The third event of the 2014 USXC cross-country series unfolded in Willmar, Minn., this past weekend. It was the last of the lake-ice events before the series moves into the ditches and rivers of Northwest Minnesota.
Team Arctic racers claimed 13 of 20 class finals, and 39 of 60 podium positions. For any other brand, this would be a dream come true and full-page ads would be purchased in Snow Week, er, well, somewhere where they could tout their terrain domination.
But for a team that’s been winning 18 of 20 classes, including all Pro and Semi Pro finals up to this point, Willmar was a bit of a reality-check when it comes to expectations.
Fact is, you can’t win them all. And when you do get beat, like Cat did in some of the big classes at Willmar, it makes the racers and crews work even harder.
Below you’ll find pix of all the class winners except Chase Nordstrom and Erik Nymann. Chase deserves TWO pix in this story because he won both Sport classes, but I completely missed his and Erik’s classes and I am bummed about it.
Sorry Chase and Erik.
Paul Brown won the Jr. 10-13 class, sporting an ArcticInsider decal on his Sno Pro 500 (which has been proven by radar gun to increase the top speed of any sled by 1-2 mph). Nice job Paul!
Ean Voigt continued his winning ways in the Jr. 14-17 class, while also looking stylish over the finish line jump.
Dalton Fredrickson captured the win in Sport 85 ahead of 13 other Team Arctic racers.
Hunter Houle grabbed a couple second-place finishes at Willmar. He’s on the cusp of winning his first event this season.
Sara Larson has probably won a hundred races so far, thanks to a dominating career in the 120 classes. She too is getting ever so close to taking a win this season, in Jr. Girls 14-17.
The girl who keeps winning the Jr. 14-17 class is Kelsey Pladson, shown here dicing with Team Arctic ATV engineer-turned-xc-racer Joe Wood. Wood won the Vintage high point title last season, but he’s been skunked so far this year.
Speaking of vintage, Gary Tintes can claim the title of Mr. Vintage so far this season, having won the class (and the Vintage Legends) class at the past two events.
Jon Koch is another guy who’s had an excellent season on the ice. He won the Super Stock class at Willmar, which is the event for production machines like this Arctic Cat ZR 6000 RR.
Jolene Bute will tell you that she lucked into winning the Women’s class at the previous event in Detroit Lakes. She wasn’t satisfied winning that way so she and her husband Pat worked extra hard on her sled for Willmar (staying up until 3am Saturday morning to stud a track). It paid off, with Bute winning convincingly, with no luck needed.
Casey Pries came into Willmar with two Semi Pro Stock wins this season. He came close to winning a third, but finished 2.1 seconds off the winning time of Cale Anseeuw to take third place. Pries also took a second in Semi Pro Improved.
Finishing second in Semi Pro Stock by a mere 1.6 seconds, Cole Nymann was so close to his first win of the season that he could smell, taste and stick a fork in it.
Team Arctic could claim one win in the Semi Pro classes, via the excellent run by Lance Efteland in the Improved class.
Team Arctic terrain legend Brad Pake was at Willmar, helping his nephew Marcus Herfindahl in the Junior class while Marcus’s dad (and Pake’s mechanic) Tom was at a funeral. Pake also showed up at the Detroit Lakes race a couple weeks ago.
Humble and nice as ever, Pake agreed to pose with my son’s race sled. He also agreed on an upcoming interview here. I have some doozy questions for him!
Zach Herfindahl had an off weekend in Willmar. He finished third in the Open class and 11th in the Stock class, suffering a loss of brakes beginning in the 3rd or 4th lap of the 10-lap Stock final. He soldiered on to salvage points, which was worthwhile as he leads the class by a scant four points over Wes Selby.
Chad Lian had an excellent day in Willmar, finishing fourth in both the Pro Stock and Open finals. He’s currently sitting in fourth place points.
Wes Selby had a solid performance at Willmar, finishing third in the Pro Stock class and fifth in Open. He also dealt with fading brakes in the Stock class, and he continues to learn the fine line of finding the right set-up for different ice conditions.
Arctic Cat engineer/racer Brian Dick could have left Willmar happy about winning the Pro Open class, but instead he was bummed out about getting beat (and finishing second) in the Stock class.
Brian has been burning the midnight oil A LOT lately, trying to prepare for the Soo 500, IronDog and all the events that his real job requires.
Ryan Faust delivered a truly excellent ride at Willmar to win his first-ever Pro final in USXC. I know he’s on a Polaris and some people don’t want to see those on this site, but Faust rode awesome and he deserves some recognition for it.
Congrats to all the racers who put on a helmet and hammered the throttle at Willmar.
Thanks for reading.