The bad news: Nick Van Strydonk became the latest in a string of top oval sprint racers to announce his planned retirement from the sport. The good news? He’s announcing it one year early, meaning fans of the plucky and personable driver of the No. 13 T&N Racing Polaris will have one more season to see him expertly guide his Pro Champ sled around oval courses.
In a video announcement posted on social media, the two-time World Champion and fan-favorite from Tomahawk, Wisconsin, faced the camera while sitting on a Polaris youth 120 sled at his family’s Erv’s Sales & Service dealership and laid it out for his fans.
“So if you’ve been following along you’re going to know that we’ve had some discussions with certain people and – maybe most of you don’t know but – this upcoming race season is going to be my last race season,” said Van Strydonk, 28.
He said he and his team had “put in a good amount of effort and a good amount of work over the years, and it’s just that time to retire and step out. [I’ve] got some different life goals that I want to accomplish, and it’s been a real good ride.”
Indeed it has. Van Strydonk started racing Kitty Cats when he was just four years old and worked his way through the oval racing ranks, moving to the top Pro Champ 440 class at age 18. He won his first World Championship at Eagle River, Wisconsin, in 2012 when just 21 years old, then became a two-time champion with a victory in 2017.
He notched victories and podium finishes at many other tracks as well in his stories career, but his most recent history at Eagle River is uncanny – he’s finished on the podium each of the last five years, with his victory in 2017, second-place finishes in 2016, 2018 and 2019 and a third-place finish in 2015 in highly competitive fields.
Van Strydonk’s driving style and big personality helped earn his fan-favorite honors – he was comfortable on the microphone when interviewed, easily approachable to fans and has made a tradition of throwing his goggles into the crowd post-race.
What may have truly cemented the passion shown for him by fans at Eagle River, though, was when his sled blew a belt on the last lap of the first 10-lap segment in the 2014 World Championship race, and Van Strydonk picked up the back of his sled and pushed it for a quarter of the track back across the start-finish line with the crowd cheering him on. He then collapsed at the line, where his crew took over the sled and got it ready for the last leg of the race.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be blessed with great sponsors and good finishes and some World Championship wins and kind of checked the things off of the list that I always wanted to do as a kid,” Van Strydonk said in his retirement announcement, “and while I’m still healthy and still somewhat young, I’m going to race one more year and then step out and retire and move on to different things in life and see what that has in store for me.”
In the near future, though, Van Strydonk said he and his team will work up some videos to be posted online, talking about various notable events in his career.
“We’re going to try to orient them around my past in racing, and any memories that you guys want to hear about or have me recall to the best of my memory, shout them out in the comments” section below the video, Van Strydonk said. “We’re going to go through and start picking some of the better moments we’ve had and maybe some of the worst moments that we’ve had and I’ll let you guys know exactly what happened and what kind of transpired to get us where we’re at now and things like that. It’s just a real good chance to reflect on some of the successes and some of the failures that we learned off of to make us successful.
“I’ve made a lot of good friendships along the way and met a lot of different people and experienced a lot of stuff that I don’t think I would have had the chance to experience if it wasn’t for snowmobile racing,” Van Strydonk concluded.
Van Strydonk’s announcement of his planned retirement (remember, he’s got a full season left) follows the retirement of many top oval sprint racers in the last 2 years – including but not limited to two-time World Champs Matt Schulz and Cardell Potter (who retired at Eagle River this year) plus Dustin Wahl, Jordan Wahl, Jerry Brickner Jr., Matt Ritchie, Jay Mittlestedt and Joey Fjerstad. It’s always tough to lose the veteran drivers but it also opens slots for up-and-coming stars.
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