For the snowmobile oval sprint racing world in the Upper Midwest, it’s been an off-season of big news – some of it good, some of it not-quite-as-good – but as the dust clears it’s an interesting 2018-19 season in the makings for the fast-moving, exciting sport, with new and returning venues, a new national championship to chase and other interesting changes.
It all came together in the last six weeks, with much of the news breaking within days of the Haydays Grass Drags & Swap Meet in September, but some more recent changes as well.
Here are the highlights:
Change In Eagle River
There was new ownership of the track that holds oval racing’s most historic and coveted event – the Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby. In early September, an investment group of snowmobilers led by industry veterans Tom Anderson, Russ Davis and Craig Marchbank announced it had purchased the Derby Track and surrounding facilities in Eagle River, Wisconsin, from the Decker family, which had owned it since 1985. The group is rebranding the 30-acre facility as the Derby Complex, and has big plans to grow the Derby event and other events at the famed track.
USSA In Charge
The USSA is now the unquestioned predominant series of oval spring racing in the Upper Midwest following the announcement that the Oval Racers Alliance (ORA) was merging into the long-standing circuit.
“With USSA going into its 51st year as a sanctioning body in snowmobile racing as well as their track record working with promoters and racers it was decided that it would be best to all work together under one sanctioning body,” the ORA announced on its Facebook page. “So, going forward, USSA will be the sanctioning body for the entire Midwest.”
New Points Series
The USSA and its new Prostar Cup Tour series will essentially replace the TLR Cup as the national points series for the exciting, top-level Pro Champ 440 class.
The Prostar Cup will feature eight events – all at USSA-sanctioned races in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin – with a national champion named at the end of the year and a yet-to-be-announced cash purse.
The Prostar points races will be at Glyndon, Minnesota, on December 29; Ironwood, Michigan, on January 6; Eagle River, Wisconsin, on January 18; Wausau, Wisconsin, on January 27; before returning to Glyndon on February 2; Ironwood on February 17; Wausau on February 24; and Eagle River on March 10.
At all of those events except the Eagle River World Championship in January, the second Champ 440 final of the weekend will be the Prostar points race. As was the tradition with the TLR Cup, the points race from the Eagle River World Championship will be the Friday Night Thunder/Sweet 16 qualifying race and not the W.C. USSA’s Bob Richardson said racers who make it to all eight events will get a 100-point bonus, and then results of each racers best seven races will determine the season champion.
For the past eight seasons, the TLR Cup has served as the defacto national points series for the sport, but it is going to cease to exist.
BRRP Return, Other Notes
In case it didn’t catch your eye in the aforementioned schedule, one other piece of big news is the sport’s return to the Buffalo River Race Park in Glyndon, Minnesota – just outside of Fargo, North Dakota – for not just one but two big events. The year-round race venue has hosted all sorts of events over the years, including snocross and ice oval racing.
Also notable are the dual event at Ironwood, Wausau and Eagle River – the second Eagle River race will be the season championship and will bring the World Series of Ice Ovals name back to the sport.
One final note: while all of the aforementioned race dates apply to the Prostar points for the Champ sleds, they are all weekend-long events, and there’s another event on the USSA schedule – February 9 in Weyauwega, Wisconsin. That event date conflicts with the famed Grand Prix de Valcourt event in Quebec, however, so while it will be a regular season race for the rest of the USSA competitors, it won’t be a Prostar Series event for the Pro Champ racers.
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