High-speed, handlebar-to-handlebar snowmobile racing action returns to the iced ovals this weekend, as the Ironwood Snowmobile Olympus kicks off the USSA and prestigious, high-dollar TLR Cup seasons in Ironwood, Michigan, January 2-3.
It will also be the kickoff of the Snow Goer Fantasy Oval Racing Challenge, where players predict the finishing order of the last Pro Champ 440 final of the weekend and gain points and potentially prizes based on their predictions. The game is easy to play, free and fun. Click here to try it out.
The historic Ironwood event will be just the second in the snowmobile oval racing world this season – following the successful Canadian Power Toboggan Championships in early December in Beausejour, Manitoba, and the weather-related rescheduling of a planned race at Buffalo River Race Park near Fargo, North Dakota, in mid-December. In the Pro Champ 440 class at Beausejour, Travis MacDonald laid down the gauntlet with a weekend sweep, but more drivers are expected to attend the event at Beausejour, and all teams have had more time for testing and tuning, so the competition is expected to be fierce.
TLR Cup Information
The TLP Cup sponsored by Tommy Lipar Racing is a high-end points series that works with different race circuits to raise the profile of oval racing while also providing some big money for the competitors to chase.
With a renewed commitment from Tommy Lipar Racing, the TLR Cup will run through the 2017 season with prize money of over $125,000.00 each year including “Show Money” for drivers attempting to qualify at eight out of the nine TLR Cup races. In the Pro Champ 4440, four Vintage classes, Super Mod 440 and Outlaw 600, there will be additional prize money at specific events as well as a season-ending purse based on points collected at the various event.
Drivers To Watch
As noted earlier, Travis MacDonald of Gonor, Manitoba, swept the two Pro Champ 440 finals. The rest of the podium was filled both days by drivers that, to some people, may be considered relative dark horses. Gunnar Sterne of West Chicago, Illinois – racing for the first time on a Ski-Doo-based mod – claimed second on Sunday and third on Saturday at Beausejour, and has the might of a Mike Houle-built chassis behind him. Meanwhile, Pro Champ sophomore Glen Hart of Winnipeg, Manitoba, was second on Saturday and third on Sunday. He’s tasted success in vintage racing but now is chasing the sport’s biggest prize.
Former World Champ Nick Van Strydonk of Tomahawk, Wisconsin, was fourth both days at Beausejour and should not be counted out, and Blaine Stephenson collected a fifth and a sixth. The Wahl Bros Race Team – now headlined by drivers Dustin and Jordan Wahl — went home licking their wounds after a rough opening round, but they have pledged to come back stronger. Another former World Champion Matt Schulz didn’t fare well at Beausejour, but he is always strong once the regular season gets rolling.
Speaking of world champions, the defending title holder at Eagle River and the winner of the TLR Cup last season is Cardell Potter, and he’ll be making his first appearance of the season this weekend in Ironwood. Joey Fjerstad is seeking medical clearance from his doctors as he recovers from injuries – latest we heard, he’s planning to be at Ironwood. There are several other up-and-comers expected at Ironwood, including Brad Murkowski, Colt Delandrea, Matt Ritchie and Jay Mittlestaedt, as well as Alberta’s Greg Shepertycky and Wisconsin Champ newcomer Jeremy DuQuaine.
Some big names will not be racing this weekend for various reasons. Two-time former World Champion Malcolm Chartier retired earlier this year, PJ Wanderscheid is allegedly focusing exclusively on the Eagle River World Championship in mid January and Gary Moyle’s plans are similarly up in the air.
The Race Schedule
Racing gets going early both Saturday and Sunday at Ironwood.
On Saturday, January 2, there are 48 total races on the docket, ending with 12 consecutive finals and the Pro Champ 440 race as the finale. Racing action is scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. and continue until 4 p.m.
Sunday, January 3, will be a fresh program, with 47 total races and more events with TLR Cup points on the line. The timeline is the same – racing starts at 9:30 and must be over by 4 p.m.
For more information, visit the Ironwood Olympus website, and/or the website for the TLR Cup. And, make sure to sign up for the Snowmobile Racing Challenge fantasy game. Picks are due by early Sunday morning.