The second stop of the 2019-2020 season was in Park Rapids, Minnesota for the Heartland 200. Park Rapids is a favorite for those racers that like wooded trail riding and fast ditches. The winner of the Pro Stock class also gets to take home the coveted Heartland 200 neon sign.
On Friday, January 17, blizzard conditions hit Minnesota, which made for deep snow and a technical course. Crews were prepared to push back the start time on Saturday, but Mother Nature was on our side Saturday morning with the snow stopping around 5 a.m. Racing started at 10 a.m. for day one, with 98 sleds starting one at a time 30 seconds apart rather than two at a time. The overall winners for the weekend were determined by the two-day total times – not the first to cross the finish line.
Alex Hetteen was the first sled off the starting line for the weekend and had to blaze a trail for those behind him. Sleds headed north toward Emmaville and took a west loop on a groomed trail before heading back north. After the west loop Junior riders made a turn to the south and headed back toward the finish line. Their course was approximately 60 miles while the other classes kept running their 120 mile loop. Riders made their way in and out of the fuel stop and headed south towards Akeley.
Hetteen on his Polaris was still the lead sled coming into town with Ryan Springer (Polaris) coming through second and Christensen (Polaris) making it up to third. Hetteen held on until the end, crossing the finish line first with Christensen coming from eighth to second and Justin Tate (Polaris) from 11th to third in the running order.
By time, though, Wes Selby was the fastest of the day on his Arctic Cat with a time of 2 hours 10 minutes and 8 seconds. Christensen came in second quickest at 2 hours 11 minutes and 11 seconds and Tate in third at 2 hours 11 minutes and 26 seconds. Marshall Busse was the fast time in the Semi Pro class for day one with a time of 2 hours 14 minutes and 53 seconds on his Polaris. Paul Brown timed in second and Dustin Dohrn in third.
Junior and Vintage riders both only competed one day for the Heartland 200. Black Higgins (Ski-Doo) took the win in the Classic IFS 1980-1998 class and Doug Ruter (Arctic Cat) took first in the Classic IFS 50+ class. In the Junior 10-13 class, Aiden Johnson was the winner on his Arctic Cat with Darco (Arctic Cat) and Houser (Arctic Cat) close behind. In the Junior 14-17 Girls class, Danika Diesen and Mckenna Cloose battled on the track but Diesen (Arctic Cat) came out with the win and Cloose (Arctic Cat) took second.
Saturday evening brought in more snow to the area which continued on through Sunday morning. This made the ditches fresh and the lead sled once again would blaze the trail.
On day two, riders were sent off in an inverted start from where they started on day one. Wes Selby was the first sled off the line on Sunday with Dan Revering (Polaris) and Matt Feil (Arctic Cat) behind. When sleds made their way out of the west loop, Selby was still out front with D. Revering second and Christensen finding his way into third from eighth. Sleds made their way into the fuel stop in that order and started to head south.
By the time sleds made their way into Akeley, defending Heartland 200 champ Zach Herfindahl (Arctic Cat), made his way into fourth. Polaris rider Aaron Christensen took the lead and the advantage of clean air to cross the line first. Herfindahl was clicking off time but came across the line in second and didn’t make up enough time for what he lost on day one.
After times were merged together, Aaron Christensen (Polaris) came out on top with a total running time of 4:17:35 and was named the winner of the Heartland 200 for the first time since 2014. Wes Selby (Arctic Cat) came in second, 3:28 behind the leader, which is his sixth podium at Park Rapids in the past seven years (2017 he did not race it). Alex Hetteen clinched the third place spot on his Polaris, 5:28 behind Christensen.
Marshall Busse (Polaris) was the overall winner in the Semi Pro and Semi Pro Improved classes for round two. Local boy, Cody Wolter (Polaris) claimed second in Semi Pro with Dustin Dohrn (Ski-Doo) in third.
Neil Jakubowski took the win in the Sport 600 class on his Polaris. Nick Roehl (Ski-Doo) claimed the Master 40 class. Cole Boyd was the winner in the Sport 600 Improved class on his Arctic Cat. In the Women’s division there were some close battles but Savannah Landrus claimed the win with Alicia Martin a few minutes back. In the Junior 14-17 class, 12-year-old Cooper Kangas (Arctic Cat) came out on top of the field with an impressive 20 minute lead of second place Oliver Olson (Polaris). In the Expert 600 Limited class, Braden Sillerud edged out Kangas with the overall win in that class.
After two rounds of USXC racing action, Christensen and Selby are tied for the Pro Stock points with Herfindahl close behind in third. In Pro Open, Selby is out front in points over Hetteen and Tate. In Semi Pro, Marshall Busse has a one-point advantage over Dustin Dohrn with Andy Junglen in third. USXC will head to Thief River Falls, Minnesota, next weekend for the Seven Clans TRF 250 for round three of the 2019-2020 season.
Editor’s Note: This review was originally published in the October 2020 issue of Snow Goer. Every issue of Snow Goer magazine includes in-depth sled reports and comparisons, aftermarket gear and accessories reviews, riding destination articles, do-it-yourself repair information, snowmobile technology and more! Subscribe to Snow Goer now to receive issues delivered to your door or your computer for a low cost.