The snowmobile oval sprint racing season will kick off December 10-11 with the Canadian Power Toboggan Championships in Beausejour, Manitoba. Anybody who enjoys the thrills of fast and loud sleds going ski-to-ski on an icy surface should be thrilled with the prospects for this year, as the oval racing world takes a notable leap forward.
The event is the first stop on the USSA ProStar Cup series which will determine a North American season points champion in the high-profile Pro Champ 440 class. As this story is being written, a whopped 26 racers have signed up to race the class at Beausejour. For context, there were only 7 there last year. Plus there is another group of six racers who have Champ sleds who are skipping this first round for various reasons but who have their eyes on the ProStar prize money later this season.
The schedule for the USSA ProStar Cup can be found here. And to see a “Who To Watch” on this year’s snocross field, click here.
Let’s take a look at the field.
Last Year’s Big Dogs
Blaine Stephenson is the defending champion on the ProStar Cup series and a four-time Eagle River World Champion on his Wahl Bros. Polaris, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. He narrowly took the title last year over his chief rival, multi-time national points champion/Ski-Doo pilot Gunnar Sterne. In theory, those two should be considered the industry standard in this class. However, they each “only” won two of the seven finals last year. Minnesotan Matt Goede, only entered four rounds last year, but he won three of them and finished second in the other – had he and his team been willing to get their jabs and cross into Canada, he very well may have been the man with the points title, given that winning percentage.
- Blaine Stephenson of St. Cloud, Minnesota, No. 102 Polaris
- Gunnar Sterne of Hampshire, Illinois, No. 220 Ski-Doo
- Matt Goede of New Germany, Minnesota, No. 28 Ski-Doo
Fast USSA Vets
There’s another crew of racers who are just behind that top crowd, with plenty of varied experience between them. On top of that list is Stephenson’s Wahl Bros. teammate Tom Olson, who had two podium finishes in five rounds of racing. Veteran Justin Peterson also had several strong showing last year, as did John Henke, both on Ski-Doos. Henke, though, isn’t on the entry list for round 1. And don’t for a second forget about Travis MacDonald – the Manitoba-based racer wasn’t able to make it south of the border due to travel restrictions the last couple of years, but he is a very talented racer with a great team behind him.
- John Henke of Amherst Junction, Wisconsin, No. 157 Ski-Doo *
- Travis MacDonald of Gonor, Manitoba, No. 8 Ski-Doo
- Tom Olson of Greenbush, Minnesota, No. 39 Polaris
- Justin Peterson of Campbellsport, Wisconsin, No. 39x Ski-Doo
- Matt Szalai of Cooks Creek, Manitoba, No. 370
Several young racers who have competed in USSA Pro Champ or Champ Lite in recent years have been grabbing attention. For instance, Calvin Cook earned a third-place finish at Beausejour last year, and Griffin Lepak earned a fourth-place finish at Weyauwega. Look for a couple of the guys out of this crowd to continue to emerge.
- Calvin Cook of Dayton, Minnesota, No. 75 Polaris
- Will Garceau of Mishicot, Wisconsin, No. 31X Ski-Doo
- Griffin Lepak of Hartford, Wisconsin, No. 1 Arctic Cat
- Luke Olson of Ishpeming, Michigan, No. 04
- Brennen Sather of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, No. 27
A Bunch Of Interesting Guys, And A Gal
There are a whole bunch of other guys that maybe didn’t fit into the other categories that we’ll lump together here, but each of them has their own story to tell. They vary widely in experience and age – from the ultra veteran Russell Liba to a handful of guys bumping up from the Juniors and F-500 classes. There are guys allegedly just doing spot duty/testing for others, plus a fleet of racers who more-or-less all work together from the greater Beausejour area. And there’s also Madison Phillips, the only female racer signed up to chase the ProStar Cup this year – unless Quebec’s Sabrina Blanchet shows up with her fast equipment to make a run.
- Russell Liba of Warburg, Alberta, No. 5 Ski-Doo
- Brandon Grendzinski of Weston, Wisconsin, No. 7c Ski-Doo
- DJ Saluk of Beausejour, Manitoba, No. 16 Polaris
- Tyler Obie of Beausejour, Manitoba, No. 21 Ski-Doo
- Jordan Sobetski of Beausejour, Manitoba, No. 24 Polaris
- Quinn Wojick of Beausejour, Manitoba, No. 26 Ski-Doo
- Brennen Sather of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, No. 27
- Brad Harrison of Beausejour, Manitoba, No. 29 Polaris
- Dylan Baran of Anola, Manitoba, No. 35 Polaris
- Tyson Bzdell of Anola, Manitoba, No. 511
- Ezra Graumann of Medford, Wisconsin, No. 61 Ski-Doo
- Madison Phillips of Drayton, North Dakota, No. 87 Polaris
- Sam Gloor of Beausejour, Manitoba, No. 91
- Jordan Siebold of Kawaunee, Wisconsin, No. 128 Ski-Doo
- Gavin Peterson of Chisago City, Minnesota, No. 6
Not Included, Yet
Aside from the aforementioned John Henke, there are other racers who have turned in their information for the USSA ProStar Cup series with plans to take part in some Cup races but who won’t be making an appearance at the season-opener at Beausejour, for various reasons. Some will run most other races, others will just be making spot appearances, but all have Champ sleds lined up.
- Fred Manke of Lodi, Wisconsin, No. 11 Ski-Doo
- Hunter Sears of St. Francis, Minnesota, No. 15 Polaris
- Sean Shively of Shawano, Wisconsin, No. 70x Ski-Doo
- Matt Bennett of New London, Wisconsin, No. 233 Polaris
- Colt Dellandrea of Sundridge, Ontario, No. 53 Arctic Cat
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