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Sterne Repeats As TLR Cup Tour Oval Racing Champion

By Brett Richter

The top three with their TLR Cup season-ending points checks: first place Gunnar Sterne (center); second place Blaine Stephenson (left); and third-place Colt Dellandria (right). All photos in this story provided by the TLR Cup, with credit to photographer Darryl Gersham.

Gunnar Sterne repeated this year as the champion of the high-profile, big dollar TLR Cup Tour in snowmobile oval racing this year, thanks to a string of victories and other high finishes. There were some other surprises in the top 10, however. Here’s a recap from the TLR Cup Series. 

2017-18 TLR Cup Tour Season Concludes

After 10 rounds of the highly competitive 2017-18 TLR Cup Tour, the #220 Red Bull Ski Doo of Gunnar Sterne retained the title of TLR Cup Tour Champion. 

The entire Sterne Racing team was in attendance for the final round of the TLR Cup Tour in Beausejour, Manitoba, on March 3rd. Capping off a season with numerous heat and feature wins, Gunnar Sterne drove the Red Bull Ski-Doo to a defining season ending victory on the fast half-mile Canadian surface. Even with the series sown up before the weekend, Sterne put on his regular weekend game face and pulled away from the field in the Round 10 finale. 

Sterne Racing

Even with Sterne repeating as TLR Cup Tour champion for the second consecutive year, the Tour found many new faces on the podium this year. By the distance of a ski loop, 2018 World Champion Blaine Stephenson started the season off with a Round 2 podium finish (due to a delay in the completion of Round 1) in Ironwood. Getting a taste of TLR Cup Tour champagne, Stephenson was thirsty for more time on the podium and the Minnesota driver met those expectations several times during the race season. As the season wrapped up, the #102 Polaris of Stephenson Racing finished second in the Tour’s points battle. 

The #53 Ski-Doo of Colt Dellandrea was a strong competitor week in and week out. Making the switch from Arctic Cat to Ski-Doo in the off season, Dellandrea did his best to shorten the learning curve and continue his desire to stand on the top spot of the Tour podium. A few mechanical gremlins and an unfortunate accident during Round 3 of the Tour held the Pro-Formance Racing team just short of the Tour’s top spot, but still earned the team a very respectable third place series finish.

Traveling more miles than any other driver, the No. 7NY of Nick LaGoy got his first podium picture taken at the Wausau 525 race held the end of January. After testing the waters of the TLR Cup Tour early in the 2017 season, Nick and Fred LaGoy, his father and crew chief, went back to New York focusing on finding the speed and handling necessary to compete at the highest level of ice oval racing. More determined than ever, “The Wild Child” from New York came to the 2018 season ready for battle. Speed, handling and a very strong competitive drive allowed the #7NY to be a notable contender each and every race ultimately finishing 4th in the TLR Cup Tour points battle. 

Stephenson Racing

Rounding out the top five, fan favorite #13 Nick Van Strydonk of Tomahawk, Wisconsin piloted a very consistent #13 T&N Racing Polaris to respectable finishes nearly every weekend. The search for early season speed seemed to stall the season-long momentum for Big Nick, but the resolve of the entire T&N Race team never faltered. After finding “something,” the #13 showed more speed and a more competitive sled the latter half of the Tour schedule pushing Nick into fifth position at the end of the season long point battle. 

The rest of the TLR Cup Tour field showed glimpses of what may be to come. Podium finishes by #8 Travis MacDonald, #51 Glen Hart, #61 Beau Van Strydonk, and #58 Cardell Potter proved than any given race day was truly up for grabs. The #747 of Jordan Wahl showed good speed week in and week out, but reliability issues continued to plague the Wahl Brothers racing entry. Rookie of the Year Jerry Brickner finished the season a very respectable 7th in the points. Fellow rookies #7c Brandon Grendzinski and #157 John Henke cut their teeth with seasoned veterans and learned just how hard the Tour is to tame. 

But 2017-18 was truly a season of attrition. Matt Ritchie brought a new #355 to the first race of the year and was fast right out of the trailer. Bringing that new found speed to Ironwood the following weekend, Ritchie high-sided going into turn 1 and ended up breaking a shoulder; thereby ending his season. Both the #74 of Dustin Wahl and the #16 of Joey Fjerstad found the hay bales at the fast Ironwood track. Dealing with long term health issues, both Dustin and Joey announced retirement from this very demanding sport shortly after the Ironwood race weekend. 

Pro-Formance Racing (with driver Colt Dellandrea)

The following weekend, both the #297 of Jay Mittelstaedt and the #98 of Cody Knutson found their seasons come to a quick conclusion during Round 3 of the TLR Cup Tour. The Top Tier Motorsports #98 Ski Doo was involved in an unfortunate incident on the front stretch in Eagle River. Thankfully, Knutson was OK, but his sled suffered season ending damage. With only one sled available, the Top Tier team turned its sights to the 2019 season. The ADM Motorsports #297 driven by Jay Mittelstadt was showing early season improvement and creeping into top 5 contention. But a quick off course incident left Jay with a nasty injury requiring surgery and a significant recovery. The #297 was done for the season. 

The 2017-18 season was outstanding. With 10 Rounds of racing in the United States and Canada, North America’s premier ice oval drivers battled fiercely for every position and every point. Racing was held at world class facilities, supported by nationally respected sponsors, and viewed by some of the most passionate race fans in the sport of racing. Twenty one drivers finished the season with TLR Cup Tour points and more than 25 drivers attempted to qualify for various TLR Cup Tour events. 

Details on the 2018-19 TLR Cup Tour will be released in the coming months. Sponsorship opportunities for the upcoming season are available and inquiries can be directed to either Todd Achterberg or Brett Richter. Follow the Tour on Facebook (TLR Cup Tour) and at http://www.tlrcup.com.

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