Anticipation grows on eve of Duluth snocross eventEvery year the Amsoil Duluth National Snocross serves as the kickoff to the snowmobile racing season, and it often serves as a coming out party for those teams that did their homework over the offseason.
By: Jon Nowacki, Duluth News Tribune
Every year the Amsoil Duluth National Snocross serves as the kickoff to the snowmobile racing season, and it often serves as a coming out party for those teams that did their homework over the offseason.
Nobody has had a better sneak peak of what the coming season might bring than Steve Scheuring.
Scheuring is owner of
Aurora-based Scheuring Speed Sports, which includes the Planet X snocross training facility. Scheuring said as many as 100 riders have been practicing daily at Planet X in preparation for the upcoming season.
Scheuring said Planet X started making snow on Oct. 17, about as early as they’ve ever made it.
“We’ve got tons of snow, so it’s been crazy at Planet X for the last three weeks,” Scheuring said.
To give one an idea of the Duluth National’s impact, Scheuring estimated that about half the riders who have been training at Planet X hail from Ontario or the Northeast, including New York and New Hampshire.
While there are other snocross circuits in Canada and the U.S., the International Series of Champions national tour is considered the big leagues, with Duluth being its Daytona 500.
“Duluth is the go-to race for everybody,” Scheuring said. “It’s start of the premier racing series. Some people will go there hoping to do well and get a sponsorship deal for the rest of the season. There is a lot riding on it. It’s for sure the place to be this weekend. Minnesota is a hotbed for snowmobiling.”
Planet X is a 19-acre facility in Aurora featuring snow guns that eventually create a snocross track to rival the one at Spirit Mountain this weekend. Scheuring even has the track patterned after the one riders will see this weekend.
Planet X is in its 10th year.
“One of the reasons we started Planet X was that a lot of young kids would go to Duluth with a brand new snowmobile that they had never been on and they wouldn’t do very good, get hurt and lose interest,” Scheuring said. “We felt by creating something like this it would give them a chance to get used to the snowmobile, go to the first race, have fun and be competitive. That helps grow the sport.”
Scheuring’s team includes Robbie Malinoski and Tim Tremblay. Malinoski swept the Pro Open finals at last year’s Duluth National en route to a sixth-place finish in the national points standings. Tucker Hibbert won the Pro Open points title, followed by Ross Martin and Tremblay.
For a nominal fee, most of the top riders have practiced at Planet X at one time or another. While teams are often guarded of their sleds, especially of any new advancements from the previous season, Scheuring said when they get on the track at Planet X, even in practice, there is often no holding back.
“Our customers are our competitors,” Scheuring said. “We want to make everyone has a fair shot to be competitive for the season. The bottom line is that if they don’t come here they are going to find someplace else to go.”
Scheuring then laughed and said, “Somebody’s going to take their money. Might as well be us.”
THEY SAID IT
Outgoing Visit Duluth president and CEO Terry Mattson is one of the founders of the Duluth National and plans to see the event through one more year before leaving his job as Duluth’s tourism head at the end of next week.
Mattson, 51, graduated high school from Superior in 1980.
“I was born and Ashland and grew up in Superior. That might make me an outsider in Duluth,” Mattson said, laughing. “This is home to me, Minnesota and Wisconsin. I’ve always viewed home as this region, not a particular city or neighborhood. I still believe anywhere around here is the best place to live.”
Mattson said he was looking forward to one day watching the event simply as a spectator.
“I will always be there in some way, shape or form,” Mattson said. “I think we’re going to have the best conditions ever this year. Snow hasn’t been even the slightest worry. There are tons of it. It’s been idyllic. It doesn’t get any better than this. It’s going to be huge.”
22nd ANNUAL AMSOIL DULUTH NATIONAL SNOCROSS
What: World’s largest three-day snowmobile race
When: today through Sunday
Where: Spirit Mountain
Weekend forecast: Temperatures are expected to warm a bit for the weekend, with mostly cloudy conditions and highs between 26 and 33 degrees.
What to watch: Today’s lineup includes the popular $10,000-to-win Amsoil Dominator featuring one-on-one racing.
Tickets: Three-day passes are $47 for adults and $40 for youth and seniors; daily passes are $27 and $22.
TV: 6:30 p.m. Dec. 22 and Dec. 29 on CBS Sports Network
Parking: Shuttle buses are available at Proctor fairgrounds for $10 and at Powerhouse Bar.
New this year: The International Series of Champions that sanctions the Duluth National has added a new starting line and second jumbo screen, with replay capabilities. The start will be at the bottom of the hill this year.