Round 2: Blackjack National

The Blackjack National marked Round 2 of the National snocross tour. It went down this past weekend in Ironwood, Michigan, -well, actuall Bessemer, which is the next town down Highway 2 as you head East into Michigan’s U.P. Here are some photos I shot on Saturday and some of my impressions on the day as well as the competition overall.

Travis Muller got the call from Warnert Racing to fill in for the injured Kaven Benoit. Benoit was at the race walking with a crutch. He dislocated his hip at Duluth.

No, Ron Pattyn's trailer isn't foggy, it's just my lens. Here he pours some of Dragon's finest race fuel into a test container to bring to tech.

The Stud Boy trailer is guarded by these two vicious guard dogs.

Iain Hayden does his dynamic warm up before Pro practice. He had a gnarly crash at Duluth and had another in the first round of qualifying at Blackjack.

Dan Ebert's mechanic Greg Muller warms up his mod before Pro practice. Dan had a great weekend that the Regional race at Quadna Mountain Park the weekend before.

Johan Lidman warms up on the bike before Pro practice. That Muscle Milk is good stuff!

The lodge at Blackjack. Word is the owners want to make the race a regular deal every year - same date, same everything to people keep coming back. It's not a bad idea as this is about the only place there's snow so early in the snowmobile/ski season.

Pro Lite is where the action is this season and the class has the best racing on the circuit in my opinion. Here Petter Narsa lets Garrett Mees know that the guy with the red plate should go first.

One reason I like the Pro Lite class is there are about 10 guys who can win on any given weekend, and some of them aren't the guys racing out of the big haulers. Chase Rosemeyer is one of those guys.

CSRA regulars Joey Sagan and Dylan Hall were strong all weekend. Hall swept the Semi-Pro points on the CSRA circuit last year and is a rookie Pro on that circuit this season.

Of course, everyone knows Dylan Martin, he's Ross Martin's brother. Like his brother, Dylan has a lot of talent and can win on any given weekend. He will race Pro on the East Coast Snocross circuit this season for Team Southside.

Jake Scott races for Team LaVallee. With Levi Lavallee sitting out the weekend because he was in California testing for his distance jump and Bobby LePage out with injury, Scott carried the flag for the LaVallee squad.

Even with all the talent in the Pro Lite class if you could name one kid who is the next big thing it might have to be Kody Kamm. Kamm is still learning the snocross ropes and is sometimes his own worst enemy on the track. When things fall into place for him he's blazing fast though.

James Johnstad has been lighting it up in the Pro Lite class. He's still super-young too, so who knows where he will go?

Andrew Carlson has the massive support of the Carlson Motorsports team behind him. He seems on the brink of breaking big in the next season or so.

Dave Joanis is another guy who races Pro on CSRA and has dabbled on the National circuit over the past few years. He had a great day at the race on Saturday, winning the final.

With Kyle Pallin and Cody Thomsen moving up to Pro, the Pro Lite ranks in the Cat amp are pretty thin. Perhaps their best hope at a good result lies with Matt Pichner.

Nick Pattyn has risen to the top of every class he's raced in so far, now he's racing Pro Lite. He's young, but definitely on the pace.

Andy Lieders came out of nowhere a few years back and I think still shows promise. He seems plagued by bad luck though.

Joe Fallen has had a great start to his season. He's another one of those privateers who could steal a race if he has a good day.

Oh hey, there's Tucker Hibbert.

Emil Ohman watches Pro Open heats. He's proven so far this season that a healthy Emil is a serious competitor.

Ross Martin says, "That's the gnarly part, right over there," as Dani pees her pants cuz hey, it's Ross Martin!

This isn't the gnarly part Ross was pointing at, this is the kinda gnarly part.

Apparently Mathieu Morin is feeling better after popping his shoulder out at Duluth. He finished fifth in Pro Open Saturday. Must be the Jimmy Johns.

Scott Judnick lookin' all serious and stuff.

OK, HERE's the gnarly part. Downhill, close-spaced, kind-of-a-rhythm-section that was the scene of more than a few crashes. Woulda been sweet to have a massive X Games-style flyaway on this downhill but hey, what do I know?

Justin Tate was running fourth at Duluth on Sunday before he got bumped off the track. He also injured his shoulder in that incident but he said it wasn't a big deal it was better a few days later. He's pretty much a privateer in Pro Open, which is really cool.

Cory Davis was on out Top 10 snocross rider rankings list. He's shown moments of brilliance this season but for the most part has struggled after sitting out snocross racing last year.

Brett Bender's mod is super-cool. The trend this year seems to be black sleds.

Dan Ebert transferred to the main through the LCQ. One of only four Cats to make it in.

The sun was setting behind the mountain as the Pro Lite final went down. Here, Dave Joanis has the lead but he's looking back...

...because Derek Ellis (along with Ellis' teammate Petter Narsa) is right behind him.

Joanis got the win followed by Narsa and Ellis. Narsa still had the red plate at the end of the weekend but he's headed back to Scandinavia to fulfill his contract to race for Lynx. By the way, that's an all-Ski-Doo Pro Lite podium folks.

T.J. Gulla looks for a good place to watch the Pro Open final. After a podium finish at Duluth on Sunday Gulla struggled at Blackjack on Saturday. He came back Sunday, won the LCQ and finished eighth.

The Hibbert and Martin show lines up for the final. First year Pro Mike Bauer qualified fourth.

Hibbert got a monster holeshot, but the start was a tricky one, kind of a double dogleg deal combined with an uphill.

The riders get funneled into the uphill run and yup, looks like Hibbert's got it.

But wait! Hibbert gets tagged from behind and pushed out onto the soft stuff. That taillight at the top of the hill? Oh, that's just Martin, pretty much checked out.

Martin learned last season that you can't let up even when you get a monster holeshot and crazy lead. He was on the gas trying to put distance between himself and whatever was behind him.

He almost had the race right off the start, but once again Hibbert was forced to eat roost as he went to work running down Martin. Something in the driveline on Bender's sled locked up early in the race leaving Tremblay and Malinoski between Hibbert and the leader.

Hibbert got by Malinoski and then ran down Tremblay.

Paul Bauerly ended up tenth on Saturday and ninth on Sunday. Not a bad weekend for a guy who doesn't get much recognition.

Martin came around with about two laps left to go in the 14-lap race headed into the finish line jump...

...with Hibbert close enough to catch some of his roost blast.

Hibbert caught Martin and tried a block pass, running into Martin. Hibbert got by but lost his spindle. He nursed it around to start the final lap...

...then got on the gas, realizing his sled didn't handle THAT bad and hey, every spot lost cost him valuable points.

Shortly after Martin's win Nate Hentges, Tim Bender and Tom Rager Jr. talk about the general awesomeness of the race.

Advantage: Martin.

 

Tom Lawrence Named Ski-Doo Race Coordinator

Ski-Doo Race Coordinator Tom Lawrence (L) talks shop with Steve Thorson. Photo: Gary Walton/Action Graphics

It gives me great pleasure to announce the appointment of Tom Lawrence to the position of Ski-Doo® Race Coordinator.

In his new role, Tom will help develop and communicate the annual plan for Ski-Doo® racing. He will be responsible to coordinate all aspects of the relationships with the racing teams, individual racers, sponsors, promoters, associations and sanctioning bodies. He will work closely with the marketing, technical and product development departments within BRP to deliver top performance results and help promote and benefit the brand. He will be based in the Wausau, WI office. Tom will report to Marcel Imbeault and this appointment will take effect on December 5, 2011.

Tom has worked for BRP for 12 years—8 of those years as Race Coordinator and the last 4 years as an After-Sales Service Representative. With Tom’s background and experience, he has already established a solid reputation and close relationships within the racing community.

Please join me in congratulating Tom and wishing him great success in his new position.

Denis Morin
VP Product Development, Ski-Doo and Sea-Doo

2011-2012 sledRacer.com Snocross Rider Rankings

We’re on the brink of the 2011-2012 snocross season, time for the sledracer.com annual snocross rider rankings. Just a week out from Duluth, if you’re not ready now you’ll never be and we’ll help you get revved up with a little snocross bench racing. Bust out a cold one and read on as we give our $.02 on who is the best in snocross. You can see our past rankings (and see how accurate we were) here andhere.

11. Emil Ohman
No. 27
Ski-Doo
While Emil Ohman is entering just his third season of snocross in the United States, he’s been around Europe for a while. Translation: he’s older than you assume. But with age comes experience as well as patience, and the 2008 FIM snowcross world champion Ohman has both and both can be used to beat younger riders. Ohman had a breakout season in 2010 when he stood on the podium five times and placed third in Pro Stock points. He definitely came into Duluth on the pace last season but tweaked his knee there which opened up the gates to an injury-plagued 2011 season. Is a healthy Ohman a contender? It’s tough to say, but the pieces are there.

 

 

 

10. Kyle Pallin
No. 324
Arctic Cat
How can you put a rider on the Top 10 who has never ridden as a Pro? History would show that a rider who dominates the Semi-Pro class like Pallin did in 2012 usually makes a seamless jump into the Pro class. Plus, he finished 4th at the Winter X Games in snocross last season, proving he can ride a mod and put in the laps with the big boys. He’s got a ton of momentum behind him coming into the 2012 season, the question is, can he win?

 

 

 

 

 

9. Logan Christian
No. 43
Arctic Cat
The Pro National series Rookie of the Year last season, Logan Christian suffered a knee injury riding motocross in the off-season. After a less-the-stellar first half of the 2011 season, Christian turned it around after the New York race, made himself a consistent Top 5 rider and almost stole a win at the Hayward event. He rides for Christian Brothers Racing, one of the biggest and best teams on the circuit. Known for his relentless training regimen, expect Christian to start slow coming off injury but pick up mid-season and maybe steal some podiums.

 

 

 

 

8. Cory Davis
No. 160
Arctic Cat
Another rider who spent last year away from snocross (but not away from racing), Cory Davis is a naturally-gifted snowmobile rider, perhaps the most gifted on the circuit. During the summer of 2010 he suffered a severe injury to his foot riding ramps on his dirt bike. While now healed, questions surround Davis’ ability to ride snocross with the “new” foot. If he can pound the laps expect him to be Top 5 if not a podium contender.

 

 

 

 

 

7. Levi LaVallee
No. 108
Polaris
The progression of the sport generally means a season away from racing is a death knell for most racers, but we’re betting Levi LaVallee can come back and be competitive again. Ever fit and always fearless and aggressive, LaVallee does not like to lose and he won’t be out there to mess around mid-pack. A former race winner and Pro Open points champ, he could easily be placed higher on this list.

 

 

 

 

 

6. Mathieu Morin
No. 27X
Ski-Doo
Last season Mathieu Morin swept the Pro points titles on the East Coast Snocross circuit. ECS is not the Nationals so it’s hard to say if he can bring that momentum with him. One thing is for sure, he was without a doubt the dominant rider on that circuit last year and his track record shows he wins wherever he goes. This year he replaces Brett Turcotte on the BOSS Racing squad. He’s been on the National tour before and done well, even winning races (including Pro Stock at Duluth in 2005). He should have a good season in 2012.

 

 

 

5. Garth Kaufman
No. 48
Arctic Cat
Garth Kaufman has quietly worked his way to the top of the field in snocross and he’s stayed there for the past few seasons. His smooth, consistent style combined with an adequate “next gear” that allows him to be just a step faster than some of the mid-packers puts him on the podium enough to call him a contender. While the Christian Brothers Racing rider has yet to show if he has that top gear that would put him out front (and keep him out front) against the Top 3, he’s definitely shown he’s a rider to take seriously.

 

 

 

 

4. Robbie Malinoski
No. 4
Ski-Doo
One of the most experienced riders on the circuit, Malinsoki also rides for one of the highest-profile teams, Scheuring Speed Sports. Famous for logging the first National snocross win on a 4-stroke as well as for being the only rider other than Blair Morgan or Tucker Hibbert to sweep the points championships, Malinoski is a tough, consistent rider who can ride just about anything and always seems to find the podium. Expect him to be on the podium, but betting on the top step might prove risky.

 

 

3. Tim Tremblay
No. 27
Ski-Doo
Two years ago Tim Tremblay filled a spot on the Warnert Racing roster and won the Pro Stock points championship in his rookie season, proving he belonged on the National circuit. His results tapered off in 2011 but he still claimed a handful of podium spots. Still, he’s competitive and is even able to win on the Ski-Doo, a sled that has been a disappointing third best in the pack. On paper, the sled looks much improved for 2012, but will it put Tremblay in the mix with Hibbert and Martin again?

 

 

 

 

 

2. Ross Martin
No. 837
Polaris
Ross Martin led more laps in more races than any other rider in the Pro class on the snocross National tour last season. Problem was, more often than not he wasn’t leading when it counted. Martin races for Judnick Motorsports, one of the most successful racing teams in the history of snocross and has the full force of the Polaris racing empire behind him. The mod-only Pro class should play into his favor because he’s always been better on his mod and has three Pro Open championships to prove it (2007, 2008, 2010). He’s the only rider who, when it comes to ability, racing experience and support, can match Tucker Hibbert. But, until he leads the laps that count, he remains the No. 2 rider on the list.

 

 

 

1. Tucker Hibbert
No. 68
Arctic Cat
In addition to being the reigning ISOC Pro points champion, Tucker Hibbert holds 66 Pro National snocross wins, he won the FIM Snowcross World Championship in 2010 and holds 10 Winter X Games snocross medals, including five gold medals. He locked up both championships last season despite suffering from an injured wrist (that required off-season surgery) for nearly half the season. While Blair Morgan’s win total still eludes Hibbert, the double race format this season could put him close to Morgan’s record of 84 wins. Despite his stats not being as fat as Morgan’s, Hibbert is arguably the greatest snocross racer ever and, until someone beats him on the National circuit, he is No. 1 on our list.

Planet X Opening Soon

Aurora, Minnesota (October 24, 2011) – “Temperatures are getting extremely close to allowing us to fire up the snow guns” Steve Scheuring said today. “We have added additional snow guns to our snow making fleet to help produce a test track in the small window that shows up before the first AMSOIL Championship Snocross Series ISOC race at Spirit Mountain.”

“We have gone through both of our groomers to ready them for the sculpting of the track. Parking areas have also been improved. Now if we could just get everyone to park in the same pattern. Keep an eye on our website www.scheuringspeedsports.com as the snow will be piling up shortly in Aurora.”

For more info click here.

Snocross Needs A Monster Million

Photo: www.mosterenergycup.com

This past weekend, October15, 2011, Monster Energy put $1Million on the line at the Monster Energy Cup
in Las Vegas. Riders qualified for the main through heats and an LCQ, kinda like the snocross format at Winter X. It was a Supercross-style race with a track designed by Ricky Carmichael and Jeremy McGrath, and they also had a Best Trick comp where five riders got one run at one trick for $40K. Hollywood couldn’t have put together a better script.

I’m going to throw this out there – why is snocross waiting around for ESPN to hold an event for it at Winter X? Why don’t the teams, manufacturers and race circuits get together and make their own event similar to the Monster Energy Cup? They could take the money they spend on all the half-hour TV shows and pool it together for one big show. They could purchase prime air time on ESPN or SPEED TV. Monster Energy has already stepped up and put on its own event, why wouldn’t a similar event in a sport such as snocross gain sponsor interest?

There were 46 riders signed up for the Snowcross World Championships last March in Tuuri, Finland. Twenty-nine riders scored points in the Pro Open class on the ISOC circuit last season, and you could probably throw in a handful more from CSRA and East Coast Snocross. Plus you could pull the restrictions off for the one event and allow Semi-Pros to run. A conservative estimate would give you 30 riders, enough for two heats, an LCQ and then a three-race final to determine the overall winner.

As for the purse, AMSOIL is already putting up $10K for the Dominator Race at Duluth. Is $10K enough to create a buzz? Maybe, but I would think something like $100K would be more in line with creating serious buzz. How do you get that kind of purse money? Don’t ask me. I ask questions, I don’t answer them. But maybe the money left over in the budgets from Winter X might be a start.

Bottom line is, snocross can’t rely on the whim of the decision-makers at ESPN to maintain its prominence in the motorsports world. If it wants to stay at a premier level it needs to take control of its own destiny.

 

Team To Award “Race to the Future” Scholarships

Team owner Steve Scheuring talks to kids at a school.

Aurora, Minnesota (October 10, 2011) – Scheuring Speed Sports has created the “Race to the Future” scholarship to recognize local high school and post secondary students at each of the eight AMSOIL Championship Snocross Series tour stops this season. Prior to each national event Scheuring Speed Sports, in conjunction with the U.S. Air Force, interacts with local students at area high schools and post secondary campuses. The entire team of racers, mechanics, show sleds and transporter are on hand for these stops which offer an up close view into professional snocross racing.

“At the school visits we showcase the technology that is used in our sport and the systems used on our AMSOIL/Ski-Doo Race sleds. We talk about our team, the ISOC race series, and making good choices in life. We allow the students a hands-on opportunity to come into our race transporter and meet our snocross racers. The U.S. Air Force also has recruiters at these events available to discuss the great opportunities the U.S. Air Force has to offer,” stated team owner Steve Scheuring. “These visits provide great awareness about the ACSS race that is in the area, an opportunity to learn about a snocross team, and the many careers the U.S. Air Force has to offer.”

Kids hang out in the Scheuring Speed Sports trailer and learn about racing.

Scheuring Speed Sports is giving away a $200.00 “Race to the Future” scholarship to a student at each school visit. This recipient will be a student who excels in the areas of Science, Technology, and Math . Watch for the AMSOIL/U.S. Air Force/Rockstar race trailer at a school near you.
For more information, including racer bios, events schedule and team photos, visit http://www.scheuring-speedsports.com

sledRacer Interview: Rick Tiede

Rick Tiede sporting some Woody's Wear.

Woody’s is arguably the most recognizable name in snowmobile traction products. Founded by James Musselman and Woody Kozlow back in the 1960s, the company has been heavily into racing from its inception. Based in Hope, Michigan, the Woody’s Race Program Coordinator is a guy named Rick Tiede. It’s not too many years ago Rick was racing Semi-Pro snocross, so he’s not some desk jockey who doesn’t know a stud from a roofing nail. Always smiling and always happy to talk to anyone who approaches him, Rick is also leading a groundswell of new support for the Soo I-500. We checked in with him to find out what you need to do to get sponsorship, why track patterns are important and why Woody’s is offering more support than ever.

sledRacer.com: You came from the ranks of racers, what is it like being on the other side?
Rick Tiede: Absolutely awesome, I’ve grown up in the snowmobile industry and honestly there isn’t anywhere else I’d rather work. Coming from a racing background has definitely helped me better myself as a race director though; I know what it takes to make the relationship from sponsor to racer happen from both sides.

sR: Woody’s has been in the traction and snowmobile racing business a long time, does it ever get old for people in the company?
Tiede: Woody’s is a family-owned company that basically started in racing over 40 years ago. Everyone here is truly passionate about racing, and it shows as we have one of the largest most successful race programs in the industry.

Oval racer Malcolm Chartier is sponsored by Woody's.

sR: One race you’ve supported more as of late is the Soo I-500, why?
Tiede: We have always supported the Soo I-500; it’s honestly where the racing at Woody’s all started. The Musselman family grew up racing Enduros and Drags here in Michigan and did extremely well. There are a few old I-500 trophies floating around here at the office, but as far as the recent increase in added support – that has stemmed from everyone here wanting to help bring back the Soo back to the forefront of snowmobile racing and show how prestigious an event it really is. And its working!

sR: There is a ton more interest in that race in the past few years, why do you think it’s coming back?
Tiede: It’s a great race to showcase your products at, whether it’s the sled, fuel, oil, or traction products. Winning or making it through a grueling 500 laps on a track that gets to be pretty insane is definitely something to brag about.

sR: With the economy down, where do you see snowmobile racing going in the next few years?
Tiede: Of course, everyone had to tighten up the last few years with the big economic hit on the industry, but things have definitely been on a rise the past few years. We understand that its not just sponsors that have to tighten up but racers alike, so we have definitely been trying to do as much sponsorship as we can these past few years. From our end things should only continue to get better as the years roll on!

Tiede once raced for Scheuring Speed Sports. Once.

sR: I know you’re backing a Soo team and have put together a talented group of riders including guys like Justin Tate. Would you like to see racing move more toward what Tate is doing where a rider goes cross-country racing one weekend, races snocross the next and hits an enduro here and there? Or do you think snowmobile racing will remain a sport where riders specialize in one genre such as snocross?
Tiede: I would absolutely encourage racers to get on the multiple forms of racing kick. It allows the racer to get a taste of all forms of racing, broadens not only their knowledge of the sport but also allows them to get their sponsors in front of a variety of crowds and racers. If a guy like Tate can race snocross, cross-country, and oval enduros anyone can do it! Seriously though, we never know what’s going to happen in this industry so being able to adapt to all forms of racing just makes a racer that much more valuable to a sponsor. Levi LaVallee is another perfect example how a rider can diversify his program and make it successful.

sR: If I’m a racer, what is the best way to get support from Woody’s?
Tiede: We try to make it easy for both new and past sponsored riders to get a hold of me for sponsorship. You can do that by filling out our race application online at www.WoodysTraction.com or give me a call at 989-689-4911.

sR: What are some things you look for when you consider sponsoring racers beyond a product or discount level?
Tiede: Every racer wants to be the “factory” guy for us at Woody’s, but the teams and racers that set themselves apart are the ones that go above and beyond putting a sticker on their truck, trailer, and sled. It’s the Steve Scheurings of the sport who get us involved with the Air Force or Makita and into the Power Tool shows across America. It’s the Levi LaVallees who have open door policies for fans that make him the “Fan Favorite” every year. It’s the 4-Time World Champions like PJ Wanderscheid. And it’s the guys that not only help sell Woody’s parts by doing all these things but the racers and teams like Tim Bender, Malcolm Chartier, or Craig Marchbank that have actually helped create, test and prove some of the best products we sell today.

Brian Dick used Woody's traction products to win the USCC Red Lake I-500 last year.

sR: What is something a racer should know about traction but probably doesn’t?
Tiede: The biggest thing that racers tend to overlook is their track patterns. Track patterns can truly make or break all forms of racing. We spend a ton of time creating different patterns for all forms of racing, from drag patterns with too many scratch lines to count, to oval sprint patterns that help riders to break the back end loose with controlled slip, all the way to balanced patterns for cross country races so when they get on the throttle coming out of a left or right hander they aren’t going to spin because we all know spin is just time wasted.

sR: What is the best part of your job?
Tiede: Best part of my job has to be getting on the road and attending every top snowmobile event in the country, from snow shows to the X Games. I’ve had the privilege of making what is most peoples joy and hobby a profession, you can’t beat hanging out and working side by side with some of the industry’s most influential people and getting paid for it! Also thanks to my job I’ve made some great friends all across the country.

Tiede dabbled in racing for a number of years. He says his racing experience plays in huge in his current position as Race Program Coordinator.

sR: Is there anything new we can we expect to see from Woody’s this year?
Tiede: R&D is one of the big factors that separate Woody’s from the rest of the snowmobile traction industry. We are always working on something new and improved, we definitely have some industry changing news to release this season but you’ll have to stay checked into the website and snowmobile events for that release. Also we have yet again came out with a really cool clothing line so be sure to check that out online, the new Woody’s Wear is top notch!

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.

2012 Ski-Doo Race Sled

2012 Ski-Doo Race Sled New Features:

600RS Engine – 6 more horsepower
New crankcase design
New patent-pending crankshaft design
New Cylinder design
New fuel pump and hose routing
Broader power band from 8300-8800RPM

Front Suspension
New, taller, powder-coated spindle
New steering post
New steering post bushing
New upper A-arm
New shock calibration

Rear suspension – rMotion Racing
New reinforced rear arm
Improved coupling system
New reinforced powder-coated rails
New shock calibration

Drive Line
New engine mounts
New sliding driven clutch
Better venting to clutches
New belt
New 19/49 gearing
New brake venting

Chassis
Powder-coated tunnel

See the complete spec sheet here.

 

 

 

 


sledRacer Interview: Robbie Malinoski

One of the strongest resumes on the ISOC National snocross circuit belongs to Robbie Malinoski. Malinoski broke onto the National circuit with Arctic Cat and Olah Racing back in 2002-2003 and just three short years later he swept the Pro points titles, the only rider other than Blair Morgan or Tucker Hibbert to accomplish that. The next year he found himself on Yamaha and put himself in the history books as the first rider ever to win a Pro National snocross race on a 4-stroke snowmobile. Not enough? Well how about a silver medal in Winter X Games snocross in 2009, a bronze in 2011 and 9 National wins? Malinoski signed with the Scheuring Speed Sports juggernaut in 2009-2010 and is the team’s no. 1 rider. We sat down with him to talk about Winter X, his connection with Steve Thorsen and making Duluth count.

sledRacer.com: You’ve bounced around to so many brands, all four to be exact. Is it nice to be back on Ski-Doo?
Robbie Malinoski: It wasn’t such a shock because I had moved around enough in my career and because I was on a Ski-Doo earlier in my career and had experience with the sled. The biggest thing was I signed on with Scheuring Speed Sports thinking this was it, I was going to ride a Polaris for who knows how long and that will be the end of my career. I was ready to finish it on a Polaris, that’s where my head was at and a year later I’m switching brands. So it was weird in that respect but it wasn’t a big problem.

sR: Previous to Scheuring you raced for BOSS Racing, a team that is known for treating its riders and crew well. Why the change?
Malinoski: Garry was between a rock and hard place. We finished that season and he wasn’t really sure what he had going for next season. This is what I do for a living and Garry runs his team as sort of a secondary deal, so I wasn’t going to sit there and let him try to fund a program completely out of his own pocket and try to pay me, it just wasn’t fair to him. I think initially he wanted to do it because that’s how he is, but later reality stepped in and he said he couldn’t afford to do it all on his own. It was a sign of the times, the economy was tough and race teams were getting few and far between. I had an opportunity with Scheuring and it all just kind of worked out.

sR: You always hear about the level of preparation within Scheuring Speed Sports, is it true?
Malinoski: Yeah, for sure. We have a lot of hard-working guys over there and having the facility and everything that he has allows us to be on top and have one of the best-tuned machines out there.

Steve Thorsen: super-genius.

sR: You and Steve Thorson won some points championships in 2006, is it nice to be back with him?
Malinoski: Absolutely. You know, it was funny, me and Thorsen were together when we were at Olah Racing. We butted heads a lot and it was moreso me than him with me just being kind of a snot-nosed spoiled brat type and not respecting his knowledge and understanding everything that he knows. I’m glad I have a second chance to work with him because I think its working out in my favor and I think in his too because we get along really good and now I know how much the guy knows. Also, to have the background knowing how each other works helps too.

sR: It seems like the great snowmobile racers generally have a connection with their mechanic. Do you have a connection with him?
Malinoski: Yeah, I think we do. Before I signed with Scheuring we had a few lengthy conversations. He was the only one I knew over there and going into the contract you have to find out where everything’s at. He let me know what he thought of the overall program and after talking with him it was an easy decision.

Among other things, Robbie was back on Fox Shox this past season, something he says helped him a lot.

sR: If there was a solid third place rider this past season it was you. It was a definite improvement, what do you attribute it to?
Malinoski: I think a couple things – Ski-Doo did a lot of work in the off-season and got the sled to be where it was. It was awesome right out of the box and we slowly improved it from there. Then I was so excited to be back with Fox Racing Shox, I’m a huge believer in them. Finally the level of effort form Scheuring and Thorsen and Tony and Elliott and all the guys on the crew put in, it was a nice mix of everything coming together, there’s not one thing I can put my finger on.

sR: Did you alter your training at all? I know Drew Robertson has told me you and he worked together.
Malinoski: I think a little. I’m definitely not the youngest guy in the sport anymore. What’s the saying, it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks? I like what Drew does and we had some great conversations, we work well together. But I think I was probably one of the easiest riders he had to work with because I already knew what I had to do and Drew just basically complemented that.

Malinoski got a late start in snocross but has made it count and has a stnadout list of racing accomplishments.

sR: Third place is nothing to take lightly considering the two guys who were on the other two steps all season. What will it take to beat Martin and Hibbert?
Malinoski: Consistency, which I think we got going last year. But like at Duluth we couldn’t get going, we broke some parts. We know this year we have to come into Duluth 100 percent. Last year, I don’t care how much time we had before Duluth we weren’t going to be 100 percent just because we had new sleds and had made a big change. This year there’s no excuses, we have the same sled we had last year and it’s all laid out in front of us. If we can start the season where we finished it last year we’ll be right there.

sR: You’ve got one of the best resumes on the circuit, is there anything that’s not on there that you’d like to be?
Malinoski: I got such a late start. It’s funny because I’m getting to be one of the older guys but in my mind I still think I’m also one of the least experienced guys.

sR: People don’t think of you as old though. But a guy like T.J. Gulla who has been around forever, I think people think of him as old but I don’t even think he’s 30 yet.
Malinoski: He’s the same age as me! He’s only a couple months older than me. The funny thing about T.J. is he was racing Pro and winning Pro races before I even raced a snocross race. So he’s got the years of experience on me no doubt.

sR: You finished third at Winter X last season and it was your second medal in 9 years. How difficult is that race?
Malinoski: It’s a challenge on the body because of the pressure and then the race itself is really physical. But at the same time you train and prepare for it year-round and it’s something you just know going in. If you don’t know that you’re probably not going to do very well.

sR: Is that race frustrating?
Malinoski: It’s a unique deal, but you can’t treat as more than what it is. At the end of the day it’s still just a race. Everyone wants to put that race on such a pedestal, and it is a big race in the grand scheme of things, but as a racer you have to treat it as another race and try not to overthink the little stuff.

Mod sleds should level the playing field among the top teams.

sR: What do you think of the Pro class racing only Mod sleds in 2011-2012?
Malinoski: I’m excited about it and I think it’s long overdue. Not to take anything away from the stock class or the stock sleds, but if you have an issue with your sled and your team needs to work around it you can do that, but on the stock sled you’re pretty much limited to what you get in the fall. The stock sleds don’t always show the best rider out there. The Open sleds will show the best rider and the best tuned machine out there.

sR: How about the plan for double race weekends?
Malinoski: I really like that too because it turns the series into not so much of a sprint, but more of an endurance. I think you’ll be able to have your bad weekends and recover from it. And I think everyone’s going to have a bad weekend, so it think it will work fine.

sR: What are your goals for next season?
Malinoski: Top 3.