Duluth, 20 Years Ago…

Twenty years ago Snow Week was on hand to document the first Duluth National Snocross and we revisit the event through the pages of the December 14, 1992 edition. This is from a collection of Snow Week magazines I acquired recently. I used to work for Snow Week and always thought it was a great publication that had a valuable place in the world of snowmobile racing. It’s demise in 2007 (or 2008? not sure) was one of the catalysts for me to start this Web site. An interesting thing to note is while 2011 marks the 20th anniversary of the Duluth National Snocross, 1992-93 season marked the 20th anniversary of Snow Week. Hmmm…

Interesting that the cover featured the Formula III winner from a USSA race held in Lake Louise, Alaska, not the Duluth race. Oops. Of course, how could they have known. Notice in the upper left corner, "ZRs KICK AT MRP SNOCROSS OPENER" Yes, the Arctic Cat ZR was new that year, and, 20 years later, they return with another new chassis. Hmmm...

Open up the paper and we find the "Editor-at-Large" John Sandberg wrote the First Corner Column about the race, which he refers to as an event, and probably correctly so as it was the first big snocross race to combine vendors, fans and racing. It's a formula that's still working for the event today and is no doubt why the race has carved out a spot as one of the major races in snowmobiling. Sandberg now runs a great Web site called www.arcticinsider.com.

Next page over is this super-cool Polaris ad bragging about their FIII win in Alaska with the new XLT. This was way before Polaris marketing adopted every variant of the word "dominate" to describe its products. Of course, we all know Polaris went on to sell a pantload of XLTs, creating, defining and dominating the lightweight triple market.

Holeshots featured a blurb about Paul Groth's Budweiser Sno-King. Powered by four turbocharged Yamaha V-Max 4 snowmobile engines Groth said the 16-cylinder configuration would make 1,000-horsepower and would be good enough for 200mph.

Another Holeshot blurb noted that riders were happy to hear they would be allowed to use carbide runners and carbide-tipped studs in the upcoming International 500. The race was expected to have 300 entries and had a 100 at the time the issue went to print.

The opening spread featured Kirk Hibbert in both photos. The text says the race saw 236 entries and 8,000 fans over three days. MRP paid out a combined purse of $10K. It was warm on Friday and Saturday but turned colder on Sunday saving the track. This race was the first snocross race ever to be run "under the lights."

The second page had more of Hibbert as well as Steve Hanson, Brian Sturgeon and Jason Jones. Team Arctic rode ZR580s in the Open class. The ZRs came off the assembly line three days before the race and they were as big a news item as the race itself.

What a great photo of Hibbert working on his sled as Doug Lamm looks on. On his way to two wins that weekend Hibbert was quoted in the story saying he worked on clutching for the holeshot, added stiffer front shock springs and took out some picks and added cleats(!). These days Pro snocross rider have crews who do all this wrenching stuff for them.

A nice shot of some tangled sleds off the start, a ZR and an XCR. In the background the familiar Spirit Mountain chair lift. No tuff blocks, just good old-fashioned haybales.

It was all Polaris and Arctic Cat in the printed results. Hibbert won Pro Open and Pro Lite. Hmmm...

OK, so what else was in that issue? How about this way cool ad for the Thief River 200 sponsored by Pabst (with a $24K payout!).

It looks like Snow Week went to the ISR meeting that year too. Lots of photos of people handing over giant checks. I've been to ISR meetings and none of them were nearly as exciting as this one appears to have been. I never got a giant check either.

Halfway through the story it says John Daniels has started a circuit called the International Series of Champions (ISOC) which promises to "restore cross-country racing to its former glory." The circuit's plan was to run a series of 200-mile races.

Snow Week handed out its 1992 Racer of the Year award at the ISR meeting. Ice racer Gary Vessair was the lucky recipient.

An ad for the International 500 features Jack Struthers and promises a $100K payout (based on 300 race entries). It also looks like the ad features a handy course map for pre-running.

1992-93 was set to have some great racing go down and it would begin the epic battles between Arctic Cat's ZR and Polaris' XCR that would last for nearly a decade. Looking at this schedule it looks like you could go racing pretty much all winter long across multiple racing genres with either one of those sleds.

The back of the paper always had classified ads. Remember, there was no eBay or craigslist back then. Need a used Wahl chassis twin tracker?

Or how about a Pro-5-built Polaris Formula III sled and a van to race it out of?

Looking back on this race 20 years on its amazing how much has changed and yet, at the same time, how little has changed. Familiar names, familiar scenarios, the same drama and anticipation and, of course, the same event.

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