A long-time business leader in the powersports, marine and RV world who just happens to be a passionate snowmobile racing enthusiast is taking the reigns of the roughest, toughest, most challenging snowmobile race of them all.
Minnesota-native Bob Menne III has been named the executive director of the now-2,600-mile Iron Dog snowmobile race in Alaska. The 2022 event will take place in February.
Menne owned and operated Premier Plastics before selling the business in 2016. Before that had a history with Polaris, including being the product manager of the company’s personal watercraft lineup in the 1990s. But aside from the stuffy business stuff, the now-58-year-old Menne also raced snowmobiles for a number of years – starting with his first cross-country race in 1986.
In more recent years, fourth-generation Bobby Menne had been keeping the family name in the cross-country results. That indirectly led his father to Alaska, and this new job in which Bob hopes to bring more racers from the lower 48 states to Alaska to compete in what’s properly dubbed “The World’s Longest, Toughest Snowmobile Race.”
Racing The Iron Dog, And Falling For Alaska
Bob Menne’s path to Alaska was paved by his son’s appearance in the 2016 Iron Dog, he told us in a phone conversation from Alaska on July 27, which was interrupted by a black bear crossing the road in front of his car.
“In 2016 Bobby got a call because another racer was injured, so there was an open seat,” Bob explained. “His team was doing really well so we jumped in the plane and met him in Nome.”
The father got to watch his son cross the rugged and dynamic Alaskan outback from above, as Bob rode in the “parts place” that followed the racers along the course. Bob became highly intrigued and soon thereafter asked a longtime friend and former Polaris co-worker Steve Swenson if he’d consider running the epic race with him one day. “Steve didn’t even hesitate one second before saying ‘Yes.’ We then spent almost a year getting ourselves in shape and putting a really good plan in place.”
The duo, both then in their early 50s, finished the 2,031-mile race through unforgiving terrain in about 47 hours, 28 minutes and 24 seconds of running time – good enough for 16th place in the Pro class. “One leg [of the race] alone, Steve and I did 450 miles in 11.5 hours one day. The days are long!”
Back to his son Bobby: After running the race in 2016, Bobby became so enamored by Alaska that he moved there and started a business. And then in 2020, a similarly smitten-with-Alaska Bob moved up there to help his son run that business. Shortly thereafter Bobby sold that business, leaving Bob with time on his hands… which eventually led to the Iron Dog Executive Director position.
Big Plans For Growth
Bob said his No. 1 mission is to grow the race back to its former glory, and one important part of that is raising the event’s profile in the lower 48 states. He said he’s been interacting with former racing colleagues and race circuit personnel to spread the word, and will also be making some appearances at fall snow shows and events this year – starting at Hay Days in September – to expose more folks to the glorious event. “People who want to run in it are coming out of the woodwork,” he said.
As the executive director (and the only full-time employee) of the race, he also has many other tasks in front of him – from communicating with all of the various villages along the now-2,600-mile route to lining up appropriate permits, signing sponsors and supporters to working with politicians, and much more. “There’s quite a bit involved in pulling off a race this big up here,” he understated.
But in the end, it’s a labor of love for a man in love with the event and his new home state.
Posted below is the press release from the Iron Dog event, announcing Bob Menne’s hiring.
Iron Dog Board Announces Bob Menne as Executive Director
The Iron Dog Board is pleased to announce the selection of Bob Menne as the new executive director. Menne, a lifelong snowmobile enthusiast and racer brings a long career of experience in the motor sports industry and business management expertise. Menne and his family relocated to Alaska from Minnesota in 2020 after competing in the 2018 Iron Dog race.
As the Executive Director, Menne will oversee all operations, fund raising, and public relations for the World’s Longest Toughest Snowmobile Race. Menne hopes to utilize his ties to the racing community to encourage more “lower 48” racers to take on the Iron Dog.
“We are very excited about the future and looking forward to working with Bob,” says Iron Dog Board President Roger Brown. “He has lifelong relationships with many snowmobile industry insiders and we’re hoping this will translate into more support and publicity from the manufacturers.”
Menne will work closely with board members, volunteers and staff to promote the sport of snowmobile racing and winter safety around Alaska, while making a positive impact in the communities that Iron Dog travels through.
The Iron Dog Board would like to again thank Mike Vasser for stepping in at the last minute as Interim Executive Director for the 2021 race. Mikes collaboration with board members, volunteers, community leaders, and COVID mitigation experts not only saved what many thought to be a lost year of racing but also brought in a new level of excitement and exposure to the race. Vasser, who has joined the Iron Dog Board as a Director will work alongside fellow board members and help Menne during the 2022 race to ensure that the momentum for the sport and race continues.
The 2022 Iron Dog Expedition Class begins February 17, 2022 and the Pro Class races starts February 19, 2022. To share your input, offer volunteer services or to sponsor this Iconic Alaskan event please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 907-563-4414.
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