The field is now set for the front row of the Eagle River World Championship, which will be run Sunday in downright frigid conditions on the famed Derby Track oval course in Eagle River, Wisconsin. The racing is bound to be blistering fast, thanks to a very quick pack of racers in this year’s field and the abundance of oxygen that is available when temperatures are this cold.
As always, Snow Goer is all over the Derby track, covering the racing and news on and off the track. Each year, we create (and circulate) the Snow Goer Tip Sheet, in which we put fictional odds on each of the racers who made the prime event’s front row. Two more racers will be added to the field on Sunday in a last-chance qualifier race. Based on how they’ve run all weekend, we’re guessing that four-time World Champ PJ Wanderscheid and super fast Glen Hart will earn those spots.
2010 World Champion Matt Schulz is the odds-on favorite, going in at 2-1 in our fictional odds. He has an awesome sled and great power. He’s also a very talented driver who has undoubtedly led more laps at the Derby Track than any other Champ racer the last five years. But his luck at the Derby has not been great. Still, he’s who we’d put our money on.
Defending champion Cardell Potter is the 3-1 favorite. He is a talented racer with a fast sled and a lot of determination. And, he showed last year when he came from a second-row starting position that he should never be counted out.
Blaine Stephenson of Hutchinson, Minnesota, is our 4-1 favorite. The amazing speed he is getting out of the new Larry Rugland Motorsports engine has been the talk of the event among insiders. He has won many support classes here, but is he ready to win the big one? His sled looks like it is.
Travis MacDonald is our 5-1 pick. The racer from Manitoba didn’t race on Saturday — he didn’t have to. He earned his spot in the front row with a surprising Friday Night Thunder victory on (not surprisingly) Friday. Her also swept the oval races at Beausejour earlier this year. He admits that he may not have the speed of the top three, but he’s a talented racer who could easily shine in a long race. Pictured with MacDonald’s sled is one of his key crew members, two time former World Champ Brian Bewcyk
2012 World Champion Nick Van Strydonk is our 7-1 racer. After struggling with his newer-design sleds the last two seasons and at the first couple of races this season, his T&N Racing team decided two weeks ago to build a brand new chassis for the Derby. He’s been good, and he’s getting faster every time he gets on the track.
Gunnar Sterne of West Chicago, Illinois, is our 8-1 pick. He switched to Ski-Doo this year and has a Houle chassis beneath him and has looked very good all weekend long. Could he be the first racer since Greg Goodwin to bring the cup back to Illinois?
Popular local racer Matt Ritchie from Minocqua, Wisconsin is our 8-1 pick. He’s a young racer with a great sled, but may lack consistency needed in a long race. In his semi-final, he spun in turn one and brought out a red flag, but then continued in the race and earned a spot in the big dance.
Joey Fjerstad is our 9-1 pick. The Minneapolis racer has one of two Felegy engines in the field and is a strong racer. He is recovering from off-season injuries, but has a fast sled.
Dustin Wahl is our 12-1 odds. He’s a veteran racer who has won many places and is a former Snow Week Racer Of The Year for one particularly dominating season. But he has never had luck at Eagle River, and appears to be significantly short of horsepower in this crowd. To think that Dustin Wahl is a longshot, though, shows how strong this field is.
Quebec racer Steven Marquis is our 15-1 longshot. Racing just his second year on a Pro Champ sled, he has been racing sleds since he was 3 years old and passed four-time World Champ P.J. Wanderscheid to make it into the final. Still, with his relative level of inexperience with Champ sleds, he is long odds to win.