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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
Editor’s Note: This review was originally published in the October 2020 issue of Snow Goer. Every issue of Snow Goer magazine 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 issues delivered to your door or your computer for a low cost.