A new name is emerging in the cross-country racing scene, though it is not necessarily new to those with long memories or tight connections to the sport in Minnesota.
Seventeen-year-old Zach Herfindahl earned the Pro 600 class victory at the season-opening Gerald Dyrdahl Memorial Pine Lake 200 near tiny Gonvick, Minnesota. Herfindahl’s uncle, Tom Herfindahl, was the man spinning the wrenches behind Brad Pake’s fast No. 53 Arctic Cat’s in the 1990s, so folks who follow the sport very closely may recognize the surname.
This new Herfindahl is bringing the family name to a new level, however. Still in high school in Eagle River, Wisconsin, he’s in his second year as a Pro on the USXC race circuit, and is already collecting trophies against the best in the sport.
At Pine Lake, he combined a second-place finish Saturday with a victory Sunday to become the overall victor. Saturday the top 10, in order, in the 8-lap Pro 600 race were Wes Selby, Herfindahl, Gabe Bunke, Ryan Fuast, Corey Davidson, Aaron Christensen, Jordan Torgerson, Travis Faust, Chad Lian and Joe Burch. In Sunday’s 10-lap final, it was Herfindahl across the line first, followed by Bunke, Selby, Lian, Torgerson, Travis Faust, Christiansen, Burch, Ryan Fuast and Ross Erdman.
Below is a press release on the race from the USXC circuit.
USXC Racers Battle Elements and Win at Pine Lake
2013 Gerald Dyrdahl Memorial Pine Lake 200 Kicks-Off USXC Season
Gonvick, MN (December 15, 2013) – Battling the elements is something cross country snowmobile racers know all about. On this first USXC weekend of 2013-14, there were plenty of elements to go around. As some racers showed up early on Friday to dial in their sleds, single digit temps and a biting wind greeted them. Saturday dawned still with a steady snow shower and as the snow began to taper by late morning, a brutal breeze kicked up again. The wind helped with snow dust for racers, but for spectators and crews, the chill was relentless. As Saturday’s eight-lap pro race wound to a close, the skies cleared ushering in more cold. Both sun and cold carried over to Sunday morning, with race time temps approaching 20 below and the high was a balmy minus 5 degrees.
Besides the cold, Pine Lake veterans noted the amount of snow pack on the lake was unusual for so early in the season. Despite his local roots, event coordinator and cross country veteran Chad Dyrdahl was even surprised by the snow. “I don’t remember this much snow on the lake for this race,” Dyrdahl commented. “It should make for an interesting track.”
The snow kept the Pine Lake course down to a single line with huge corner berms reminiscent of a snocross track. A foot off the racing line, it felt less like a lake and more like a northern Minnesota ditch. The USXC crew staked out a 10 mile course of eye watering straights bookended by left and right hand turns requiring a demanding setup. Temps made ice conditions rock hard and many riders were happy for the berms as traction products had a hard time digging in on the corners.
This year’s USXC Pine Lake event was also noteworthy for providing some evidence of a changing of the guard in cross country snowmobile racing. The always hard working Polaris pro, #74 Gabe Bunke, battled with two Arctic Cat drivers Saturday looking to build a resume of their own, Zach Herfindahl and Wes Selby. The cold impacted Christian Brothers Racing rider Brian Dick’s season debut, as he lost his Cat’s engine on Saturday to take him out of contention. The Yamaha team of Corey Davidson, Matt Piche, Re Wadena and Ben Lindbom were still working out some first race bugs, as was Ross Erdmann on his new Ski-Doo ride.
In the end Herfindal, Dick’s teammate, was able to outpace the veteran Bunke to walk away with the Yamaha Pro Stock win. In another generational shift, the Women’s division had been predictably dominated by Cat’s Jolene Bute. Not so this weekend, as Polaris riders Jill Tangen and Anne Pladson finished one and two with Bute capturing third. For complete details on the winners in all classes, visit www.usxcracing.com.
USXC owner Brian Nelson felt the kick off to the second season was a success. “We’re growing and that’s the main thing,” Nelson said, “The amount of people who signed up for this race and came out to brave the weather proves the dedication of cross country racers.” Nelson also noted the difficulty the snow pack caused in setting up the course. “It would have been nice to plow the whole track to give some room to pass, but with the snow you have to be so careful of slush and weak ice out on the lake. Our racers did a tremendous job of battling though that and putting on a good clean event and they should be commended.”
Up next on the USXC schedule is the J&K Marine Beach Bar 200 in Detroit Lakes, MN, January 4, 2013.