sledRacer Interview: Carl Schubitzke

Photo: Gary Walton/actiongraphics.net

An ISOC National snocross event is a massive undertaking. What you see on race day is merely the culmination of months, sometimes years of work. While most of us are out wakeboarding or fishing during the summer months, guys like Carl Schubitzke are thinking snocross. You see, Carl is the Director of Operations at ISOC. That means he’s the guy who makes sure things happen and they happen according to plan. Not only that, once race day rolls around he’s also Race Director, so basically the event is his baby from start to finish. Son of former racer Ed Schubitzke, Carl started racing Pro as a teenager and put in over a decade on the snocross tracks. We tracked him down to talk about racing all four brands, winning on Polaris in 2002 and what it’s like to run the world of snocross.

sledRacer.com: How did you get into racing?
Carl Schubitzke: My dad raced a lot when he was younger. Surprisingly, we never really had snowmobiles around that much when I was young. I had a kitty cat though, so I got started racing kitty cats. Then I got heavily into motocross when I was about 6 years old. We eventually made a transition to snowmobiles. It was weird, my dad’s whole racing background was snowmobile racing but we never had a really big push for it until maybe when I was 13 or 14-years-old. Motocross was doing really well during the summer so we decided to race year round and give snowmobiles a try.

sledRacer: He never pushed you into it?
Schubitzke: No! And he never really had any snowmobiles from when he raced. We had a kitty cat, I don’t even know how old it was, and we had one of those Ski-Doo Elans, it barely ran. But I was more into motocross. During the winter I was busy with school so it wasn’t a big priority until I got older, then we found a dealer who wanted to support us with motocross and give us a sled to race too. I love snocross, I love motocross and I love that type of racing. But my first love is motocross, there’s nothing better than going riding with four or five friends. I just love that application, the big jumps and stuff in motocross and snocross.

sledRacer: Bobby LePage credits you with getting him into racing.
Schubitzke: Me and Bobby grew up together. When he was a little kid we raced together, I’ve known him and his whole family for a long time. That’s what’s good about motocross and snocross is you create families and relationships. There are a bunch of guys I have relationships with because of motocross and snocross, a lot of great friendships. I moved to Madison like seven or eight years ago, and all my close friends there are motocross guys. It seems like motocross and snocross just foster those relationships.

sledRacer: You raced all fours brands during your career.
Schubitzke: Yeah, I raced at the top level of all four brands. Looking back at my career, I raced a long time at the professional level. I started racing when I was about 16, and to race for so many good teams, I was fortunate in that way. Some guys only get to race for a few years with a good team and I got to race for a long time.

Schubitzke logged a couple Pro wins during his career, one coming at Canterbury in 2002. This photo is from 2003.

sledRacer: You won Pro Stock at Canterbury in 2002 and for a long time you were the only Polaris rider to win a National snocross race. It was years before and after that race…
Schubitzke: It was great being with Polaris. No matter what brand you ride for, everyone works so hard and with Polaris there had been a couple of years leading to it and there was a great sense of accomplishment that came with that win. But it didn’t change anything as far as team dynamics because honestly there were a lot of guys who could have won at any given time. But it was rewarding, it was great for them and it was great for me. To win on any level in any type of race is rewarding. With Polaris they hadn’t won in a long time and I was happy to give them that win because we were working really hard.

sledRacer.com: At the end, in 2009-2010, it was just you and your dad racing, did that go well?
Schubitzke: That last year I raced I just wanted to have fun. I had my dad and a couple of buddies from Madison help me as mechanics that year. When you’re on those big teams there’s so much focus and you’re training every day, seven days a week, it’s easy to forget why you’re there in the first place and that’s to have fun. For me I just love racing and that last year was just for me and it was a blast. That was probably one of the funnest years I’ve had, just me my dad and couple buddies.

Schubitzke calls his final year, 2009-2010, the funnest of his career. He and his crew raced out of an old box van.

sledRacer: You’re not very old, why did you decide to retire?
Schubitzke: Just getting old and slow, man! It happens! I also wanted to focus more on my future. I was fortunate enough to go to school the whole time I was racing and I had a business during the summer. There comes a time when you have to choose. For all the Pros racing out there right now, it’s a full-time gig. They’re training all year long and it’s a full-time commitment. Eventually you reach a point where you have to say I’m going to do this or I’m going to move forward and do something else. The funny thing is, my whole goal with quitting racing was to be able to have free time go ride but I’ve been so busy I haven’t even been able to go riding!

sledRacer: That’s the dirty little secret of the snowmobile industry. Everyone thinks it’s a dream job but once you’re in it you don’t get to ride too much because you’re so busy.
Schubitzke: That’s the absolute, 100-percent truth! If you’re working in the industry it’s the opposite of what you think it would be. But there are a lot of years of riding left, that’s for sure.

sledRacer.com: What is your position with ISOC?
Schubitzke: I’m the Director of Operations and Race Director. I came on full-time in April and I just oversee everything and try to bring everything to fruition, whether it is events, venues, contracts or anything else. I was surprised at how much work goes into the circuit during the summer months. There is so much that goes into promoting the circuit.

Classic snocross venues such as Duluth attract tons of fans. Big names like Tim Tremblay don't hurt, either.

sledRacer.com: How did you get the job?
Schubitzke: Last year they contacted me about being the Race Director. I came on last winter to do that, and fortunately I did a good job and John Daniels was really happy with me. Joe Duncan was the Operations Manager at the time and he was doing a good job too, but at the end he was doing some other things, like freestyle events and stuff like that, so John asked me to step in. I had to think about it for a long time, because I was living in Madison, Wisconsin, with my fiancée and it required me to move up here. It was a big commitment. Finally I decided to go for it and so far it’s been great. It’s a lot of work and a lot of hours, but it’s easy because I enjoy it. I can work 14 or 15 hours and at the end of the day I’m happy.

sledRacer.com: What is the biggest challenge of your job?
Schubitzke: I like things super-organized and professional, and right now I’m just trying to get things in place so the whole thing is just its own moving entity. There are so many pieces and people who are involved but at the end of the day getting things organized is the biggest challenge for me. I want perfection and things to go off without a hitch.

sledRacer.com There are new rules for Pro and Semi-Pro this year, can you tell me about them?
Schubitzke: For the Pro class we’re only running Open. Semi-Pro is now called Pro Lite and they will race only stock machines. Our main events will be Pro Lite and Pro Open. Our goal is to create a main event that draws more spectators and has a higher entertainment value. We want to make stars of the athletes in both Pro and Pro Lite. We’re not going to move away from amateur racing because that’s our roots and that’s still our core, but to separate the Pro class and raise them on a level above everything is what we want to do. I get a lot of people coming to me saying we don’t have the characters in racing anymore. Well, we do, we’re just not utilizing them correctly. We have great people racing Pro and hopefully we can build them up through marketing. NASCAR does a really good job of that.

sledRacer.com: What do you want people to take away from an ISOC National?
Schubitzke: What would make me happy is to have people walk away from the race saying, “That was the best $30 I’ve spent, it was great racing, it was fun.” But right now people aren’t spending money, and secondly there are so many places to spend money on entertainment that hopefully we can create our own place for consumers in whatever venue or city we go to.

Schubitzke raced for some of the biggest teams in snocross, including Scheuring Speed Sports.

sledRacer: What is the future of snocross? Where do you see it going?
Schubitzke: I think there’s a place for both grassroots-type racing as well as the big Supercross-style show. We need grassroots. Without that we have nothing. We need people to go grab a snowmobile and give snocross a try, and that goes with our Regional series. On our National series we need to focus on the Supercross style show and high entertainment value. We want the core enthusiast group but we also want people who just want to come out and be entertained. How we present it, how we portray it, that’s what we’re trying to do is make the right decisions regarding that, because if we go one way and focus on the Supercross-style show we’ll lose everything. Without grassroots and amateur racing you don’t have anything. It’s a balancing act man, it’s a tightrope.

sledRacer: It’s definitely not as big as it was, say, 10 years ago. Will it ever get back to those numbers?
Schubitzke: I want to be optimistic and say yes, but there are so many variables. Ten years ago they were dealing with a lot bigger surge in the sport and people had more money. Our country as a whole is in an economic downturn and until people start spending more money on their hobbies it’s not going to grow very fast. We’ve seen a switch by consumers and a new focus on spending money only on what is necessary. To get back to where we were we need to make really smart decisions based on fact and not make mistakes. Hopefully we make good changes for the future and everything starts turning around. We have a lot of great people still involved in our sport. Those people could be doing a lot of other things, but they’re coming racing.

ISOC Nationals promise Supercross-style racing on some of the biggest snocross tracks in the world.

sledRacer.com: What can we expect from ISOC this season?
Schubitzke: There are going to be quite a few changes this year. I’m excited to get back to Canterbury because it’s a good venue for our sport. I went there for meetings this April and when you go up the escalator you look to your left and there’s a big mural of snowmobile racing. Not horse racing, snowmobile racing. Obviously the venue has a lot of heritage. But to pinpoint one thing is hard. I think with the changes people will be fired up about it. And I know not everyone is happy, but we’re trying to do what’s best for the sport as a whole and hopefully everyone leaves happy. As long as we keep making the right decisions we should be OK.

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