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SG@50: Jim Dimmerman’s Historic Win At Eagle River

By John Prusak

As Snow Goer celebrates the 50th anniversary of its founding, we’ll occasionally post interesting stories from past issues. This story is from a special issue of the magazine that kicked off the 1984-85 season. It looks back on the so-called Independent’s Day at Eagle River, when Jim Dimmerman, racing for Nielsen Enterprises following the fall of the original Arctic Cat, won the World Championship. Blow-by-blow coverage of the event was available in Snow Week, Snow Goer‘s sister publication at the time. But the following summer, Bill Monn looked back upon Dimmerman’s amazing and historic victory in Snow Goer and offered this perspective.

The Dimmer Shines Bright

For a dozen years, only a factory driver has won the prestigious World’s Championship at Eagle River… Until this past January.

By Bill Monn

Back in January, 1979, Jim Dimmerman was hot. Actually, red hot wouldn’t be exaggerating.dimmerman-page-1

The place was Eagle River, Wisconsin. The focus for the entire weekend, or season (do I hear career?), was the coveted “World’s Championship” crown. Dimmerman was cleaning up. He won the 250X final, then the 340X final and, you guessed it, the 440X final. There was only one race left – the World’s Championship Derby.

Ask any racer if he ever had one of those days when everything falls into place. For whatever reason, everything works perfectly and every adjustment you make produces the optimum result. Then ask him how often those days come along.

Everything was working perfectly at Eagle River that day five years ago … and then, the nightmare began.

The 10 finalists came to the starting line and nervously waited for the green. Someone jumped the start. Was it Frans Rosenquist? It really doesn’t matter. Bobby Donahue responded to the impromptu start and went full throttle into the first corner, with Arctic’s Bob Elsner in hot pursuit. Some drivers were certain there would be a restart, so they relaxed and backed off a little on the throttle. Dimmerman was one of them. By the time it finally hit him that the flagman was NOT going to restart the race, he was hopelessly behind.

But he battled gamely, dicing his way through the pack. (“There were a few pretty good drivers in front of me that I had to get around like Hulings and Thorsen,” Dimmerman remembers.) Elsner eventually won, with Donahue finishing second. Dimmerman made his way through the pack to finish third, while driving probably the fastest sled on the track that day.

This past January at the same ill­shaped oval that has become the Indianapolis 500 for oval sprint drivers, Dimmerman got sweet revenge for the Eagle River race he could have, should have, won five years earlier.

There were some big differences between the two efforts. Most prominently, when Dimmerman lined up back in 1979, it was as a full-fledged factory driver for Arctic Cat. This past January, it was as an independent. Dimmerman’s victory marked the first time a non-factory driver has won the World’s Championship since Mike Trapp performed a “David versus Goliath” back in 1971.

“For sure it’s the biggest win ever for me,” Dimmerman said. “There never has been anything else I wanted to win at as much as the World’s Championship at Eagle River. Now I’m in the record books with everyone else I admired when I was growing up.

“I know I was robbed once. Now I’ll always be remembered even if I never race again. I used to race for the fun, money and Eagle River. Now I race for fun and money.”

Dimmerman started his snowmobile racing career at the tender age of 15 grass dragging a 440 Rupp. He soon made his way to oval sprints where he knocked around for five years or so. He joined Team Frustration for the 1976-77 season and Team Arctic the year after that. Dimmerman matured on the Arctic team under the guidance of Larry Coltom, Davey Thompson, Charlie Lofton and his teammate Bobby Elsner.dimmerman-page-2

When Arctic Cat closed shop after the 1980-81 season, Dimmerman was out of a job. Ted Nielsen, a large snowmobile-motorcycle dealer from Lake Villa, Illinois (just north of Chicago), bought the Arctic and Scorpion oval racers from the factory and hired Dimmerman to race them. The Nielsen-Dimmerman team has been golden ever since, capped off by the Eagle River win this past January.

Can Dimmerman repeat at Eagle River this year?

“I’m sure going to try,” he said. “But it wouldn’t mean nearly as much to me as winning the first one. Of course it would be a big thrill. I think I’ve won at every track I’ve raced at now. I don’t know that there is a lot left for me to prove. I don’t feel I have to win any particular race many times to prove I’m a great driver or anything. I still enjoy racing and competing and as long as I do I’ll keep doing it.”

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