One Lunger Vintage Snow Machine Race 2016
Photos and story by Terry Allen.
Beautiful Machines and Fast Women
by Terry Allen
January 31, 2016
On the evening before the race, Frosty and Otis stood in the open shop door looking in the direction the sled went and listened as the sound of all 9000 screaming revolutions per minute of the single cylinder Yamaha engine pierced the silence of the freezing Wyoming night. Racers eating dinner all over town heard it and stopped in mid-fork trying to wrap their brains around an engine cycling 150 times per second. "How is that even possible?" they asked themselves.
Dave rode his panting Banshee back out of the dark and the lights from the shop fell onto the fresh red paint of a sleek, low-profile, wedge-shaped sled, and he pronounced it ready for Saturday’s race. "Checkers or wreckers," he said, which meant he’d either win or get towed in.
Patrick Ingram, president of the Snow Explorers Snowmobile Club was busy on race day with last minute banner hanging and cone placing but he had time to share some information as he worked. "We’ve been putting on The One Lunger 100 Mile Race at this location for 16 years," he said. "Today we have a one lap Kid’s Mini Sled Race for those under 12 years of age, then we have a 10 lap/10 Mile Vintage Open Class for one and two cylinder sleds, and our main event is a 100 lap, 100 mile race for both single and twin cylinder snowmobiles."
Troy Bredthauer held one end of a banner as Patrick tied the other end down and added, "The rules are your sled has to be a 1973 or older and you have to prove it," he said. "Except in the Open Class they can be 1977 and older," he said. "All race participants are also required to wear proper safety gear."
Proper safety gear is obviously a wide definition which includes Mohawk decorated helmets and super hero capes. Koral Rose and her Dad, Tyler Pierce each wore racing capes as they have for the last three years. Four year old Koral munched a baloney sandwich and said she was curious about what kind of racing energy she’d get from baloney. "I’m curious about everything," she declared.
Gary and Rose Worwood were up in the announcing and timing booth trying to get the electricity to work. Rose was down on her knees in a pile of mouse chewed seed hulls digging stuff out of the female end of an extension cord with a bobby pin. She gave it a blow, took a look, connected it with the male end and said, "We’re good." Gary flipped a switch and rock music boomed out across the race track.
The pits were full of swirling blue clouds of smoke as the racers warmed up their machines and did their final tunings. Two racers knelt in the snow in a huddle and one poured racing fluid from a blue can into a measuring jar held by the other. Then he poured some fluid from a yellow jug into the measuring jar and swished it around. They looked at it, then at each other, consulted for a moment and grabbed a small clear bottle with red fluid…and each took a swig.
Gary Neely stood at the starting line with his race roster as Dad’s and Mom’s got the under 12 class kids lined up with their sleds. Then the green flag dropped and 13 kid-sized sleds roared off down the track…all except Otis Leneger. Otis had come in first place 4 times over the last few years, so everyone agreed Otis would wait until the other sleds were well down the track before he could start. Finally, about the time the first sleds were into the big banked curve at the north end, they let Otis go. He made up time fast. He and his Dad Dave had worked a lot of nights in the shop on that old 1971 sled to get it race ready and it was paying off. By the time the checkered flag had dropped on that one lap, one mile race, Otis had passed all the other sleds except Eian Smith, Cooper Harrell and Logan Carrillo, who came in 1, 2, 3.
Six sleds were entered in the 10 lap/ten mile Vintage Open. Cyd Davidson watched a racer try to start his sled. He pulled the starting rope until he had to take a break. Then he started pulling the rope again. This time Cyd leaned in and whispered a few words to the young man, a switch was flipped, a rope was pulled one more time, and the engine roared to life. "I just love snow machines and I felt for the guy," she said. For 10 laps they jostled and elbowed their way around the track. Top three results were: Scott Jackson 1st, Jason Riedel 2nd, and Stetson Balls 3rd. (Came right off the time sheet folks.)
The sun warmed things up, and folks reclined in sun-worshiping poses. Barbeque grills were ignited in some startling ways, and the aroma of roasting beef and hot dogs mingled with nitro-methane. Everyone was smiling. One spectator was heard to remark, "I came here because I was told there would be fast sleds and good lookin’ women, but all I’ve seen is good lookin’ sleds and fast women."
Seventeen sled teams were entered in the 100 Lap Race; 12 twin cylinder machines and 5 single cylinder machines. The green flag came down and 17 sleds charged right at the two photographers standing in the choke point of the first curve. Everyone has a game plan at a race and it’s no different for photographers. "I’m going to jump left if I have to," said one photographer. "I’m too old to jump, so I’m just going to dive down under the snow and let them go over the top of me," said the other one.
The zooming, roaring pack of angry bumble bee sounding machines made it thru the first turn without inhaling any stray photographers and swept high into the huge banked curve and then down into a butter-churning chicane…where going around either side of an orange cone seemed acceptable.
The riders rode as long and hard as he or she could, then would come into the pits and switch drivers. The switches were sort of creative. Several times a sled came into the pit and the driver just flopped off the back of the sled and lay in the snow exhausted as the new driver chased the still running sled down the track and tried to jump on. Other times, it looked like a driver couldn’t lift his cramping leg over the hump in the middle or release his fingers from the handle bar of the sled to get off, so the new driver just launched into him with a shoulder and knocked him off…where upon his pit crew would run out and drag him off the track by the heels so he wouldn’t get run over by the rest of the field.
Tip Top Rescue sat deep in the snow in the center of the track, astride their sleek Ferrari-looking and sounding beasts waiting for someone to rescue. Ever alert for an opportunity, once found, their machines would roar to life and rise up out of the snow like some sort of sea creature and then throwing up a huge rooster tail; skim over to the downed racer in an instant. Kenna Tanner had a big wagon hooked onto her sled. "That’s for carrying the pieces we pick up," she said.
100 miles on a sled on a cold day is a long time. There is time to eat a burger and drink a coke, then climb up onto the huge pile of snow in the parking lot and sled down. Then you can take a nap, wake up and go buy another burger from Kathy Raper and Tiger and the rest of the gang at the Snow Explorers Burger Shack. Six bucks buys you an extra thick and juicy burger with hand cut onions and pickles, and a drink.
At those prices, it truly is a Vintage racing experience. If you hang around, Kathy might even tell you about the time a huge water spout passed over the area and sucked up a couple visiting cowboys from Lander and carried them all the way to Green River Lakes where it then set them down unhurt into a big pile of green leaves that the spout had stripped from the trees. "Those water spouts can be mighty mysterious things," Kathy said.
Seventeen sleds going around the one mile track became ten sleds due to un-repairable breakdowns. Someone asked what lap we were on and Jim McClellan had the answer. "You can tell the lap you are on by how many sleds are left on the track," he said. As if on cue, the announcer declared the race had gone 40 of the 100 laps so far. Time for a hot dog and a beer!
Chloe, a fluffy white dog leaned out a truck window and rested her paws on the side mirror and lay her chin in her paws as she followed the action. "I’ve been here for 7 of my 8 years of age," she said. "I spend most of my time right here rooting for the Jackson kids from this truck cab."
Jon Hittle rode his sled into the pits and handed off his sled to his team member Bo Morss. The sled took off and Jon removed his helmet, sank to his knees in the snow, bent his head and breathed deeply for many long seconds. "You’ve got to give it all you’ve got otherwise your team mate will think you aren’t carrying your fair share of the load," said Jon.
The pits filled with breakdowns that could be fixed and breakdowns that couldn’t be. Dan Spranger had to come in and tighten the chain tensioner to get the torque drive working right. Brett Baker lost a front ski and had to get towed in to get it put back on. Trevor Ginestar used a big hammer and a huge cold chisel to pound on his clutch because it was stuck open. Surrounded by his pit crew, he was repeatedly encouraged to "hit it harder." It worked and the sled got back in the race.
Eventually, there were only a handful of sled teams left in the race and Shelby Aldred and Valerie Werbelow's big yellow 1969 loaner was one of them. Their sled seemed to break down dead right in front of the pits every time they went around. Pretty soon with that hot machine sitting in the snow in the same spot all the time, all the snow melted and they were coming to a stop in a great big warm mud puddle.
The pit crew tried as hard as they could to push it out but couldn’t. As they stood there waiting for inspiration, someone noticed pollywogs swimming between their ankles. A group of small kids screamed and ran into the track to see. At the same time someone suggested dynamite for moving the sled which made the kids scream again and it turned into a pollywog rescue.
The race officials were called and they evaluated the commotion and considered their odds of managing a successful pollywog intervention and a race restart, and decided to call it a race right then and there.
Final results for the Single Class:
Dave Leneger and Brett Baker 1st
Tessa Manning and Carly Anderson 2nd
Daniel Sprangers and Mark Oja 3rd
Final results for Twin Class:
Tucker Erickson and Gunner Gay 1st
Bo Morss and Jon Hittle 2nd
Chase and Jeff Harber 3rd
You may share the low rez photos posted here among yourselves...as long as you credit me as the photographer. I help pay for my equipment by selling hi-rez prints, so let me know if you want any. I also have a lot more I didn't post, so if you have a sled number, I might be able to find it.