As he begins his second season of snocross racing today in Steamboat Springs, A.J. Stoffle's number of supporters has grown from one to six national sponsors and at least 15 local sponsors in the last six months. The only problem is that the competition gear he keeps receiving from his sponsors is too large for a six-year-old.
"I keep calling the company to remind them that a large jersey will fit his dad, but not him," said A.J.'s mom, Terresa Stoffle. "The last couple they've sent are getting smaller, but his older sister can wear the last jersey they sent him."
As a five-year-old riding in a class for 6-10 year olds last year, Stoffle won three of the four races in the Colorado Snocross Racing Circuit.
This year, upgrades include a stock sled, a trailer and a drawer full of clothing.
"Snocross is something A.J. loves and the sponsors have made it possible that we can help support that more," Terresa said. "But he has to do some of the work for sponsorships himself."
After last year's season finished, A.J. went out in Craig looking for sponsors.
He was his own spokesperson as he went to the establishments by himself and answered questions about why he needed a sponsor.
"We only had two businesses turn us down," his mom said. "The community has been great to him."
With the addition of a stock sled to his modified, A.J. will be racing in two classes every weekend this winter.
"Why does racing stock help you?" Michael, A.J.'s dad, asked.
"To get better," A.J. said.
"How does it make you better?," his dad continued.
"A slower sled makes you pick a better line," the bashful -- at during an interview -- six-year-old said back to his dad.
A.J. and his dad usually build a small track behind their house for practice, but inconsistent snow hasn't allowed it this year.
He practiced on Indian Run and Black Mountain before his first race.
"I like to practice," he said. "I get to ride with my dad sometimes."
Snocross is a major part of A.J.'s life as he wears his favorite black Arctic Cat shirt as often as he can. His mom runs a day care and every day for naptime a different child gets to pick a movie to watch. The other children know exactly what A.J. will pick.
"They're getting a little tired of watching Slednecks," his mom said. "He's got most of his videos memorized."
Stoffle's first competition of the new season was today in the former CSRC, now called the Warrior Sno-X and Freestyle series.
WSF has extended its races for the 6-10 class from four to eight. In addition, there will be a qualifying round and a final for each class.
That means A.J. will race at least 16 times this year compared to four his first season. As a five-year-old, the rookie won the class against three other riders. This year he'll have more competition with eight riders expected in the stock class.
"I'm there to win," he said. "But there are more riders to compete."
Every win will make Stoffle's sponsors proud, which include Stud Boy Traction (his first sponsor), Klim Aggressive Sled Wear, Team Arctic Cat, Power Madd, Spy Optics and Sportech along with his grand parents.
While all the new stuff is pretty cool to the part-time day care child, it's still the basics he enjoys.
"The new trailer is big," he said. "But I still have to race fast."
There are eight races this year in the WSF series including a stop at the Moffat County Fairgrounds in Craig, Jan. 29- Feb. 1.
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.