Last weekend marked the start of a new chapter in cross-country snowmobile racing as the United States X-Country (USXC) circuit held its first race: the Gerald Dyrdahl Memorial Pine Lake 200 in Gonvick, Minnesota. The USXC was formed by hall of fame snowmobile racer Brian Nelson in June following the USCC race circuit’s shut-down in May. USCC’s founder, Pat Mach, died from injuries suffered in a snowmobile crash in February 2011.
Unlike the USCC that used a timed format where racers competed against the clock, the USXC runs heads-up races where all drivers roar off of the starting line at once when the green flag drops. For larger classes, racers leave in waves that are timed one second apart. Here are notes about the 2012 Gerald Dyrdahl Memorial Pine Lake 200 race.
Racer Entries Exceed Expectations — Nelson reported roughly 280 race entries, with about 220 race sleds. The discrepancy is because some racers enter multiple classes. “It was about what I was hoping for,” Nelson said. “I thought if we had 200 entries I would be tickled pink.” The next race on the USXC schedule is another ice race in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. Nelson said it will be a struggle to squeeze in as many races there as Pine Lake because the circuit’s second event will be a one-day race. The Gerald Dyrdahl Memorial ran on Saturday and Sunday. Some classes might have to run simultaneously in Detroit Lakes, Nelson said.
Old Champ Leads Young Guys, For A Little While — Veteran racer Corey Davidson brought one of his Soo I-500 enduro sleds to Pine Lake to compete in the Pro Open class where he “schooled” the young guys for about 80 miles until the engine let go, Nelson said. Davidson has won three cross-country I-500 titles and was part of eight Soo I-500 championship teams.
A Great Crew — Nelson said he’s really fortunate to have got a great crew working to pull off the races. “They are terrific guys. They know the game and they really enjoy it,” he said. Many crew members came over from the USCC, and they’ve proven to be very valuable because they know the racers, race teams and others who are involved in cross-country snowmobile racing. “If it wouldn’t have been for them I’d have never [founded USXC]. You’re only as good as the people around you,” he said.
Yamahas Were Fastest — The race on Pine Lake dates back to the late 1980s and, as the season opener, it was where cross-country snowmobile racers and fans found out which sleds would be fast. This year’s serpentine race course was 11.4 miles long and Yamaha FX Nytro sleds in the Pro Open class were clocked at 112 mph on the straightaway, Nelson said. Some Arctic Cat Sno Pro 600s registered 110 mph, while Polarises were off 3 to 4 mph.
The Final Grade — Overall, Nelson gives him and his crew a grade of “six-and-a-half or seven” for its work last weekend. “Overall I’d say 90 percent of the people were very happy,” he said. There were problems with the FM radio antenna, generators for the computers and some people complained about class scheduling where conflicts arose due to multiple class entries. If you ask racers about what’s important to them, track time is at the top of the list, and there was no shortage of ice time for racers at Pine Lake last weekend as some drivers logged more than 200 miles between practice laps, heats and finals, Nelson said. There weren’t any bad accidents, ice held up fairly well and the course was well-marked, he said. “Most racers and families were very happy, they loved the course and … liked our no-nonsense approach,” Nelson said. “They know now that we don’t screw around — that way they get their laps in.”
Arctic Cat dominated the pro classes at Pine Lake with its drivers taking the top four positions in Pro Stock and three of the top five in Pro Open.
Pro Stock: 1. Ryan Simons (Cat); 2. Zack Herfindahl (Cat); 3. Brian Dick (Cat); 4. Wesley Selby (Cat); 5. Gabe Bunke (Pol).
Pro Open: 1. Ryan Simons (Cat); 2. Brian Dick (Cat); 3. Zack Herfindahl (Cat); 4. Re Wadena (Yam); 5. Ben Lindbom (Yam).