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Spectacular exceeds expectations

Snowmobile racers come around the turn at the Viking Speedway in Alexandria on Saturday afternoon during the finals of the Winter Spectacular. It was the first snowmobile race held at the Speedway since 1984. (Al Edenloff/Echo Press)

By Al Edenloff and Eric Morken

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Despite single-digit temperatures, the grandstand at the Viking Speedway was filled Saturday for the Winter Spectacular snowmobile races in an event that organizers deemed an “overwhelming success.”

Racers from vintage sleds to championship classes competed both Friday and Saturday. The grand prize for the final day of races was a 2014 BRP Sea-Doo Spark. That was won by Glen Hart out of Winnipeg, Manitoba after he won the IFS 340X class feature on Saturday.

Local driver Curtis Peterson of Alexandria also won the Super Stock Spectacular class on Saturday. Other winners in the championship classes were Matt Goede out of New Germany in the Super Mod 440 Class and Malcom Chartier in the Champ 440 class.

“It exceeded our expectations,” race organizer Jeff Karrow said. “We had 380 registered drivers, around 650 entries. That’s about double what we were thinking were going to come in. Maybe not quite double, but we were shooting for 400-500 entries.”

Karrow said the top speeds of the weekend came in the Champ 440 feature on Saturday with drivers topping out at 108.8 miles per hour. That’s also where their biggest scare of the weekend came when Tommy Lipar Racing team member Ryan Kniskern of Marinette, Wisconsin had his motor lock up around lap eight.

Karrow said Kniskern went to put his hand up to signal other drivers when he got clipped by driver Jordan Wahl. That knocked Kniskern off his sled. He got to his feet and had to jump up in the air to avoid an oncoming sled. His boot got knocked off and up into the air. Kniskern was taken off by ambulance but suffered no serious injuries in the incident. Karrow said his heart sank when he watched it and that he was relieved to find out that Kniskern was all right.

“I checked on him in the ambulance,” Karrow said. “He just wanted to know if Jordan knew he clipped him and where his boot was.”

Drivers deal with snow dust during these races, and that can make it difficult to see in a situation where a driver does stall on the track.

“There was snow dust, and it maybe seemed like a lot to the crowd,” Karrow said. “But when you talk to the champ drivers, they race in a lot worse than that. Every one of the champ guys I talked to said it was the safest track we’ve ever been to and they want to come back.”

Travis Patocka drove all the way from Horsehead, New York and backed up those claims from Karrow. Patocka won the 250 IFSX class.

“I love it,” he said of the track. “It’s the most fun I’ve had all year, and I got my first win here today.”

Brayden Stensrud of Albert Lea was also impressed with the event.

“It’s a real big course and really nice,” he said. “It’s a fast track. Just amazing.”

The Winter Spectacular featured a total of 32 classes. Drivers came from as far away as Alaska and Arizona, and Karrow said he also heard from fans who traveled all the way from Nebraska to watch the races. Those fans, like many who came back, were excited to see Alexandria host these races again after the Dayco Holiday Spectacular ran at the Viking Speedway from 1974 through 1984.

Karrow and eight other race organizers from the community took a chance by investing their own time and money in bringing these races back to Alexandria. They were thrilled with the way things went for their first time organizing the event. Now they hope it was enough to bring it back again next year.

“I want to bring it back,” Karrow said. “There’s a group of us, not just one individual, and we need to make sure the bills are paid, so we all don’t have to dig into our own savings. That will be the indicator. Everybody said they really want to come back. They’re begging to come back. We had a good run out of the gate for the first year. I would think if we can get it worked out, we would get it back because it’s such a big boost for the city.”

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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