)
    2008 Bryan Dyrdahl (Ski-Doo)
    2009 Bryan Dyrdahl (Ski-Doo)
    2010 Dan Ebert (Arctic Cat)
    2011 Brian Dick (Arctic Cat)
    2013 Ryan Simon (Arctic Cat)
    2014 Brian Dick (Arctic Cat)


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