Jack Struthers
Jack Struthers won both the Pro 500 and the 440X classes at BIR. The Pro 600 class was cancelled due to on-setting darkness.

Kids these days are so spoiled! Long before all of today’s snocross racers got to race on man-made snow, events were held on what little snow could be scraped out of parking lots and trucked to the race site on low-snow winters.

Such was the case on New Year’s Weekend when 1994 became 1995 in Brainerd, Minnesota, when the top racers in the sport competed in snirt at Brainerd International Raceway in the McDonald’s ISOC 200. Remember, back then the first iteration of the International Series of Champions (ISOC) was a cross-country racing circuit that mainly hosted lake-top, ditch- and river-running events, but it was also the best paying form of racing so it attracted big names from across the globe.

Race fans from the era, even if you don’t read the story below, skip to the results box and read the names in the Pro class. Aside from those listed, many other big-name racers of the day competed in the race but had problems in the finals — the “DNF” list included Kirk Hibbert, Jeremy Fyle, Steve Hansen, Doug Lamm, Tom Belair, Jesse Strege and Rick Strobel, plus guys like Brian Sturgeon and Guy Useldinger didn’t even make it into the 31-sled final!

Toni Haikonen
Toni “The Flying Finn” Haikonen was a superstar in snocross racing but was still learning his trade in cross-country at this point. So, his second-place at BIR was mighty impressive — especially considering he was ill on the day of the final.

Back to the spoiled kids — long before there was digital photography, those of us standing trackside shot black-and-white film plus color slides, and here are a few of my slides that survived the last 25 years. Plus, we’ve posted the opening 13 paragraphs from a Snow Week story about the race that spanned seven pages in an over-sized newsprint format. Whew!

Enjoy, and check back on SnowGoer.com for other Snow Week flashbacks.

Kirk Hibbert
Kirk Hibbert was a dominating force at the time, but the track at BIR was rough on him: He crashed on lap 1, charged back through the field of 31 racers and then had his engine expire on lap 21.

Struthers Rings In New Year With Big Payday At Brainerd ISOC 200

Dec. 31, 1994-Jan. 1, 1995 // Brainerd, Minnesota // Story/Photos by John T. Prusak

Struthers with Checkered
Jack Struthers in victory lane.

If you’re related to Jack Struthers, you may want to ask for a bigger Christmas gift next year because, after the Brainerd ISOC 200, he can afford it.

Struthers rang in 1995 with a dominating victory, as he showed off his awesome cross-country racing skills while running away with the 25-lap final at Brainerd International Raceway.

Following wins by Arctic Cat and Ski-Doo earlier this year, many had said that it was Polaris’ turn to win, and Struthers didn’t let the faithful down. After the third lap, the race was never close again.

Brad Pake
Brad Pake finished third, and that put him in first place in the ISOC points standings after three events.

For all his hard work over the choppy, mogul-filled 3.2-mile course, Struthers collected $12,550 in purse and contingency, making him the recipient of the largest purse in recent memory for a one-day cross-country race.  

Ski-Doo’s Toni Haikonen finished second, with Cat’s consistent Brad Pake ending up in third.

In Semi-Pro action, 40-year-old Polaris racer Kevin Anderson schooled the younger drivers with a strong run that turned into a victory after the first-place rider was disqualified for having illegal cylinder heads.

Greg Hyde
Greg Hyde of South Dakota finished in fourth after Kirk Hibbert’s sled quit on lap 21.

Polaris racers ruled in Class 2, Women’s and Juniors, while Cat riders won in Class 1 and the Legends class.

All of this racing was done on a man-made track at the Brainerd International Raceway, which hosts NHRA drag races plus sports car and motorcycle road races in the summer, but is normally dormant in the winter.

Steve Hansen
Steve Hansen ran in the top 6 all day but ran out of fuel on about lap 19.

This early winter, however, track officials spent hundreds of hours collecting snow and piling it on the inside of the black-track racetrack in an effort to make a snowmobile racetrack. They did a magnificent job, considering the extremely dry winter that central Minnesota has had. Still, there was a lot of dirt showing on the course by Sunday morning and even more by Sunday evening.

The snowmobile course started with a serpentine in front of the grandstand, keeping racers in front of the crowd for as long as possible before cutting them loose on the rest of the 3.2-mile course. The track had several jumps, multiple areas with stutter bumps and some more wide-open areas, making it a true test of cross-country riding skills.

Keith Wojo
Keith Wojciechowski — yes the same “Wojo” that was still competing in oval racing last year — has never been afraid to try any type of snowmobile racing.

There were 318 driver entries, with the Semi-Pro class accounting for more than one-third of that total. Cold and cloudy days were in the weather forecast for each day but sunshine ruled for most of the racing hours and temperatures were in the single digits or teens throughout the racing.

The McDonald’s BIR ISOC 200 was sponsored by McDonald’s, ThermoGas, Arctic Cat, Polaris and Ski-Doo.

Bryan Dyrdahl
Bryan Dyrdahl would later go on to be a multi-time cross-country I-500 champ, but he finished back in 10th in Semi-Pro on this day.

RESULTS

PRO 500: 1. Jack Struthers (Pol); 2. Toni Haikonen (Doo); 3. Brad Pake (Cat); 4. Greg Hyde (Pol); 5. Todd Wolff (Doo); 6. Paul Mack (Pol); 7. Kevin Spielman (Pol); 8 Rob Irving (Cat); 9. Eric Loge (Pol); 10. Corey Davidson (Pol); 11. Lee Falck (Pol); 12. John Wicht III (Pol); 13. Lauren Wolff (Pol); 14. Gary Goskey (Cat); 15. Brian Rust (Pol); 16. Craig Janzig (Pol); 17. Steve Houle (Pol); 18. Jeff Hohman (Pol); 19. Duane Lossing (Cat); 20. Jamie Anseeuw (Cat).

SEMI-PRO: 1. Kevin Anderson (Pol); 2. Mike Johnson (Cat); 3. Travis Rumpca (Cat); 4. Tom Mattilla (Cat); 5. Ken Fett (Cat).

440X Fast Class: 1. Jack Struthers (Pol); 2. Toni Haikonen (Doo); 3. Dan Sturgeon (Cat).

Class 2: 1. Mark Hennum (Pol); 2. Corey Naig (Pol); 3. Jesse Belair (Pol).

Class 1: 1. David Muirhead (Cat); 2. Shane Sabraski (Cat); 3. David Zawistowski (Pol).

Brian Rust snowmobile racer
Long before he was the flagman for snocross, Brian Rust was a pretty good snowmobile racer — he finished 15th on this day, though.

Legends: 1. Jim Beck Sr. (Cat); 2. Greg Erhardt (Doo); 3. Robert Johnson (Cat).

Women’s: 1. Stacey James (Pol); 2. Shelly James (Pol); 3. Lori Sanbom (Cat).

Juniors: 1. John Monahan (Pol); 2. Brian Harmon (Cat); 3. Jim Beck Jr. (Cat).

Kirk Hibbert and Brian Sturgeon
Superstars Brian Sturgeon and Kirk Hibbert share a tale trackside. We’re pretty sure the driver behind Sturgeon in Brad Pake.

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One thought on “Remembering The ISOC Cross-Country At BIR On Jan. 1, 1995

  • I remember there were some flat tires on the race cars that spring. Maybe a few sled studs still were to be found on the track…

    Reply

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