Fourteen years ago, a former oval racer from Minnesota’s Iron Range launched a big-time independent snocross team. In an era of factory efforts, Steve Scheuring started a team that did have factory sponsorship, but which modified its own sleds, hired its own mechanics and found its own big league sponsors.
The Scheuring Speed Sports team has tasted success – X Games victories, points titles and multiple victories. But what it accomplished Sunday in Duluth, Minnesota, would make the likes of NASCAR’s Rick Hendricks and Jack Roush blush.
In front of a crowd packed with fans and friends of the team, at an event sponsored by his longest-standing and primary team sponsor, the Scheuring Speed Sports team swept the podium. That’s right, first, second and third places were all matching black Amsoil/Rockstar Energy Drink/U.S. Air Force Ski-Doo sleds. The historic sweep at such a high-profile event is historic not just by snowmobiling standards but by all motorsports standards.
And it’s also proof that, sometimes, nice guys truly do finish first.
For the second straight day, Robbie Malinoski took the top spot at the Amsoil Duluth National, the opening round of the ISOC Amsoil Championship Series. Malinoski’s victory was dominating – he took the holeshot and checked out. But had his Ski-Doo had a rear view mirror, he would have spotted teammates Darrin Mees and Tim Tremblay chasing him all race long.
Pro Open Final
Malinoski slotted in as the No. 1 qualifier based on his heat race domination and got his choice of lanes to start the race. His choice, and his sled’s incredible clutching, were both spot-on. When the light flashed green, Malinoski’s No. 4 Ski-Doo fired off the line and won the bumpy drag race down the hill in front of 14 other competitors.
Coming out of the first turn, it was Malinoski, then teammate Mees – last year’s rookie of the year on the ISOC circuit in search of his first Pro Open-class podium. No. 2 qualifier Justin Broberg followed in third, then came last year’s points champion, Tim Tremblay. Tremblay won the title aboard Warnert Racing equipment last season, but switched this summer to join Mees and Malinoski on the Scheuring team. Snocross superstar Tucker Hibbert slotted into fifth, but he would fade early in the race before rallying later.
It took Trembley a couple of laps to move past Broberg, and that set up the black Ski-Doo train up front in the 25-lap final. Malinoski opened up a couple second lead, with Mees second, Tremblay close behind him in third and then an ever-increasing gap to Broberg in fourth. Lap after lap on the bumpy track, the Scheuring sleds showed the way.
Tremblay followed Mees carefully until about lap 14, when he finally found a line around his teammate.
“I took my time to get around him because I didn’t want to race him dirty,” Tremblay would say later. “We’re all teammates and we all want to do good.”
Tremblay opened a gap on Mees, and Mees seemed to be fading. And what he was fading toward was a couple of champions. Ross Martin had recovered from a second row starting position (earned in the LCQ race after some mechanical problems and a crash in his heats) to come up and harass Broberg and Mees, and Hibbert had overcome from whatever caused his big fall in the standings early to knife through traffic and challenge for a top 5 – or better.
While Malinoski laid down great lap after great lap and Tremblay looked for lines through traffic, the Mees, Martin and Hibbert trio tightened as Broberg faded – you could throw a blanket over those three with two laps left. But Mees seemed to find some energy on the white flag lap and held on, with Martin narrowly beating Hibbert to the waving checkered flag.
When the loud Pro Open sleds quieted at the end of the race, their noise was replaced by a roaring crowd. With Amsoil’s headquarters across the bay and the Scheuring team based in nearby Aurora, Minnesota, it was definitely a partisan crowd. There was delight in the air when the three black sleds pulled in front of the crowd. We overheard Malinoski asking team owner Steve Scheuring as he was taking off his helmet, “Really? Darrin got third? And Tim was second?! WOOO-WHOOO!” The two then transitioned from handshake to hug.
At 31, Malinoski is the oldest regular racer in the Pro Open class, and he’s swept a weekend before, but it’s been awhile.
“I did this once before in 2006 – yeah, just a few years back,” Malinoski said with a laugh. “To have Darrin up here with his first Pro Open podium, and then having Tim up here, too… I’m just speechless.”
There was another reason for his joy: A week ago, Malinoski hurt his back and actually had to be taken out of the Scheuring compound on a stretcher. Sweeping the Pro Open class hardly seemed possible then, but Malinoski has long been known as a tough guy who can fight through pain.
According to Steve Scheuring, Tremblay actually helped get Malinoski’s sled ready, taking testing laps on his new teammates sleds while Malinoski recovered during the week.
“It’s a true team effort – our drivers are so cool,” Scheuring said. “With their work ethic and their camaraderie, there’s no ‘Me, me, me’ from the drivers and the whole team… Nobody says ‘quit.’ Each drivers gets the same exact thing – they might like their shocks a couple of clicks different, but the sleds are identical; all of the mechanics work on all of the sleds.”
For the record, the people behind the sleds are Scheuring himself, Tony Clement, Steve Thorsen, Elliott Burns and Robbie Hunter. A team effort is more than just the racers on the track, Scheuring assured us.
Other Sunday Finals
Maricia Renheim got off to an early lead and overcame an early, dramatic bobble on the backstretch to earn a victory in her brief visit to North America. A native of Sweden, the 21-year-old Renheim is in North America for the first two ISOC weekends before going home to race in Scandinavia. Her brother, Adam Renheim, is racing this season for the Warnert Racing Team, so with that connection she got a Ski-Doo sled to race from Warnert and used it to claim victory. Quebec phenom Jennifer Pare was always close in second on her Polaris, but never got close enough to truly challenge in the heavy traffic.
In Pro-Lite, another Scandinavian racer jumped out to the early lead, but he couldn’t hold it. Marcus Johansson was showing the way on his No. 722 Polaris, but he had several bobbles as he fought to stay up front, and generally looked fast but loose in the saddle. He finally came off on the back stretch with about four laps left.
Meanwhile, Quebecer Renaud Alexandre was riding cool and smooth in second on his Boss Racing Ski-Doo. He recovered from a mid-pack start, moved up to second and when opportunity knocked, he answered and grabbed the checkered. Dylan Hall claimed second on his Royal Distributing Ski-Doo, with Andy Lieders third on his Polaris.
Check back this week for photos and more details from Duluth.