It may be the heart of summer, but it’s also Championship Weekend in one extra special form of snowmobile racing: Watercross.
Racing in the 38th annual Grantsburg World Championship Snowmobile Watercross kicks off Friday in the tiny town of Grantsburg, Wisconsin – located about 90 miles northeast of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. Like all watercross races, it will be a mix of competition and fun, though at Grantsburg the heat is turned up on both of those aspects.
The competition is heavier because this is the one and only World Championship for watercross. There’s significantly more prestige in winning this event than any other watercross in the world, and that means racers hone their skills and tune their equipment special just for this one weekend.
Plus, the Grantsburg event also hosts one of the biggest parties and more festive atmospheres in all of snowmobiling. Friday and Saturday, the fun begins for fans with Bloody Mary specials in town starting at 7 a.m. and last well past the fireworks and through the street dance, which allegedly ends at 12:30 a.m. (though it’s been known to go well past that). In between, there are vendors to visit, vintage sleds to check out, pit crew races, freestyle shows, autograph sessions, great food options and much more.
There’s no street dance on Sunday – instead, attendees have to “settle” for the best racing of the weekend, when class champions will be crowned in the various drags and oval classes. It all wraps up with the Pro Open ovals championship Sunday afternoon. Bring some lawn chair, find a spot in the shade or sun (your preference) and line up with other fans along the shores of Memory Lake in downtown Grantsburg. And/or, join the fun by entering the Watercross Snowmobile Racing Challenge here on snowgosite.wpengine.com.
A Look At The Classes
As of Thursday morning, 127 racers had signed up to compete in the various classes at Grantsburg. There are three drag racing classes: 600 Drags, 800 Drags and Mod Drags. They are entertaining, fun and highly competitive, but the real action gets going when the competitors take to the oval, racing their non buoyant sleds around bouys, always mindful of maintaining momentum, lest they end up in the bottom of the lake. That’s right – nothing is added to these sleds to make them float. If something goes wrong or a competitor loses their momentum, the ride ends up in the bottom of the drink, to be picked up later by one of the customized pontoons.
There are five ovals classes: Women 800 Oval, Semi Pro Stock, Semi Pro Open, Pro Stock and Pro Open. Each is highly contested, but the Pro Open class is the one that crowns the true champion of the sport. This year’s field included 17 drivers as this story is being written, though a couple more entries could trickle in by race time. It is dominated by racers from Minnesota and Wisconsin, though one New Yorker made the trek to Wisconsin. It also includes four previous champions and a long list guys who have won other events on the circuit but have yet to etch their name into history at Grantsburg.
Join The Fun!
Want to join in some of the fun? Enter the Snow Goer Fantasy Snowmobile Racing Challenge game by clicking here. Once there, you can guess the top five finishers in the Pro Open class by selecting from a menu. It’s easy, free and fun, and to help, we’re going to “set the field” for you. Here is some information on each of the 17 drivers who have registered for the event so far:
Travis Audorff, #455 Arctic Cat, from Chippewa Falls, WI – There have been varying reports as to weather or not Travis would race this weekend due to a shoulder injury, but he was on the entry list this morning.
Kyle Carpenter, #30 Ski-Doo, from Stacy, MN – Has won Semi-Pro oval at Grantsburg in the past, and finished second in Pro Open in 2012, he’s now aiming to winning the sport’s biggest prize.
Arthur Coen, #517 Ski-Doo, from Clayton, WI – Who can’t like a guy from Clayton, Wisconsin? “Bud” raced in the Semi-Pro classes in the final but has stepped up his game.
David Fischer, #36 Ski-Doo, from Eagan, MN – A multi-time champion in drag classes, this second-generation driver wants to follow his father’s path to fame.
Jeff Fischer, #2 Ski-Doo, from Eagan, MN – Won the Watercross World Championship title back in 2000 and has been on the podium often, don’t count this personable racer out.
Clint Fjosne, #222 Ski-Doo, from Willow River, MN – Stepped up from Semi-Pro and has made waves at both IWA races this year – fifth at Moose Lake, fourth at Brainerd.
Nick Gustafson, #724 Polaris from Roseau, MN – Racing out of Polaris’ hometown, Gustafson took a podium spot (third) in the season-opener at Moose Lake.
Jason Guy, #711 Polaris, from Delhi, NY – Grantsburg often attracts 1-3 eastern racers, and this year it’s Jason Guy representing New York and trying to learn how to turn the other way.
Ryan Keith, #321 Polaris, from Siren, WI – Another racer who came through the ranks, he’s been strong in Drags and Ovals in the Semi-Pro classes over the years.
JT Kosnitch, #134 Ski-Doo, from Isanti, MN – Claimed the Semi-Pro championship in Grantsburg in 2011, another up-and-comer worth watching.
Dale Lindbeck, #29 Arctic Cat, from Chisago City, MN – The sport’s most decorated active driver, this four-time and defending champion has literally been racing every year at Grantsburg since Ronny Reagan was president!
Chad Maki, #413 Ski-Doo, from Osceola, WI – The son of the sport’s most winning driver ever has carved his own path and is a two-time champ (2010 and 2012) and multiple Stock Ovals titles. He hasn’t raced yet this year, though.
Brian McCurdy Jr., #442 Ski-Doo, from Lindstrom, MN – Reining IWA president, winner at the most recent IWA race at Brainerd and current leader in points is overdue at Grantsburg.
Jason McPheeters, #7 Polaris, from Zimmerman, MN — A longtime name in the sport, he finished fourth at Moose Lake earlier this year on his Polaris.
Joe Schellbach, #55 Arctic Cat, from Rush City, MN – Another guy who’s come through the semi-pro ranks, finished sixth at Brainerd earlier this year.
Joey Strub, #3 Ski-Doo, from Oak Park Heights, MN – The Watercross World Champ in 2004 has fast equipment again this year; won season-opener this year at Moose Lake and finished second to McCurdy at Brainerd.
Shawn Zurn, #76 Ski-Doo, from Downing, WI — Sixth at opener in Moose Lake, then third at Brainerd, is he keeps gaining a couple of spots per event… well, he could add to his Mod Drag championships.