Upper Peninsula Championship Snowmobile Drag Races in Ontonagon
What started as a ‘dream’ will become a reality on Saturday, January 4th, when the Western Upper Peninsula community of Ontonagon will host the first UP Championship Snow Drags. The dream simply started with turning an undeveloped Village Street into the location for a Snowmobile Drag Race. That undeveloped Village Street was planned on being the access road for the Villages Water Tower and Renaissance Zone.
The Village cleared the land for the road, but then decided to build a different access road. Thus Skip and Sandy Schulz hired people to level the road, then planted grass, and for years have been mowing that land.
“All this was done in hope that someday we could bring a Professional Snowmobile Drag race to the community,” commented Schulz.
As time went by, the Schulz’s continued to make improvements to that road. As this undeveloped road appeared to be one long lawn, the Schulz’s then began working on their adjoining property.
“We knew that even though the undeveloped road would become an excellent sight for a MASTERS Racing Circuit Snowmobile Drag Race, we would still need to use our property for spectator viewing and parking, along with having an area set aside for concessions,” explained Schulz.
“The Pit area parking was actually the first area that we focused on. We leveled that area off, then made sure we had adequate entrance for the race team trailers. Once that was done we worked on a picnic area that could be used for concessions. We had electricity wired to that area, and then worked on the undeveloped village road,” commented Schulz.
The Schulz’s knew that all this work would not insure that a Professional Snowmobile Race could take place on this property without the support of the Village of Ontonagon and the North Country Snowmobile Club.
“With the new leadership of the North Country Snowmobile Club, they agreed to ‘prep’ the track before the race and groom the track during the race. Without the North Country Snowmobile Club support, this event could not happen. Once we got the club to help us, we needed the permission from the Ontonagon Village Council, and they gave us permission. Then we began working on other improvements to the sight,” stated Schulz.
The Schulz’s then had towers erected, and got the support of Northern Lakes Concrete to donate the concrete footings for those Towers. The Schulz’s are hoping to secure sponsorship to purchase and erect a Race Starting light on one of the towers. The other towers would hold outdoor Public Address Speakers.
“While we have not secured the sponsorship for the Race Starting light or the PA Speakers, we’re going to show the racers that this will be a premier Snowmobile Drag Race sight,” remarked Schulz.
The MASTERS Racing Circuit, which stands for Mid America Snow and Terrain Expert Racers, is considered to be one of the oldest Snowmobile Race Circuits in the Midwest. The MASTERS began by promoting Snowmobile Hillclimbs, and eventually focused on sanctioning and promoting Snowmobile Hillclimbs in the Midwest. The MASTERS has held Snowmobile Hillclimbs in the Upper Peninsula, and Minnesota. It was in 1998 that the MASTERS expanded to sanction Snowmobile Drag Races. This winter the MASTERS has expanded again to include Hillcross Races.
The first event of the season will be the Upper Peninsula Championship Snowmobile Drag Races on Saturday, January 4th, 2014. Those races will draw the top Professional Snowmobile Drag Racing teams from throughout the Midwest. It will be at those races that the MASTERS will also start 3 new Divisions for this circuit. That is ‘Trail Stock, Race Stock, and Vintage.’
“The Trail Stock Division is going to be for totally Stock Snowmobiles that are required to have a Trail Sticker for the state that the snowmobile is registered in. The Race Stock Division is for the sleds that Polaris, Ski-Doo, and Arctic Cat build for racing purposes. Vintage will be for sleds 1980 and older,” explained Schulz.
The MASTERS is also using the UP Championship Snow Drags as a way to promote the Ontonagon County Economic Partnership. OCEP was given title sponsorship of the event, with financial support for the site improvements coming from Pat’s Motorsports of Greenland, Citizens State Bank of Ontonagon, White Pine, and Mass City, Peninsula Graphics of Ontonagon, Domitrovich Insurance of Ontonagon, Sunshine Motel of Ontonagon, and the North Country Snowmobile Club.
The Village of Ontonagon Department of Public Works is dropping off the snow they take from the Downtown area on the track. That snow will be used as a ‘fence barrier’ between the track and the snowmobile trail.
The racers will begin coming to Ontonagon on Friday Night, January 3rd. For the drivers that do not Pre-Register, the MASTERS will have a Friday Night Registration location. Then after the races, the MASTERS hands out the Cash and Trophy awards. The location for that Friday Night Meeting and the Awards Banquet has not been set. The biggest award is the winner of Snowmobile Drag Racings featured class, TOP GUN.
Ironically the last two TOP GUN Champions for the year are originally from the Village of Ontonagon. The 2012 TOP GUN Champion was Jeff Szanto, and last years TOP GUN Champion was Chris Nordang. Nordang is a member of the General Concrete Goldbach Race team of Iron River, Michigan.
“While it will be difficult for anyone to beat Nordang and others on that team, we know of teams and drivers from last year that have upped the ‘ante’ on the sleds they will be running this year. Plus we always have new teams that could surprise a lot of people,” Schulz stated.
“One of those teams is led by a Class Champion from last year, who has teamed up with one of the two MASTERS Racing Circuit “Web of Fame” drivers, that is Jerry Buschell and Web of Fame driver, Paul Voelker. Bushell and Voelker come from Michigan’s Copper Country. The MASTERS has also heard that the racer that has won more Drag races in the circuit then any other driver, Matt LaCosse of Champion, may have a sled competing in TOP GUN this year.
It is not just in the Pro Mod Division that the competition will be close, but also in the new Trail Stock and Race Stock Divisions. For the past 3 years no driver has been able to defeat Derek Peterson of Atlantic Mine. However this year with the new Race Stock Division, the MASTERS is unsure as to who can give Peterson a ‘run for his money.’
On the subject of money, the MASTERS anticipates a Cash Purse of close to $3000 for the UP Championship Snow Drags. All the classes in Pro Mod, and Race Stock hand out cash to the top 3 finishers. Race Stock and Vintage racers race for Trophies.
“While a lot of attention will be on the Pro Mod Classes, the class that really draws an interest from the fans is the 120 cc class and the Junior Division. The 120 cc class has children between 4 and 9 racing, and the 2 Junior Classes have children between 10 and 17 racing. If you think the racers take winning serious in the Pro Mod Division, wait till you see the 120cc racers,” chuckled Schulz.
“Those kids dream about the day when they will be running a TOP GUN sled, and believe me, they are not that many years away from accomplishing their dream,” concluded Schulz.
Then again, it was a dream that will come true on Saturday, January 4th, when the MASTERS will host the 1st UP Championship Snow Drags right behind the MASTERS Racing Circuit Offices in the Village of Ontonagon.