Duluth snowmobile racer Makenna Kleiman admitted she was a little upset when racing was called off Saturday afternoon at the 28th annual Amsoil Duluth National Snocross at Spirit Mountain.
To Kleiman’s way of thinking, why even start it, if a short time later, you’re just going to stop it?
“And why pay money for it,” Kleiman said, laughing. “You couldn’t see much, but it wasn’t that bad. It got worse as we went on.”
Driving up to Spirit Mountain on Saturday was like driving into a blizzard. If it was bad below the hill, it was awful on top of it, with snow and winds gusting upwards of 40 mph.
Kleiman, racing in the Pro Am Women’s class, got third in her heat on her Ski-doo before racing was called off about 2:45 p.m., before she had a chance to race in her second heat or the final. She will get another chance Sunday. The morning schedule will be moved back a little to help with plowing, but opening ceremonies will start at noon, as scheduled, as snowfall is expected in the morning before finally letting up. Saturday’s Pro rounds will likely be made up at another event.
The Duluth National Snocross has been postponed due to a lack of snow. It’s been fogged out. But too much snow? This might be a first.
“It’s unreal,” said Storm Johnson.
Storm Johnson. How fitting.
Johnson, who along with Desa Giese, called themselves Kleiman’s No. 1 fans.
“We’re snowmobiling,” Giese said. “It’s snow.”
And it comes with the territory.
“We’ve been coming here for a long time, and to see this?” Johnson said. “It’s cool, because it’s something different.”
Kleiman, 16, finished 12th in the season points standings last year despite not making all the races. This year the Proctor High School junior has a goal of making make all eight events on the Amsoil Championship Snocross circuit and make the top three in points.
Kleiman also races motorcycles and also plays soccer and lacrosse, but racing is her favorite. “I think racing bikes this summer helped her stay aggressive and focused for snocross,” said her father and crew chief, Joe Kleiman. “She looked strong. She just lets it rip. She let’s it go.”
Joe Kleiman has always loved the sport and remembers taking Makenna out when she was a youngster. She has been riding snowmobiles almost as long as she could walk.
“When she was two years old, I got her a little Kitty Cat, and I hooked a rope to it. That way if she wanted to pin it and go, at least I had a little control over it,” Joe Kleiman said. “We went right down the road, and she was hooked ever since.”
It wasn’t long before Makenna was ice racing on her sled before eventually getting into snocross. Her younger sister, Paisley, who just turned 13 on Friday, plays soccer, skis and runs but isn’t into racing. They also hit regional events.
“We run as many races as we can,” Joe Kleiman said.
No question there is a daddy-daughter bond that comes with that, and while dad may have helped steer her a certain way, he certainly didn’t push her.
“I just always liked it,” Makenna Kleiman said.
Kleiman Racing is grassroots racing at its best. No fancy big rigging here. Makenna had some visitors over Saturday who didn’t even know she was there. They opened the back door, saw a snowmobile and nothing else. Makenna was on the other end of the trailer, bundled up in one of two recliners which also serve as makeshift beds on race weekends.
“We stay right here,” Joe Kleiman said. “We redneck it.”
It's those things — racing for the love of racing — that make Makenna Kleiman and Co. easy people to root for. Whatever they get, they earned.