2024 Eagle River Snowmobile World Championship Preview

Matt Goede
Matt Goede took his daughter for a victory lap after becoming the 60th World Champion at Eagle River in 2023.

NASCAR has the Daytona 500. Football has the Super Bowl. For snowmobile racing, the most historic and highest profile event in oval sprint racing is the Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby. And it’s 61st running is now just days away! It’ll be January 18-21, 2024.

For some die-hards, going to Eagle River, Wisconsin, every January to see the sport’s best compete for a place in history is like a religion. The annual pilgrimage is made by racers, fans, wrenchers, team owners, past championships, sponsors and historians from across the snowbelt to the tiny town where Stan Hayes was first crowned as the king in 1964.

The race has certainly changed somewhat over the years. After starting on tiny Dollar Lake east of Eagle River, the event moved to its permanent location in 1966 just north of town. It’s been an oval sprint race ever since.

The action in ice oval racing on the Derby’s unique high-banked track is beyond compare. Competitors on lowered, high-power machines battle shoulder-to-shoulder through the turns and charge down the straightaways at amazing speeds.

There have always been multiple classes of racing at the event, and each truly adds to the show. The last couple of years, there’s even been an exciting pro enduro race that follows the W.C. on Sunday afternoon. It’s been a wondrous addition.

But ultimately, when the snow/ice dust settles, there is only one World Champion. So, whether through time it’s been in Sno Pro, Formula I, Champ or now in Formula III, only one name gets engraved on the Snow Goer Cup traveling trophy.

Eagle River World Championship
Eagle River is about history, it’s about ceremony, and it’s about very fast race sleds. This was taken during the National Anthem before the 2013 World Championship, with eventual winner Malcolm Chartier’s sled front and center.

The Snowmobile World Championship Is On!

Rumors of the World Championship Derby moving its dates this year due to winter’s late arrival proved to be just that – rumors.

In fact, it was the VINTAGE world championship that was moved to February. The regular World Championship weekend is going off as scheduled in January. And, despite the highly dedicated track crew getting a late start on track building due to Mother Nature’s whims, the actual ice surface has a chance to be the best in years because there won’t be a vintage snowmobile race on the same surface the week before.

Race teams will start pouring into Eagle River and the Wisconsin Northwoods at mid-week, with a lot of registration activities and some practice on Thursday, January 18.

The true racing action gets rolling on Friday, January 19. There are time trials, heat races and more during the day.

Then, the Friday Night Thunder program really gets things rolling. There will be some high-profile races in several classes. Plus one Formula III competitor will be able to lock-in a front row starting spot in Sunday’s World Championship with a win in Friday night’s Sweet 16 race.

Gunnar Sterne
Gunnar Sterne is a highly decorated oval racing star with multiple national points championship, but the Derby victory has eluded him. Could this be the year?

Saturday, January 20, will feature a lot of great racing heat racing on the banked oval in multiple classes. Then the big dogs take over and go through the Derby’s unique and historic qualifying process to determine who will start Sunday’s final on the front row. In Saturday’s racing, nine more qualifiers are added to the Sweet 16 winner to lock in a 10-sled front row. Two more drivers are added in a last-chance race on Sunday.

Sunday, January 21 will be finals day. Racing will begin in “the undercard” classes at 9:30 a.m., with event champions crowned in classes as varied as the Outlaw 600 twin-tracked buggies to Junior-I 500 for youth racers, the highly competitive F-500 to super-fast and high-profile Pro Champ class, and many more. And then, as noted earlier, after the sprint world championship, the Pro Enduro drivers take to the course for a rough and rugged 130-lap race. Don’t come late, and don’t leave early, because there’s lots to see!

Eagle River racing
Blaine Stephenson (102) won his four World Championship on a Pro Champ sled. He’ll be looking for his first on a Formula III. Photo from 2023 World Championship race, with Luke Olson (04) on the outside.

The Snowmobile World Championship Field

At this point, by contacting a bunch of racers, race directors and others, plus working with Doug Etten from the Vilas County News & Review, we’ve pieced together a list of Formula III drivers who plan to compete for the World Championship.

The field includes all four brands of snowmobiles. It has past champions, like four-timer Blaine Stephenson and defending champ Matt Goede. There are oval sprint superstars like Gunnar Sterne and Tom Olson. It has cross-country racing studs like Zach Herfindahl and Ben Langaas. There are a plethora of MIRA enduro stars, including W.C. podium finishers the last two years in Zach DeWald and Jake Gerow. Don’t forget about the high-profile vintage racing crossovers like Brice Pretzel and Dustin Schwandt. There are even the latest representatives of historic racing families, like Mike VanDolder and Jesse Wergin. We’ve barely scratched the surface.

It’s a fascinating mix of veterans and rookies, young and old. Take a look. And if you know of a racer who’s going to compete in this Formula III world championship class at Eagle that isn’t on our list, please, please, please send us an email at jprusak@snowgoer.com or utilized the comment box below.  We want the list to be as complete as possible.

Zach Dewald
Zach Dewald, No. 57 Polaris, from Au Gres, Michigan, worked his way up to third in his first World Championship final last year.

After many festivities and traditions that help build the anticipation, the World Championship race will leave the starting line at 1:30 p.m. central time on Sunday, January 21. The title will be determined by the 12 finalists. And one man hoist the Snow Goer Cup in the air as the 2024 World Champion. Here are the competitors, in alphabetical order.

  • Tyler Beach, No. 68; Polaris; Dakota, Minn.
  • Jake Beres, No. 23 Polaris; Hartland, Wisc.
  • Joey Burch, No. 129 Polaris; Mt. Pleasant, Mich.
  • Calvin Cook, No. 75 Polaris; Dayton, Minn.
  • Zach DeWald, No. 57 Polaris; AuGres, Mich.
  • Tyler Foster, No. 33t Polaris; Unionville, Mich
  • Jake Gerow, No. 72 Polaris; Oscoda, Mich.
  • Matt Goede, No. 28 Ski-Doo; New Germany, Minn.
  • Dakota Harris, No. 23 Polaris, Morley, Mich.
  • Zach Herfindahl, No. 312 Arctic Cat; Eagle River, Wisc.
  • Reed Klinger, No. 221 Polaris; Athens, Wisc.
  • Ben Langaas, No. 231 Arctic Cat; Thief River Falls, Minn.
  • Luke Olson, No. 29 Polaris; Ishpeming, Mich.
  • Tom Olson, No. 39 Polaris; Madison, Wisc.
  • Gavin Peterson, No. 6 Ski-Doo; Chisago City, Minn.
  • Brice Pretzel, No. 67 Polaris; Belding Mich.
  • John Proctor, No. 686 Polaris; Trufant, Mich.
  • Zach Rogers, No. 21 Polaris; Wausau, Wisc.
  • Mason Schuette, No. 48X Polaris; Eagle River, Wisc.
  • Dustin Schwandt, No 326 Arctic Cat, Markesan, Wisc.
  • Blaine Stephenson, No. 102 Polaris; St. Cloud, Minn.
  • Gunnar Sterne, No. 220 Ski-Doo, Hampshire, Ill.
  • Tyler Town, No. 2 Ski-Doo, Traverse City, Mich.
  • Mike VanDolder, No. 999 Ski-Doo; Ennismore, Ont.
  • Dan Voeltner, No. 11v Polaris, Eagle River, Wisc
  • Jesse Wergin, No. 12 Yamaha, Hazelhurst, Wisc
  • Nick Wickerham, No. 48 Polaris, Belding, Mich.
Eagle River native Zach Herfindahl is a superstar in cross-country racing and was also a part of a Soo I-500 winning team. He’ll be making his second run at Derby history.

We’ll have the sport’s best coverage here on SnowGoer.com throughout the Derby. That includes our Tip Sheet on Saturday evening, with fictional odds on the 10 drivers who are locked into the final. Plus of course we’ll have the sport’s most complete coverage of the final on Sunday.


SPECIAL NOTE: Missing from the field is popular young racer John Henke, who was severely injured in a racing accident in Beausejour, Manitoba, in December. Our most sincere thoughts and prayers go out to John and his extended family. He’ll be in all of our hearts at Eagle, and we hope to see him back there next year. Click through if you wish to contribute to Henke’s GoFundMe page.

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3 thoughts on “2024 Eagle River Snowmobile World Championship Preview

  • Avatar for Megan Browne

    Thanks for the coverage and preview. FYI Zach Dewald finished 2nd in the WC F3 last year, not 3rd as noted

  • Avatar for Jeff Dellandrea

    Colt Dellandrea would of been there but is still recovering from hand surgery.

  • Avatar for John Zeglin

    This blast of very cold weather has to be a blessing for the track crew.


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