It’s race night at the ERX Grassroots Snocross track in Elk River, MN. Team Dennis Kirk is there to compete in multiple classes. They have gone through all the preparation and put in hours of practice time during the months leading up to this night. Now it’s time to pinch the throttle and see who comes out on top and most of all, have some fun racing.
Getting into race mode actually starts the night before for Team Dennis Kirk. Jared Balthazor explains that they get everything packed up the night before. They gather all their gear, spare parts, and other gear they’ll need on race night and load the sleds in the trailer. Everything is ready so they can go straight to the track when the kids get out of school on race day.
At the track, the families use free time before the driver’s meeting to unload everything from the trailers and warm up their race sleds. Their enclosed trailers are their base camps for the night. In-between races, moms have food and beverages ready to refuel everyone there. Jack and Glen’s younger sisters enjoy creating signs in the trailer to cheer them on during the races. It’s also at the trailers where everyone can come together to talk about the races, catch up on lives outside of racing and come together as a racing community. If a snowmobile needs to be worked on between races, everyone jumps in to lend a hand.
“The social aspect is fun,” exclaimed Balthazor. “We have met a lot of great people at the track and everyone is willing to help out. We have had so much help from people we have never met especially, being in the youth classes, everyone wants to see these kids have fun and succeed. In the past when I raced vintage class, I personally have met some great guys who love old sleds like I do and just want to bang handlebars.”
The action picks up quick after the driver’s meeting. The kids get on their snowmobiles and head straight to track. They get to see the track for the first time by doing some sight laps. These sight laps help the riders to get acquainted with the layout of track and allows them to get loose and ready to race hard. These laps will also show if any last-minute work needs to be done to the machines before the races start.
There isn’t much sitting around once the sight laps have finished. The 120cc class that the kids compete in is generally the first class to have a heat race. A few races later, Team Dennis Kirk is back on the track to compete in the 206cc class. The 206’s present a greater challenge for the kids. The sleds are faster and the competition is stiffer. It’s a great class to put their racecraft skills to the test.
“There is a huge step up in competition because the 206’s are twice as fast,” said Balthazor. “The 120 class is good way for people to get introduced to racing. The biggest challenge for the 206 class is trying to keep the snowmobiles from falling apart. Running a higher horsepower lawnmower motor in a snowmobile that wasn’t designed for it tends to break things. The kids are also more experienced and can push the sleds to the limits. It’s very challenging, but very fun!”
When the kids are racing, the whole family comes trackside for support. Dads help the sleds get to the line and ready to race. Moms, sisters, and friends gather by the track to cheer on their on their racers with freshly made signs in hand.
The team gets a little time to regroup after their first heats are completed. The rest of the classes compete and then the groomer comes out to work on the track. The time between the first and second heats is used to get ready for the second round. This includes adjustments and fixes to the snowmobiles, refueling with some food and beverages, talks of strategy and getting warm in the enclosed trailer.
Once the track is ready, the same cycle of heat races is repeated. The final standings of the night are determined by taking the average finish of each heat race of a racer. The top three racers receive medals for their podium finishes. Like everyone, the kids get excited when they get to take home some hardware after the races.