Racing Flashback To The 1985 Alex Holiday Spectacular

Days before Christmas in 1985, some of snowmobile racing’s best faced off in multiple classes in both ovals and snocross racing at the Super Seer Holiday Spectacular in Alexandria, Minnesota, and Snow Week magazine was there to capture the action. Bender, Wolff, Wahl, Ewing, Donahue, Wicht, Karpik, Wergin, Elmer, Lamm, Houle, Decker, Loritz, Metzler, Falck, Bosek, Appolson… the list goes on and on of legendary racers at this super event held just over 35 years ago. Here’s the story, ripped from the pages of the January 13, 1986, issue of Snow Week magazine. We don’t know where the original photos are: Accompanying the story are images of the pictures in the newsprint publication.

Super Seer Holiday Spectacular

By Dick Hendricks and Michael Dapper
Alexandria snowmobile race

For the first time in many years, Mother Nature smiled upon racers and fans at the Super Seer Holiday Spectacular in Alexandria, Minnesota. Alex seems to bring out the worst in weather conditions, be it sub-zero temperatures or rain, but not this year!

Temperatures hovered around 20-30 degrees ABOVE, and a bright sun warmed things up on Sunday. The tracks – snocross and oval – were in top condition… and race promoters even flew in Ted Otto, the popular flagman sporting his California tan, to keep law and order on the track and interest in the stands.

If the old adage “Strength in Numbers” is true, then Alex proved it is still one of the bullies on the snowmobile racing block. Most of North America’s premier drivers were on hand, and there weren’t playing to an empty house. During Sunday’s finals three-quarters of the grandstand at the Douglas County Fairgrounds were filled… the biggest, and noisiest, crowd we’ve seen at Alex in five years.


Allen Decker had said before the races at Alex that his Formula I victory at Ironwood was important because it identified him as a true challenger for the Eagle River World Championship this year. His mother, Audrey Decker, told him a win at Alex would be nice, too, so people would believe Ironwood was no fluke. We believe!

For the second consecutive week, the Marshfield, Wisconsin, driver came from behind to record an impressive Formula I win. Unlike the Ironwood win, Formula I drivers at Alex were given two hot laps Sunday morning before the action got underway. The Snow Week stopwatch told us that Decker, Bruce Vessair and Scott Metzler were running slightly faster than the rest of the pack… a pretty good indication of what was to come.

Formula I competition go underway as the temperature hit 30 degrees, and a bright sun was making an impact on the track. Dale Loritz of Green Bay, Wisconsin, got the holeshot in the first heat, but a spectacular crash in turn three of the second lap brought out the red flag. Gary Vessair of Honey Harbour, Ontario, encountered brake problems that knocked out his steering and sent him and his sled crashing through the hay bales and snow fence. Vessair was taken to a nearby hospital with a cracked vertebrae that may sideline him for the rest of the season. At the request of driver representative Bobby Donahue, the track was swept before action resumed.

Loritz picked up where he left off and got the holeshot en route to an impressive win in that first heat. Scott Metzler of Addison, Illinois, and Dave Wahl of Greenbush, Minnesota, battled side by side in the second heat, with Metzler holding on. The third heat ended with Decker taking the checkered just ahead of Bruce Vessair and Bobby Donahue.

Tim Bender racing

Donahue, the popular Wisconsin Rapids driver, got a slow start in his semi, but worked his way up to pass Wahl and take the checkered. Decker was third. Metzler won the second semi going away, with Bruce Vessair second and Bob Anderson of Minocqua, Wisconsin, third.

Wahl got the holeshot in the 10-lap final with Metzler and Decker in hot pursuit. Decker moved past Metzler into second place on lap four as Wahl appeared to be pulling away from the pack. That was not the case, however, as Decker, realizing he had half a race to go, began to close the gap. When Decker went high in turn four of the sixth lap. Decker made his move and took the lead. He never looked back, taking the checked well ahead of a game but fading Wahl. Metzler, Anderson and Donahue rounded out the top five spots.

“The Carerra shocks really made the difference in how this sled handles. I don’t need to get the early lead because we know it will respond when we want it to,” Decker said after accepting his $1,000 check from Super Seer. “This sled is actually Chuck’s. Come Eagle River, Chuck will be on this machine and I’ll be running a new twin-tracker.”

Formula II action was held on Saturday with Scott Metzler and Dave Wahl winning their heats. Wahl, who had the holeshot dialed in all weekend, took the early lead in the final, only to be passed by Metzler along the backstretch. The two drivers pulled away from the pack, but Wahl blew a couple of cleats on his track during lap three, giving Metzler the easy win and moving Dale Loritz into second. (Wahl, not one to be discouraged, drove back to Thief River Falls Saturday night to pick up a new track for Sunday’s competition.)

Team Minocqua’s Bob Anderson provided a slight upset in Formula 250, coming from third place to stretch out an impressive victory over Allen Decker and Dale Loritz. Loritz and Decker exchanged the lead during the first lap, but from the second lap on it was all-Anderson.

Formula III provided some exciting action and a Yamaha sweep. Tim Bender of Colden, New York, running for the first time this season after just 12 days of work on his Phazer and V-Max, rolled to big wins in his heat and semi. Fellow Yamaha drivers Steve Houle of Forest Lake, Minnesota, and Jim Wergin of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, finised one-two in the second semi.

Bender again took an early lead in the final, but Wergin stayed with him to make it a tight two-man race, with Bender taking the checked flag.


A week earlier in Ironwood, Jim Wergin, Steve Houle and Richard Johnson made it look like Yamaha owned the USSA snocross circuit. Saturday in Alexandria, Lauren Wolff on a Polaris and Ron Bragg on a Ski-Doo made it clear that there’s plenty of balanced competition for the 1986 season.

In Snocross II action, Bragg of Hugo, Minnesota and Tim Bartylla of White Bear Lake, Minnesota, ran away from the pack aboard their Formula MXes in the first semi, while Jerry Dillon of White Bear Lake, came from behind to win the second semi aboard his Arctic Cat Cougar. Bragg led the entire way during the finals, with Bartylla a close second until he rolled his sled on the last lap, sending Richard Johnson and his Yamaha into the runner-up spot.   

A check for $1,000 and the prestigious Super Seer Cup awaited the winner of the Pro Stock finals. It was apparent early in the heats that Ray Monsrud, race coordinator for Polaris, would be happy with the results in the class.

Lauren Wolff snowmobile racer

John Bosek ran away with the first semi, while Lauren Wolff came out of turn one with the lead he would never surrender in the second semi.

The lineup at the start of the finals included eight Polaris’ and one Arctic Cat. Mike Houle of Wyoming, Minnesota, got the holeshot and early lead, but a multi-sled pile-up on the first lap brought out the red flag and a restart. Another good start for Houle,… and another red flag in turn one. One thing was apparent, nobody was backing off on the first turn when $1,000 waiting in the wings!

Somehow, you knew it would happen… the third start went clean, but Mike Houle found himself back in about seventh place. Lauren Wolff got the early lead, with Dana Payne of Buffalo, Minnesota, staying close. While Wolff pulled away from the pack aboard his Indy Trail 488, Houle battled his way to third place, only to spin out on the last lap. When Dale Lindbeck and his Arctic Cat were disqualified, the final results showed Polaris drivers finished first through eighth. And yes, Ray Monsrud was smiling.

Tim Bender was able to muster up one snocross victory on his Yamaha, looking untouchable in the Open 56 class. Bender, riding his Yamaha Phazer, was involved in a six-sled pile-up in the first heat, but a restart allowed him to shoot past Lee Falck and take the checkered flag.

Bender won easily in his semi and then ran away from Mike Houle, Todd Elmer and Doug Lamm in the final.

“This is the best ice I have ever seen on any snocross track. Plus, we’ve been working on the holeshot and it paid off,” Bender explained. “We never started the machine until Friday because we were busy building Outlaws for other people. I haven’t had a total of eight hours sleep in the last four days, but I’m surprised and happy with the way things worked out here.”

In the Juniors Snocross competition, Shawn Beall of Rockford, Illinois, racing for the English Mark Darts team, finished first. Beall finished second at Ironwood and has established himself as a future contender on the circuit.


Two oval classes were run to completion on Saturday: Mod Stock II and Mod Stock III. Neil Bistodeau of Holmen, Wisconsin, captured Mod Stock II aboard his Moto-Ski, beating a couple of Iowa natives, Gary Hickle on a Yamaha and Randy Hauan on a Mercury.

Mod Stock III featured a hot lineup, including Tim Bender, Jim Wergin, Darcy Ewing, Steve Houle, John Bosek and Dave Wahl. Bender and Houle came out of turn two side-by-side after a slight bump. Bender pulled away for the win. Wergin overcame Houle to finish second and Ewing passed Houle on the final lap for third.

Darcy Ewing

With the high temps and blistering sun, the track because a little bumpy and soft in the corners on Sunday, but the huge crowd enjoyed the action. Jeffrey Schmidt of Brainerd, Minnesota, won Stock D aboard his Polaris, with Neil Bistodeau finishing second on his Ski-Doo.

Schmidt and Bistodeau both made it to the finals of Stock C, but it was Jim Wergin and Paul Laabs running away from the field and finishing one-two. Wergin aboard his 1984 Phazer and Laabs running an 85 Formula MX, also finished first and second at Ironwood.

Stock B drew special interest from the crowd, with Ski-Doo, Polaris and Yamaha all placing sleds in the final. Ron Bragg on a Ski-Doo ran away from the competition in his heat and semi… and then made the final looks just as easy. Jim Appolson of Lake View, New York, finished second but was disqualified after the teardown, giving second place to Jim Wergin.

Laabs finally got his chance to take the checkered flag in Stock A, getting the holeshot and never being seriously challenged in the final. Laabs was running a Ski-Doo Formula Plus.

Bryant Schroeder of Prairie View, Illinois, captured Pro Sprint after qualifying as an also-ran in the heats. Pat Duchene and Steve Houle captured the heats, but it was Schroeder holding off Duchene in the final, both running Ski-Doos.

Paul Laabs continued to run strong in Pro Stock, pulled away from John Bosek in the semi. The other semi featured a three-way battle right down to the wire, with Jim Appolson winning, followed by Jim Wergin and Mike Houle. In the finals, Laabs, on a Ski-Doo, and Wergin, on a Yamaha, came out of the second turn dead even, but Laabs took the lead down the backstretch. Laabs finished strong for his second checked flag of the day, with Wergin second and Dana Payne third.

Jon Vanderheiden of Neenah, Wisconsin, had a surprisingly easy time in Junior Bombardier Ovals, beating Shawn Beall by a quarter of a lap. Finishing a strong fourth was Denise Durkin of Mound, Minnesota, the first girl rider participating in the program so far this season.


Another exciting element at Alexandria was the Muscle Machine Shootout, with $1,000 and the HI-Performance Engineering Cup going to the two-day winner. The 13 drivers who entered the Shootout competed on the snocross course on Saturday and on the oval track Sunday. Points were awarded for both types of racing and the top qualifiers battled it out on the oval track Sunday afternoon.

Steve Houle got the holeshot in the first semi, but was passed down the backstretch by Tim Bender, who went on to take the checkered. Guy Useldinger and Darcy Ewing battled down to the wire in the second semi, with ‘Dinger crossing the finish line first.

The 10-lap final was the last race of the day and it looked like another easy win for Tim Bender. Bender blew his competition on the backstretch of the first lap and was a quarter-lap ahead of Useldinger when he blew a piston and coasted to a stop in turn three of the second lap. Useldinger seemed in control until he, too, pulled off on lap five, giving the lead to Ewing. Darcy took one look back and then began to pull away, with Steve Houle trying to close the gap. The checkered flag and $1,000 went to Ewing, with Houle finishing second and Bob brandstadt third.

“We had some problems the last couple of years and it’s been a long time, but this win sure feels good,” Ewing said while celebrating at the finish line with his wife, Heidi. “This [the Hi-Performance check] comes at a good time with Christmas in a few days!”

Editor’s Note: Every Snow Goer issue includes in-depth sled reports and comparisons, aftermarket gear and accessories reviews, riding destination articles, do-it-yourself repair information, snowmobile technology and more. Subscribe to Snow Goer now to receive print and/or digital issues.

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