Elk River Extreme Motorpark hosted a standout young racer from Sweden as it closed out its 2009-10 competitive season on March 11. Meanwhile, the ERX is attracting many youngsters to the sport. In fact, on the circuit they're calling it the Elk River Contingent.
Johan Sundstrom of Sweden raced at ERX on a sled borrowed from the Carlsons. (Photo provided by ERX)
by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
When the Elk River Extreme Motor Park closed its second season of snocross March 11, they had a special guest from Sweden.
Johan Sundstrom, 17, a standout racer who lives in the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden, was on hand, accompanied by his father, Petter, and a friend.
Sundstrom, who got second place in his race, was spending 10 days here as guest of the Chris Carlson family, long enough to also race at Lake Geneva in Wisconsin the next weekend. Carlson owns ERX and his son Andrew, 17, is one of the top racers on the ISOC tour.
"We're helping each other out," said Chris Carlson. "It's hard to transport your sleds from overseas so they're using ours here, and we plan to visit them in Sweden next year."
The Carlsons and the Sundstroms met at a race in Duluth in December.
Racers enjoyed the final competition event of the season at ERX. (Photo provided by ERX)
"This is a good track. It's pretty fast," said Johan. Asked if he's had a good season, he said, "I've done all right. I'm looking forward to Lake Geneva next week."
The Sundstrom family owns a hotel in Arvelbloe in northern Sweden, which, due to its extreme cold, is home to "the biggest auto-testing facility in the world," said the elder Sundstrom. There's also a German company called Bosch that makes brakes and other auto parts. The snowmobile season lasts from October to early May in that climate.
"The tracks are so much better here," said Petter Sundstrom. "And Chris helps us out a lot. This weekend they're holding the national finals in Sweden, but it's better for Johan to be racing here."
They've raced in Elk River, Duluth, and Hill City, along with Ironwood, MI, heading into the Lake Geneva event, the biggest event on the tour.
The ERX has done well its first two winter seasons, said the owner.
The response has been tremendous," said Chris Carlson. "In our last points race, we had over 500 fans and over 150 (racers)."
Katie Krueser, media director, pointed out that track had 60 racers for its first event in December, which grew to the 150-some in the next-to-last event and 89 for the final event, the non-points races.
ERX races every other Thursday evening are promoted as purely "grass roots," said Carlson, so that families, kids and first-time racers can compete with "low cost and low intimidation."
The races also serve as a feeder system to the ISOC circuit.
"We're getting more people engaged," said Carlson. "They are starting to call it 'the Elk River Contingent' at the regional races when they see a number of people who started at ERX."
Young ERX racers who are showing promise and doing well are Brennon and Alec Plaistad; Amanda and Matt Duitsman;Tanner and Parker Weyer;Jordan Morrell; Nick, Andrew and Matt Hartung; Tanner Cole; Ethan and Brooke Paulsrud; and James, Jenna, Joni and John Wicht.
Andrew Carlson, an ERHS junior, is having an excellent season in the ISOC, heading into the finale at Lake Geneva with a chance to win the national sport class division. He also races in semi-pro class at the regional level. Andrew had a knee injury while racing last season that required two surgeries,and got cleared three weeks before the current season. Andrew's sister Taylor, a college freshman and former tour champion, also had a knee injury and is easing back into competition.