Arctic Cat’s P.J. Wanderscheid started his pursuit to become the first four-time Eagle River World Champion in style, earning the pole position in a smooth and efficient Friday Night Thunder program at the famous Derby Track in northern Wisconsin.
Wanderscheid, age 26, led the World Snowmobile Headquarters-sponsored Sweet Sixteen Pole Position race from the opening green flag all the way to the checkered flag 16 laps later, besting a star-studded field of competitors all aiming for the World Championship title on Sunday. He was chased throughout the race by Nick VanStrydonk and Thursday’s time trial winner Matt Schulz – with Schulz undercutting VanStrydonk on the last lap to claim second. Malcolm Chartier took fourth, with three-time champ Jacques Villeneuve fifth and two-time champ Gary Moyle sixth.
Ultimately, only first place counted on Friday night – that person gets to skip Saturday’s multi-round qualifying process and transfers directly into Sunday front row pole position. Wanderscheid earned that honor in style, and put all of his competition on notice.
The personable racer from Sauk Centre, Minnesota, said all the right things after the race.
“The sled makes me look good – this is the best sled I’ve ever had here,” Wanderscheid said in a post-race interview over the p.a. system. Later, to Snow Goer, Wanderscheid said the sled he’s driving was merely “aluminum pieces a week and a half ago.” He team pieced together a chassis that’s a lot like his sled last year, but a little bit lighter. It also features a Hooper engine – and Wanderscheid used Hooper power to win his first two championships in 2002 and 2003.
“John (Hooper) and I stayed friends over the years, and we know he can build good power,” Wanderscheid said.
In Other Action
In other action Friday night, two big snocross Pro snocross races were held Friday night, and both were won by the Polaris-powered Schuering Speed Sport Amsoil team that normally follows the ISOC national series.
First, Robbie Malinoski claimed Pro Super Stock, leading from green to checkered. Teammate Andrew Johnstad held second throughout the race and was never more than 10 sled lengths behind, but he never seriously challenged for the lead.
About two hours later, Johnstad jumped out to the lead of Pro Open, and Malinoski fought to hold onto second. In the last two laps of the 15-lap final, though, Malinoski mounted a mighty charge and the two came out of the last turn side-by-side. Johnstad held the better line through the whoops and won the race to the checkered.
In other interesting racing, Chad Gueco of Alaska claimed the interesting new Pure Stock 600 class on a Yamaha Nytro and Curtis Boivin of Ontario stormed away with the Semi-Pro Champ final.
The tightest race was one of the last, as Matt Richie made an incredible save on the last lap when second-play Gunner Stern came in hot and got into the 14-year-old rising star. The two sleds seemed to be hooked together as they drifted toward the turn four wall, but Richie saved his sled and powered away to victory in Junior II Sprint.